BIZNOTE: West Seattle’s newest restaurant/bar Little Donkey opens Wednesday

(WSB photos)

After a few soft-open trial runs, including tonight, the new restaurant/bar Little Donkey plans to officially open tomorrow (Wednesday, February 21) at 3401 California SW. As we first reported when Spiro’s ended its 31-year run in the corner space 14 months ago, it’s a venture with partners including Ben Jenkins (Shadowland, Dumplings of Fury) and Mike Meckling (Woodinville Cut Shop, Neumos), both West Seattleites. It’s all ages, except, of course, at the bar.

You can see the menu here – overseen by chef Enrique Vargas, who’s worked in the industry for more than 20 years and is originally from Mexico City:

The drink menu is perusable online, too. For starters, Little Donkey will open at 3 pm – but soon they’ll be offering weekend brunch starting at 9 am, launching not this weekend, but the weekend after (March 2-3).

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Little Donkey team tells us they’re not opening until 5 pm tonight and Thursday.

59 Replies to "BIZNOTE: West Seattle's newest restaurant/bar Little Donkey opens Wednesday"

  • MrsT February 20, 2024 (9:40 pm)

    YESSS! Awesome menu! I am so excited to be a regular!

  • Derek February 20, 2024 (9:55 pm)

    Any idea if they’ll be open late?

    • WSB February 20, 2024 (10:33 pm)

      If you click through to their site, the hours are posted as “(open time)-close.” In my experience, that tends to mean “late.” But new venues also tend to start off seeing how things go and adjusting if necessary ….

      • Derek February 21, 2024 (8:31 am)

        Where did you see that? I did that before you even said and I just see two links to menus. Are you viewing some cached version of the site? 

        • WSB February 21, 2024 (9:44 am)

          They’ve changed it since we published this story. Bottom of the page as recently as late last night said Monday-Friday 3 pm-close, weekends 9 am-close. Now that part has vanished.

    • Mike February 22, 2024 (1:56 pm)

      We’ll be open as late as possible. That will be determined by how many folks show up for some late night drinking.  For now…. we are open until 2am on friday and saturday and open until people stop coming all other days (probably about 11pm or so)

  • Dawn February 20, 2024 (10:33 pm)

    New brunch spot-yum! 

  • RayWest February 21, 2024 (4:57 am)

    Was hoping that another Italian place would replace Spiro’s, as there’s little available in West Seattle. However, I’ll definitely try them and the menu looks good. Hope they do well.

    • WDubs February 23, 2024 (2:21 pm)

      RayWest, I can think of like six separate Italian places.  GH Pasta, Due Cucina, Talricos, Rocolto, La Rustica.  We don’t need more Italian. 

  • James Samson February 21, 2024 (5:31 am)

    Always excited for new restaurants to open in W Seattle! But initially when this restaurant was announced over a year ago I thought it was going to be a Tex-mex type Mexican restaurant (where you get your complimentary chips & salsa). Disappointed to see the menu & see that is not the case & instead it’s very similar to other Mexican restaurant options we already have in the area like Matador. The only Americanized Tex-mex Mexican restaurant option in the area currently is Puerto Vallarta and the quality of their food isn’t good. Hope this new restaurant at the very least has a good happy hour & tasty margaritas! 

    • 937 February 21, 2024 (7:55 am)

      Sorry to be the one to tell you this James – Ain’t nothing complimentary anymore.

      Costs are just far too high!

      • James Samson February 21, 2024 (11:21 am)

        @937 Yes chips & salsa at many Tex mex style Mexican restaurants is still complimentary. So that’s incorrect. But thanks for your opinion. This is clearly not a Tex mex style Mexican restaurant as I had hoped it was going to be but I’m sure it’ll still be delicious and look forward to trying it out! 

        • 937 February 21, 2024 (11:39 am)

          Go in there and get chips and salsa only. See how that works out for you.

          They are built into the overall cost. Hence NOT complimentary.

