Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pied Piper Eatery

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Pied Piper Eatery
1601 Riverside Drive

You can’t beat funky sandwich shops: the bohemian places with funny sandwich names, an eclectic decorating style and best of all, really good food. Pied Piper Eatery is all of that and more, because the menu goes beyond a big list of sandwiches to include things like a Jerry Garcia Frito Pie. The music theme permeates the Pied Piper offerings, and who could resist the Randy Jackson’s Big Dawg giant hot dog or the Clay Aiken, which features nothing but cheese. The sense of humor on the menu works and it’s joined in the dining room by a friendly and funny wait staff. As you can imagine with the fun food and relaxed atmosphere, it’s a good place for kids, and indeed several families were having a nice time on the evening we visited.

The restaurant location on Riverside Drive was last known as the Veggie Café. The new place is run by the same family that owns Pied Piper Creamery ice cream. They’ve turned the room into a warm, and slightly smaller space, with the rock and roll theme everywhere: rock and roll album covers sealed into the table tops and rock band inspired art on the walls.

We should say right away that we ordered way too much food. We try to sample as much as we can, and this time the generous portion sizes did us in. We took plenty home though, so it’s not a bad thing. The chili is sticky, meaty and slightly sweet; a great combination. This is the thick type of chili you can put on a burger or a dog, which they do for a few menu options, but it’s plenty good in the bowl as well.

The fries are long, thin and crispy and with great flavor. There’s a big pile of them that comes with the sandwiches. You can also get the fries smothered in chili and cheese as an appetizer.

After perusing the menu it quickly became apparent that the Monty “Python” Cristo would have to be a part of our night out, perhaps just for the sheer preposterousness of the sandwich. It’s ham, turkey and cheese, piled between Texas toast slices and then battered and fried. Topped with powdered sugar and served up with a side of raspberry sauce, it’s kind of like a donut sandwich gone wild. The bread gets all fluffy like a funnel cake, with the sweet taste of a dessert. Then you hit the gooey cheese and meat interior and it turns back into a sandwich. Pretty evil and pretty damn good.

There has to be something for just about everyone on that menu, including a big list of inventive burger designs and some creative salads. The Veggie Eater about lost it when she found out they serve hash browns for dinner. Pied Piper has a small breakfast line-up that they serve all day, starting at 8am.

Veggie Eater: Love this place. The hash browns are the best that I’ve had in this town. You get to choose 2 topping items with them, but don’t feel like you’re only limited to 2. There are 40 toppings you can choose, ranging from corn to corned beef. The hash browns are shredded, perfectly crisped on the outside and tender in the middle. This made me wax nostalgic for one of my favorite junk food spots in college, the Hamburg Inn, in Iowa City, Iowa. We opted for provolone and sour cream, but we literally have thousands of future combinations to choose from. This puts the Waffle House to shame. Then there was my veggie burger. There were a few tense moments when I was about to summon the waitress back to inform her that a mistake had been made on my veggie burger; I was convinced it was a real meat burger. Turns out, upon further analysis, the rare looking “meat” was in fact mushrooms, rice and beets, which give the appearance of a rare burger. You can order any of the burgers veggie style (there are 11 styles to choose from), and this is not your average Harvest Burger. Don’t get me wrong, I keep the frozen veggie burgers on hand at all times, but they are kind of dull. Not the case here. It was moist and not at all chewy (as is the case with most faux burgers). Topped with Swiss, cheddar, and pepper jack (the Wisconsin Special; as an ex-Cheesehead, it was simply a must), you cannot go wrong. And then there were the fries. Also the best fries I’ve had in town. I like my fries skinny and crisp and these fit the bill. They are as good as McDonald’s, but with no secret beef seasoning. This will definitely be my new East Nashville, post FooBar, eating spot.

Meat Eater: Okay the return visit will have to include a sample of their country fried steak or chicken breast with white gravy. Ooh, or maybe the fruit salsa and chips, or the Thunder from Down Under Burger (fried egg, bacon and cheddar)…so much food so little time. And did we mention that they have a list of side things, like avocado or Fritos that you can add on to just about any order? We paid $33 with tax and tip for much more food than two people should ever order. You could get out of there for significantly less if you are not a pig.

Update 9/5/09

They call it “A Little Bit of Country”: your choice of steak of chicken fried up in a spicy batter. The ribeye version makes for an excellent chicken fried steak. It’s chewy because of the real cut of steak (they don’t pound it to death) but I kind of enjoy that. The white gravy is an excellent topping and very southwestern in flavor. Combined with hand mashed potatoes (skins mashed in) it’s a real feast. Our friend loved her Monty Python Cristo (ham, turkey and cheese on battered and fried Texas toast…always a must do for a newcomer) and the onion rings were really good: a light batter and thin cut onions.

Veggie Eater: Roasted Veggie Sammy: I thought my sandwich was a bit gloppy and a tad greasy. It was stuffed with zucchini and squash and topped with pesto mayo and cheese atop thickly sliced bread. My sandwich funk may have been fueled by the fact that I really wanted the fabulous homemade veggie burger, but was talked into trying something new by Meat Eater. The fries are still awesome; thin cuts perfectly fried and salted; puts McDonald’s to shame and I’m pretty sure Pied Piper’s aren’t deceptively seasoned with beef (as McDonalds).
Pied Piper Eatery on Urbanspoon


starbucksgirl said...

Can't wait to try this place. Great review. Thanks guys.

Anonymous said...

I am eating my way down the menu! I've tried several different things. The country fried steak ROCKS! You should eat here!

Eric and Katie said...

We'll be going back soon!

Anonymous said...

One of the best milkshakes I have ever had.