Tired of the restaurants in Harvard Square, but don’t want to venture all the way into Boston? Opened by the same James Beard Award Winners who run Toro (a popular tapas restaurant in Boston and NYC), Little Donkey is the hottest new restaurant in Cambridge that all your foodie friends have been Instagramming. The menu is a mix of Asian, Middle Eastern, African, and European-inspired dishes, ranging from popovers with wagyu tartare to kung pao octopus head. Each dish is relatively small, and meant to be shared (the waiters will encourage you to order 2-3 dishes per person).
BLT lettuce wraps from the charcuterie portion of the dinner menu arrived as a build-your-own plate. The satisfying richness of the thick-cut lamb bacon and creamy pimento cheese balance the tartness of the tomato jam and the sharpness of the pickled red onion. Japanese-Jewish inspired matzo ball ramen is one of their most popular dishes; its soy-mirin-sake reduction turns the broth into an unctuous, smoky concoction that pairs nicely with the ramen. On the other hand, our waiter encouraged us to order the manti (Istanbul meat ravioli), which were perfectly fine but wholly unremarkable in comparison to the other dishes on the menu.
I’m on a personal hunt for the best burger in Cambridge (so far it’s at Russell House Tavern – ask for half-salad, half-fries on the side), so I had to order the burger at Little Donkey for comparison. Dry aged beef, buffalo pickles, onion soup mayo, foie gras, and jalapeno chips stacked high on a Martin’s Potato roll, and come with a side of wet wipes (which you’ll need). The foie gras shines, but combined with the mayo and juiciness of the beef, the burger becomes an oozing umami mess. Little Donkey’s burger is definitely craveable, but Russell House Tavern still wins, especially since there it doesn’t come a la carte.
The dessert menu is short, and a bit uninspiring. However, for the #basicbitches in all of us, you can’t go wrong with the chocolate chip cookie dough with milk foam, which is served on the actual mixer beater (sooo Instagram-worthy). The cocktail menu is short but creative, with “the One in a Grapefruit” served in an actual grapefruit. There are also surprisingly eclectic beers – the kind that are poured into flutes — and wine by the glass.
Little Donkey is also open for brunch on the weekends. The pastry basket alone makes it worth stopping by—think matcha cake, corn bread pop overs, olive oil cake, and chocolate almond croissants. Definitely make a reservation for dinner, or be prepared to show up at 5pm to avoid a wait. The interior is dark and industrial-chic, perfect for a date night or small groups
What to order: BLT lettuce wraps, parker house rolls, black pepper popovers, matzo ball ramen, organic hummus, burger, octopus a la plancha, lobster fra diavolo, chocolate chip cookie dough
- 505 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, Cambridge, 617-945-1008, www.littledonkeybos.com.
- 3.5/4 stars
- $$ (out of $$$$)
Roanna Wang (HBS ’18) spent time prior to HBS first as a consultant in NYC, before joining an IoT startup in Boston. She enjoys playing squash, trying out new restaurants, and hosting dinner parties. She is the VP of Social for the General Management and Operations Club.