    • WSREZZ February 21, 2024 (11:22 am)

      Cactus is basically tex mex

      • from Tex February 21, 2024 (12:13 pm)

        I love Cactus, but I’m from Texas and it’s definitely not tex mex. 

        • Jason Samson February 21, 2024 (1:38 pm)

          @ from Tex. I agree. The only place close to Tex-Mex Mexican food in W Seattle is Puerto Vallarta on California Ave SW. I’ve gotten food from there to go a few times over a year ago and wasn’t impressed at all so won’t go back. This new restaurant has a great menu and hope they are successful but I was just hopeful for a decent Tex-mex type Mexican restaurant in the area. I prefer the complimentary chips & salsa Mexican restaurants & those are always Tex-mex style Mexican restaurants. 

          • Mia’s Tex-Mex February 21, 2024 (3:43 pm)

            My go to for a tex mex fix is Viva Mexico in white center. They give you free chips, salsa, and warm bean dip when you sit down. Menu has lots of combination plates (as any good texmex place does). Interior also reminds me of your typical tex-mex spot. Not a great restaurant, but highly recommend for those missing Dallas / Austin Tex-Mex. 

    • West Seattle Mad Sci Guy February 23, 2024 (3:58 pm)

      You call out Matador as an undesireable place / not tex-mex and seem to use free chips and salsa as your measuring stick for good.  Which is funny because the matador has free chips and salsa when you order food! 

  • RP February 21, 2024 (8:22 am)

    THIS LOOKS AMAZING!!! So excited to have a fun new spot in the neighborhood that seems to have a similar vibe as Fonda La Catrina in Georgetown.  Can’t wait! 

  • Al King February 21, 2024 (8:30 am)

    James/Raywest. Restaurant business is tough. If you know what people actually want and will patronize why aren’t YOU opening a restaurant??

    • AMY February 21, 2024 (9:52 am)


    • Budge February 21, 2024 (10:25 am)

         Exactly Al King!

    • Mike February 22, 2024 (1:23 pm)

      Al King!!!! Thanks for understanding. I just want to say we are trying our best at Little Donkey Mexican Kitchen and Bar. It took “a minute” to get our doors open so thanks for your patience. Prices will be adjusted downward as we move forward as costs of goods fluctuate but please know this everyone… we intend to practice best practices in service and do our damndest to keep pricing from making your eyeballs bulge upon viewing the menu. We aren’t here to gouge anyone. We do simple math to calculate our prices to understand what we should charge for an item against what it costs for us to produce it…. which includes many things…. labor, marketing, rent, cost of the food itself, utilities, etc…. it is very expensive and margins arent as awesome as a lot of folks think they are.  I promise you this…  we will do our best to keep prices as attractive as possible. We appreciate everyones patronage immensely, it’s all about community and we will try our hardest to keep all our community happy with an awesome experience at Little Donkey. We also understand that we can’t please everyone. We are local West Seattleites and love living here. I’m excited to share this space with everyone. We are still doing a soft(ish) opening as our employees are still mastering the intricacies of our computer system and our systems in general. So please, if I can ask, be patient in this first couple weeks. Once we get up to speed we will be doing brunch starting at 10am Saturday and Sunday.  Tonight we open at 5pm. Starting tomorrow and every weekday moving forward we will open at 3pm for happy hour until 5pm. My name is Mike (Danny and Ben own the place with me). I’ll see you at the Little Donkey.(Al, please say hi so I can buy you a bunch of beers). Cheers Everyone! and yes… Little Donkey is burrito :).

      • James Samson February 22, 2024 (7:46 pm)

        @Mike can we get some chicken enchiladas added to the menu? Thanks ! Wish you the best & long term success and can’t wait to stop in to try the food and drinks as this will now be the closest Mexican restaurant to me in N Admiral after the closer of Mission Cantina. 

