Nashville Restaurants and Food
1313 Woodland St.
You gotta love a place where people are having martinis and beer with a pug. And Hank the pug seemed to be digging the vibe on the patio at the recently opened Mad Donna’s restaurant in East Nashville. Just down from Hank and his crew was a pack of parents and kids out enjoying a Friday night together. That seems to be what Mad Donnas is developing into: a cool, relaxed neighborhood place. While the food didn’t blow us away, it is good and that combo could prove successful.
It’s been a long time coming. The owners have spent more than a year in renovations and what they call “surprises”. They have done an amazing job transforming the old Radio Café into a hip, upscale space which manages to walk the line between formality and modesty with a little swagger along the way. The bars on each floor are modern and inviting. The patio is more than a bit shielded from the outside world and while this really squelches the fun of people watching, I would imagine it had a lot to do with neighbor requests. The patio is topped with a tent over the back half to avoid the spring showers and perhaps the baking August sun. While we really miss the funky, do-it-yourself feel of Radio Café it is nice to see the building take a new turn.
The menu at Mad Donna’s is pretty straightforward American. Don’t expect a lot of invention here. We did spy a couple of interesting twists. The Veggie Eater was having a heck of time deciding between the five cheese bow-tie mac and cheese and the sweet potato enchiladas. They offer up a tomato bisque soup, fish tacos, pastas, burgers, salads and seafood. There is a nod to vegetarians here and there, and even better they understand that just because something doesn’t appear to have meat, it doesn’t necessarily make it vegetarian. The waitress pointed out that the black beans were lard free.
We started with the Queso Blanco. It was a tad runny, but with good flavor and speckled with bits of fresh cilantro. The cheese seemed pretty typical and lacking the bite, and tang, of better Mexican cheese. Still, the fried flour tortilla strips were crisp and light making the dish a good start to the evening.
They have a few interesting burgers on the menu. One features cheese and mushrooms stuffed into the burger and another promises a kick with jalapenos stuffed inside. They also have a garden burger option. I went with the Miss Swiss, which is piled high with avocado, bacon and Swiss cheese. I ordered medium-rare and it came out medium. I noticed another diner had more pink in his burger, so I don’t think this is necessarily a trend, perhaps just an aberration of the night. The slightly sweet bun was a nice way to top the burger. Overall it was good, nothing incredible, but the cooking may have put me off a bit.
The aforementioned black beans come lightly seasoned. We tried to guess, perhaps cumin? There is a bit of tomato in there for some tang. It’s topped with sour cream. It’s a really good side for a meal.
Veggie Eater: I had the sweet potato enchiladas, which made for a nice veggie twist. They were loaded with sweet potatoes, enveloped in corn tortillas, and topped with what appeared to be a fresh enchilada sauce. There was a smattering of cheddar melted on top. Would have preferred a bit more cheese, but I always want more cheese. The black beans were a bit smoky in flavor and our server made a point to tell us that they were completely vegetarian (no lard). The queso seemed a bit uninspired and I’m not really a fan of flour tortillas, but they were freshly fried. I think Alley Cat's Tex Mex is better, but if this was my neighborhood joint, I’d probably venture back regularly, if for nothing else for the vibe.
Meat Eater: It looks like the Lipstick Lounge crowd has figured out this is a good place for dinner before a show. I can certainly see summer nights out on the patio and winter evenings inside the candlelit dining room. Mad Donna’s is a good, casual addition to the East Nashville dining scene. Our total with tax and tip was $36.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Nashville Restaurants and Food