Come on, admit it. You’re just a little bit curious about a place called The Wild Donkey Café that’s serving up both Greek and Mexican food.
Longtime restaurateurs George and Kay Kartsioukas opened their cheery cafe in January after about nine months of remodeling and retrofitting the downtown Broad Street location.
The space now sports exposed brick walls and wooden beams that give it a touch of rustic charm. Add to that a trio of elegant glass chandeliers and a cheerful assortment of Mexican and Greek artwork, and you’ve got The Wild Donkey Café.
Though they spent 20 years owning and operating a Greek/Italian restaurant in San Francisco, the Kartsioukases had been coming to the Central Coast to visit friends for almost three decades.
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After moving here about four years ago, they bought the Broad Street property — then home to Tio Alberto’s Mexican restaurant — but not with the intent of opening a cafe there.
“We thought about doing another restaurant, and looked at a lot of places,” said Kay. However, when the remodel ended up taking much longer than expected, “we thought, ‘Why don’t we just do it here?’ We love the location.”
The Wild Donkey name actually preceded the idea of the restaurant by a couple of years, and was the result of Kay’s exclamation as she pulled the first print from an etching she was doing of a donkey. (An enlarged copy of the print hangs in the restaurant by the door, one of several pieces of art done by either Kay or their daughter.)
The name also fits the Greek/Mexican concept “because donkeys are so important to both cultures.”
In developing the cafe’s unique menu, the Kartsioukases pulled some favorite Greek recipes from their previous restaurant, updating them a bit, but still keeping true to tradition. As a result, you’ll find classic items such as shish kabobs, souvlaki, and spanakopita, plus signature Greek dishes like turkey keftedes (meatballs), avgolemono (egg lemon soup), and the very popular moussaka (akin to a hearty lasagna, with layers of fragrantly spiced ground lamb, roasted eggplant and béchamel sauce).
“We want to keep it all very traditional,” said George, who spearheads the kitchen while Kay keeps tabs on the front of the house.
Everything possible is made from scratch, and there are even Greek wines available, including retsina, though Kay noted that it’s a kinder, gentler version than most people might think of.
Having the Mexican side of the menu “really means running two kitchens,” explained Kay, “so we decided to keep it simple, but make it fresh and high quality, with everything cooked on the spot.”
That approach really extends throughout the kitchen, so most dietary requests can be honored, even gluten-free, though be advised that cross-contamination can’t be totally ruled out.
Mexican favorites on the Wild Donkey menu include baked poblano peppers drizzled with pecan sauce, lamb burritos with black beans, and nachos with crispy house-made tortilla chips.
Other dishes with a Wild Donkey twist include a grilled salmon salad with grilled apricots, fried calamari served with a red horseradish sauce and a lemon caper aioli, and the flavorful “Peasant Potatoes” that are baked until crispy and seasoned with oregano and lemon.
The Kartsioukases did move here with an eye on eventual retirement, but right now they’re clearly enjoying The Wild Donkey ride, even though it means “being here seven days a week,” said George. “We’re so grateful for the welcome from everyone and from all our supportive neighbors. It’s a great community.”