        • Mike February 23, 2024 (2:43 pm)

          YES!!!! Enchiladas will be coming!!!Note: we are offering killer introductory Happy Hour pricing from 3-5$4 drafts$6 house margaritas$9 house cocktails$5 tacos$4 chips and salsa$6 chips and guacamole

  • west sea neighbor February 21, 2024 (9:43 am)

    Yessss, Chili Relleno and hand pressed tortillas! Can’t wait to try this place!

  • Alki resident February 21, 2024 (10:03 am)

    The menu sounds delicious. I’ve been patiently waiting for this to open!

  • Marty February 21, 2024 (10:30 am)

    Was walking by last night and saw they were open and decided to give it a try. The duck (Pato Fuerte) was recommended to me and it was yummy! Will be back soon!

  • WSE February 21, 2024 (10:37 am)

    Pumped that they are finally open!  I’ll be there today and often.  Looks like a great addition to the hood.

  • Arbor Heights Resident February 21, 2024 (11:36 am)

    Little Donkey translated into Spanish is “burrito”. I see what they did there!

  • WSDUDEMAN February 21, 2024 (2:12 pm)

    Looking forward to checking this out! Menu looks amazing.

  • anonyme February 21, 2024 (3:04 pm)

    There’s an old family restaurant in Chandler, AZ called Espo’s that has the best basic Mexican I’ve ever had.  Everything is very simple but absolutely perfect.  Wish we had something like that around here.

  • Ryancaple February 21, 2024 (3:11 pm)

    As of 3:10pm they are not open today, February 21. Maybe a later start. 

    • WSB February 21, 2024 (4:52 pm)

      Yeah, we got late word that they’re opening at 5 pm tonight and tomorrow (Thursday).

  • ElPO February 21, 2024 (6:20 pm)

    These prices! 

    • Big Donkey February 21, 2024 (9:15 pm)

      $24 for a Chile Relleno…whoa….

      • flimflam February 22, 2024 (7:16 am)

        Yes, unfortunately the value:price ratio in just about every Seattle restaurant now is way off kilter. Hope they do well…

    • CatLady February 22, 2024 (1:10 am)

      I was hoping someone was going to mention this… growing up in the Bay Area (CA) and having cheap, delicious Mexican food available to me was something I didn’t appreciate enough before I moved up here. $16 for a burrito makes me want to cry. 

      • Al King February 22, 2024 (6:54 am)

        Cat Lady. Big Donkey. Welcome to the REAL world of operating a business. Here’s your opportunity to open a business with cheaper prices than everyone else and see how long you survive. 

        • The Earl February 23, 2024 (8:56 am)


        • TexMexiLexi February 24, 2024 (10:24 am)

          Al King, people are allowed to complain about what they perceive to be high prices, especially at a Mexican restaurant which typically have more affordable fare. Your challenge to “open your own restaurant then!” is immature and unreasonable. Lamenting high prices ≠ I could do it better. Relax and allow people to have opinions, comments like yours chill the dialogue. And as a side note from a Texan, if you go into any Mexican restaurant in Texas you’re getting free chips and salsa. Charging for it is a northern construct.

      • west sea neighbor February 22, 2024 (9:15 am)

        Times have changed, as have minimum wage and food costs. Unfortunately, this is a reflection of what it costs to operate a restaurant in Seattle these days.

      • Let's Go Oakland February 24, 2024 (10:04 am)

        I understand what you are saying. Not sure how long you have been here, but in my case, it’s been more than a decade since I lived there and it’s gotten increasingly expensive everywhere, especially in the past 3-4 years. I think that’s more of a commentary on me getting old, pandemic, and inflation, than a Seattle vs Bay Area thing, though the Mexican food is definitely better there in general.

  • Ok February 22, 2024 (6:08 pm)

    I’m here now. Margherita is 100% amazing. Chips not salty (which bums me out) verde salsa good, red salsa is sweet (I prefer savory) but hey, it’s just a preference so I get it ! Tacos with steak no flavor at all, pork all I taste is hot spice. I know they just opened but just giving my opinion. 

