Friday, January 7, 2011

Restaurant Round-Up: Mad Donna's, Smiling Elephant, NY Pie

I'm busy perfecting a bread recipe/technique so in the meantime I'm happy to share that I've finally gotten the chance to get out to eat in the last month.

Mad Donna's
I was fortunate enough to attend a special tasting event at Mad Donna's and it's a good thing because it's never really been on my radar. And that's too bad because there are a few reasons it should've been and is now:

1. Macaroni and cheese--several kinds to choose from!

2. Crispy sweet potato fries

3. A huge menu with lots of vegetarian options (as well as gluten-free options)

4. Brunch! (Wish I'd known this during the many times I've waited--and waited and waited--for a table down the street at Marche).

Mad Donna's is kid-friendly downstairs and has a pretty cool space upstairs. Check their website for their awesome daily specials and events. If I lived in the neighborhood, I'd be a regular.

Menu sampling!

A group of us digging into some fried ice cream
Mad Donna's
1313 Woodland Street
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 226-1617
Open every day except Monday; brunch on Saturday and Sunday

Smiling Elephant
I'd heard about Smiling Elephant for a while but I figured that it'd be just like all the other Thai restaurants in town. They're all good so what's the point in driving all the way over to 8th Avenue South? But one night, we had some time and we stopped in.

Let me sum it up this way: Smiling Elephant will change your life.

Wow, so good. And different! Not the standard pre-fried tofu splashed in some sauce (not that there's anything wrong with that). And not the standard dishes either. A smaller menu than some places but all dishes thoughtfully prepared. And fresh. I got the dinner "set" which included soup, entree and dessert (and a bonus ginger tea!). The soups are vegetarian and just about any entree can be made with tofu so you can imagine I was quite pleased. Mr. Eats actually ordered vegetarian food, too so that we could share! And everything was fantastic.

Smiling Elephant is a small space. Even at 8pm on a Monday, it's busy so plan your first visit for an off time so you can really enjoy it.
Vegetarian lemongrass soup

Tamarind tofu and ginger tofu--couldn't decide which I liked better!
Smiling Elephant
2213 8th Avenue South (across from Fiddlecakes and just south of Wedgewood and Zanie's)

Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 891-4488
Closed for lunch Saturday and all day Sunday

NY Pie
It's no secret to friends and family that I love New York style pizza. I like Neapolitan, too but I really love good NY style slice that you can fold and eat. House of Pizza in the Arcade and Joey's House of Pizza in Brentwood are my favorites locally but are nearly impossible for me to get to due to my West Nashville location.

So I was pretty excited to see the sign for NY Pie go up over in Nashville West. Though I was a bit skeptical. I've had some pretty mediocre pizza in Nashville and Porta Via has been my go-to pizza since it opened. It's great, but it's Neapolitan.

So on a chilly Tuesday night, my friend and I and Baby Eats stopped in around 6pm to try it out. First things first, the place is BUSY and small. They could easily fill up a space twice the size they have now. So when you want to try it, you may be best off getting takeout.

Now the important part. The pizza is great! Very reminiscent of my favorite pizza, John's of Bleecker Street. The only thing they lack is RC on tap (no, really--RC on tap at John's--YUM!). There are a lot of specialty pizzas on the menu, but I got the basic cheese and really enjoyed it. My friend got the margarita and let me have a slice and it was good as well--a slightly sweeter and thicker tomato sauce to make it different from the standard slice (along with the chopped basil and fresh mozzarella).

Speaking of slice, the menu indicates it's available by the slice, but I didn't see any pricing. I just got the 10 inch for $6.50 and though I shouldn't have, I ate the whole thing. The edge of the crust was a bit thicker and fluffier than a real NY slice, but it worked out well for me because I shared it with Baby Eats. Not all pizzas are like that--each pizza is hand-tossed (right in front of you!) and different from the last, so some pizzas may have a thicker edge. Small price to pay for a great hand-made pizza.

NY Pie is locally owned and operated and really care about the pizza they're making (asking each customer what they thought about the pizza once the crowd slowed enough for them to breathe). Sorry--no pictures; tight squeeze in the place and I didn't want to be too conspicuous. But trust me--it's a great-looking and authentic New York style "pie."

NY Pie
6800 Charlotte Pike, Suite 105 (Nashville West in the middle section, Charlotte side of the street)
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 915-1617


Diana said...

Great write-up! Have a Mad Donna's Groupon I need to use soon.

NY Pie - Okay, I know pizza is a subjective experience, but I'd like your honest opinion: Is it better than Joey's? Joey's is much closer to me. I'll test it out either way.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to try out NY Pie! Manny's and Joey's HOP are also my fav pizza places. Great minds think alike!

ErinsFoodFiles said...

Great round up! I can't wait to try NY Pie!

PS. I'm bummed I missed the ice cream at Mad Donna's!

Wendy French Barrett said...

I've been a fan of Mad Donna's for a while, but we don't go as often as we would if we lived in the neighborhood.

I'll have to try Smiling Elephant. That lemongrass soup looks so fresh & delicious.

We tried NY Pie on Friday night &, man, I'm so glad we were among friends that I felt comfortable around. We got our cheese pizzas to go & barely made it back to Woodbine before ripping into them. I swear, I would have been embarrassed to eat like that in front of anyone else. I literally made out with that pizza. I think maybe there was a bit of grunting & moaning too, but it was worth it. It was the perfect pizza to me. Not too thick, not too thin. The sauce had the right amount of sweetness & the cheese, oh the cheese, it had a lot of character. We'll definitely be going back.

I ordered a garden salad on the side for us to split (I wish they had offered a small side salad option) and it was unremarkable. I know it's not the best time to be eating salads, but I'd hoped the homemade dressing would make it tasty. The Italian vinaigrette was a little blah.

So don't try to be virtuous in any way by fooling with a salad. Get the big cheese pizza and go to town.

Anonymous said...

Haven't been to Mad Donna's since I moved but I did always enjoy their brunch - I should go back soon.

Love the Smiling Elephant - it is very close to my house. My hubby picked it up for dinner last night.

The Kuntrageous Vegan said...

Mad Donna's has improved *significantly* since they got rid of the original head chef and hired someone different to take over and revamp the menu, and I'm glad my black bean burger recipe made the cut-even if they don't give me credit. They also make their own salsa every day and it's some of the best I've ever had.

With Smiling Elephant, I have to admit i've only been twice. The first time I was blown away, the second time i was very underwhelmed.