    • Streamdreamer February 22, 2024 (8:22 pm)

      Stopped in for an early dinner right as they opened on Wednesday thinking they’d get busy as the dinner hour stretched out. We were greeted by one of the owners and then several of the wait staff throughout our meal. Enjoyed a tasty, NA margarita and a bowl of perfect chips with a variety of 3 salsas along with some guacamole. Very tasty with some spice and freshness. It kind of went downhill from there. I order a burrito with pork and my friend had tacos (beef and pork). While the burrito was large sitting in the plate with a tablespoon of piccata dollop, it was unexpectedly dry and not very flavorful. It seemed like the tortilla was loaded and then microwaved because l literally had to saw through it with my knife. I’ve had plenty of Mexican food from street vendors to gourmet restaurants and was just underwhelmed. Really hoping they figure it out and perhaps I should wait till I try more of their menu but a burrito shouldn’t really be a challenge. Absolutely loved the decor, lighting, music and vibe but a good food experience sure tops it off. Hoping for a better visit next time. 

  • SV February 22, 2024 (8:30 pm)

    What a great vibe and ambiance. Lots of fun. Menu had food options. Friendly service. Please serve good wine if it’s $15 a glass. Really excited about the new neighborhood joint. 

    • WDubs February 23, 2024 (2:15 pm)

      What food options did the menu have that looked good?

  • Heather February 23, 2024 (9:31 am)

    Any idea if they open at 3pm or 5pm today (Friday 2/23)?

  • Streamdreamer February 23, 2024 (9:47 am)

    Stopped in for an early dinner right as they opened on Wednesday thinking they’d have a growing crowd as the dinner hours began. We were cordially greeted by one owners then taken care of by several of the wait staff throughout the meal. This seemed odd and a little confusing but, upon reflection, we thought they just wanted everyone to feel welcomed and serviced which we did. Enjoyed a tasty NA margarita and a bowl of perfect chips with a variety of 3 salsas along with some guacamole. All very tasty with some spice and freshness! It kind of went downhill from there. I ordered a burrito with pork and my buddy ordered tacos (beef and pork). My burrito came sitting on a platter with a tablespoon dollop of piccata and nothing else. It was unexpectedly dry and not very flavorful. It seemed like the crusty tortilla had been loaded then microwaved because I literally had to saw through it with my knife. I’ve had plenty of Mexican food varieties from street vendors to gourmet restaurants and was just underwhelmed. Really hoping they figure it out and perhaps I should wait till I try more of the menu but a burrito shouldn’t be a challenge. Absolutely loved the decor, lighting, music and vibe but a good food experience sure tops it off. Hoping for a better visit next time. 

  • WDubs February 23, 2024 (12:22 pm)

    This place is being sold as a family restaurant for the neighborhood.  It’s just a Matador that allows kids, prices (and a menu) that won’t appeal to most members of a family.  No free chips, bad wine at more than 4x pricing per glass. no kids menu and just another rehash of every other Mexican place we have in West Seattle (accept for PV which is objectively horrible).  Mission closed because they didn’t want to charge what was necessary to make a profit.  LD get’s that, but a 24 dollar Chile relleno is going to be hard pill for anyone to swallow, especially when you haven’t even included the customary 20% tip.   

  • aa February 23, 2024 (11:02 pm)

    It is my opinion that the expectation that Mexican food should be cheap is racist.  Why is it ok to pay $29 for pasta at il Nido or a bologna sandwich for $30.99 at Lady Jaye  but not $24 for a chile relleno?  Please don’t tear this business down before they even get started.

  • WDubs February 24, 2024 (2:57 am)

    AA, none of what I said had anything to do with the implicit value or cost of Mexican Cuisine as a part or whole.What I did say was that LD portends to be a family restaurant (Il Nido most certainly does not and from what I can tell neither does Lady Jaye)there is no kids menu and a single taco is pushing 8 dollars. I would say the exact same thing about other restaurants in West Seattle, but they aren’t holding themselves up as family neighborhood joint. Due Cuccina (and a lesser extent GH Pasta) who have built a model that can offer more family friendly”ll also notice that Mission called it quits because they didn’t want to (or knew they couldn’t) charge the prices necessary to make a reasonable profit.  LD is free to charge what ever they like, if the neighborhood embraces them, great. But from what they have sold themselves as on the blog etc, the pricing will be out of reach for many and they are like I said before a Matador that isn’t 21 plus.

  • Wdubs February 24, 2024 (7:49 am)

    AA, this new establishment is purporting to be a family neighborhood restaurant because the owners are from the neighborhood.   Il Nido is not claiming to be a locals spot and neither is Lady Jaye (that 30.99 comes with 3 sides btw, little donkey comes with none)The entire menu ala carte. There is not kids menu, a single taco is around 8 dollars and is street taco sized.  So yes, the owners should charge whatever makes sense to make the business viable, but don’t go around saying you’re there for the neighborhood when you offer nothing for children and have prices higher than both Matador and Cactus (since there are no sides included).In closing stop with this Mexican food should be cheap racist nonsense, my whole point is this establishment is simply a more expensive Matador that isn’t  21 plus.

    • Streamdreamer February 24, 2024 (1:04 pm)

      Amen and thank you Wdubs! The racist jab was dumb. And for the record the owner we met as we sat down told us to enjoy our visit but not be afraid to leave any constructive feedback. All 3 of them have been in the restaurant business long enough to understand and appreciate comments both positive and negative. 

    • aa February 24, 2024 (1:49 pm)

      Is it your expectation that when a business says it’s a neighborhood establishment they mean kid friendly?  I don’t believe the two terms are synonymous so if you are upset that they are not catering to the needs of children, maybe its your expectation that is  the problem.

      • WDubs February 25, 2024 (10:12 am)

        AA,please see the quote from the owners.  .  West Seattle residents Mike Meckling (Woodinville Cut Shop, Neumos) and Ben Jenkins (Shadowland, Dumplings of Fury) who will be opening a family-friendly Mexican restaurant offering authentic Mexican food by chef Danny Ludwig.My expectations are in line with what they have been advertising. 

        • WSB February 25, 2024 (11:45 am)

          Hi, let me step in here with a clarification. That is NOT a quote from the Little Donkey owners. That, as originally published here in December 2022, is an excerpt from the announcement by SPIRO’S owners that they were closing. We have no actual direct pre-opening quotes from the owners because we sought multiple times to interview them over the ensuing year, and each time they declined, saying they were not ready to talk about it – it was a work in progress. So we have no updates between the original announcement made by the Spiro’s proprietors, and the story above (which followed reader tips about the soft open). Note that there’s been at least one quantifiable change since the Spiro’s announcement first mentioned them – a different head chef. The name also evolved along the way – Little Donkey was not the original name on the first liquor-license application. – TR

  • BFS February 25, 2024 (11:44 am)

    My buddy and I noticed it was open on Tuesday. Went inside and discovered a soft opening. We were greeted by one of the owners, Ben. I had the quesadilla with steak. It was delicious, with a lot of meat. The guacamole was great as well. We didn’t mind paying for chips and salsa. Definitely going back.  

  • WSrealtor March 1, 2024 (10:20 am)

    Had a great experience here last night.  The place was packed with a 10 min wait time but no biggee.  The waitstaff was exceptionally friendly and helpful.  The owner, Ben, checked in with our table and thanked us for our patience.  The menu was extensive and everything sounded good.  We shared several dishes and the portions were average to above average size.  Everything was delicious and the prices seemed “normal” as we’ve all had to adjust to inflated prices.  Loved the hip decor and it had a cozy neighborhood vibe.  Not sure why anyone would expect a restaurant with a bar to be necessarily kid-friendly and I’m not even sure what “family-friendly” means anymore.  We’ll be going back for sure.

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