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.
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).
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Nashville Restaurants and Food
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Nashville Restaurants and Food
Las Cazuelas Mexican Grill
4114 Nolensville Road
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Nashville Restaurants and Food
Pleasant Thyme Café
2004 Highway 49 East
There are plenty of home-style restaurants to be found in the rural exurbs north of Nashville, and perhaps that’s what you think you’ve stumbled on while traveling a rural stretch of Highway 49 in Pleasant View. A peek inside the restaurant reveals something much different: a sleek, tasteful coffee shop style design, with dark wood and an upscale vibe. Pleasant Thyme Café is a rare bird. It’s a family run restaurant in a small town, with big city menu executed by a talented chef. Okay, so this isn’t fine dining. Pleasant Thyme Café is a lunch joint, but the sandwiches, soups and salads would be welcome in any better Nashville restaurant. Indeed owners Rich and Susie Van Etten worked in several of those Nashville kitchens, including Provence, Tin Angel and Zola. They opened the doors at Pleasant Thyme last September.
It’s a fun place with a mix of folks, ranging from construction workers in dirty jeans and baseball caps to middle-aged ladies dressed in slacks and sweaters. It’s clear they are there for the same reason: excellent food.
You can taste the quality in the first spoonful of the tomato basil bisque. The chunky bits of tomato provide a bright accent to the rich, velvety soup. The broccoli, in the broccoli and bacon salad, has a fresh, satisfying crunch. It’s studded with raisins and dressed in a tangy, light dressing for a sweet finish. All of the sandwiches on the menu come listed as specialty Panini sandwiches, which seems to mean a variety of sandwiches, some of which are finished in Panini press. It may seem like an attempt to take ordinary food upscale, but it works. Most importantly the care with which these sandwiches are created is evident immediately. The New York Reuben Panini is filled with juicy, well seasoned corned beef, quality Swiss cheese and the usual sauerkraut and 1000 Island dressing finish. The Panini press grooves mark the tasty rye bread. It is a really good Reuben and ready to rumble with any you can find in Nashville. There are plenty of other recognizable sandwich options in the Pleasant Thyme line-up. The Flank Steak comes served with a spicy bleu cheese dressing. The Turkey California has avocado, cheddar and mango chutney. The Roasted Turkey features a rosemary and sundried tomato mayonnaise.
Pleasant Thyme also serves up wrap sandwiches such as Turkey Bacon, and a Spicy Fajita with smoked cheddar, jalapenos and a southwest sauce. The sides are a simple list of chips, potato salad, pasta salad and the broccoli and bacon salad. They usually have a couple of soups available each day, which on this day included a chicken gumbo and creamy artichoke. Breakfast includes an egg and cheese Panini, and quiche of the day.
Veggie Eater: My mother and I hit this restaurant for her birthday lunch while she was in town. We figured we
should try to support a local business and had heard good things about Pleasant Thyme. I am shamed to admit at how long it took to get me there, since it’s just a hop, jump and a skip from our J-town home. We were not disappointed. Mom ordered the Reuben Panini. She indicated the corned beef was very high quality. The Panini was stacked high like a true New York deli sandwich. She opted for potato salad, which was fresh. I on the other hand opted for the Veggie Delight. It consisted of artichoke spread on foccacia and had fresh veggies to top it: red peppers, tomatoes, cukes, onions, and provolone. A respectable veggie sandwich. There are not a ton of veggie choices (really just the Veggie delight sandwich and the house salad). However, quite a few sandwiches can be made veggie friendly easily. I also notice that it appears they do 2 quiches each morning and it appears one is veggie and one is meatified. They have breakfast Panini as well. It’s close enough that when I want a quick treat, I’ll stop in again. My mother was thoroughly pleased with the new addition to our area.
Meat Eater: Thanks to the readers who e-mailed us about this place. We never expected to talk about Pleasant View and mango chutney in the same review, but we are glad we can. The Pleasant Thyme Cafe had a bustling weekday lunch business going on both of our visits, so it seems the locals are responding. I think one reason for that success is the down home feel to the place. It may look upscale, and serve up some outstanding lunch food, but at its heart Pleasant Thyme Café is a family run, small town place where everyone knows everyone. It’s great to have all of that and really good food to boot.
The Pleasant Thyme Café is located just 2.5 miles from the I-24/Highway 49 exit and well worth a day trip. Pleasant View even has an antique store and a gift store just off Highway 49. Pleasant Thyme Café is open weekdays for breakfast and lunch, and until 2pm on Saturdays. A sandwich, side, cup of soup and a diet coke cost $12 with tax and tip.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Nashville Restaurants and Food
1805 21st Ave. South
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Nashville Restaurants and Food
109 Walton Ferry Road
It’s cool that Nashville finally has some nicer places for Italian food. Still, we’ve been looking for a mom and pop Italian-American joint that dishes up tasty, inexpensive pasta, pizza and sandwiches. We think we’ve finally found it, and in Hendersonville of all places. Open just three months, Nana Rosa is a comforting addition to the Nashville area restaurant scene.
Italian-American really is its own cuisine and while it may cause some foodies to turn up their noses at the lack of authenticity, you can experience great Italian-American food in cities all over the country. In Milwaukee we had a few favorite spots where you could immerse yourself in the family atmosphere. Nana Rosa certainly has that family feel. Skip and Billee Helm have pictures of the relatives on the walls, and even living room furniture to complete the look. Now some of this strays into Italian-American kitsch, like the plastic vines and olive bunches hanging from the trellis, red and white checkered table cloths, and the café scene painted on the wall. Quite frankly (sorry we couldn’t resist) it only adds to the vibe when Frank Sinatra kicks in on the stereo.
It’s an intimate little dining room with 12 tables wedged in tight. It seems like Nana Rosa may need the seating at times. Even for a weekend lunch they were doing good business. The server proved to be one of the best we’ve had in some time. She hustled from table to table, with a sharp eye for an empty water glass, or the need for some more bread. And that bread is a nice start, toasted lightly and served with olive oil, well seasoned with salt and pepper. The waitress warned that all dishes are made to order and it may take a few minutes. We appreciated the honesty, and the speed with which our bread and drinks appeared. We sipped a frothy cappuccino and relaxed.
The wait wasn’t long at all. Two giant bowls were presented and we dug in. The fettucine Alfredo is made with quality pasta and cooked al dente. It’s served in a flavorful Alfredo flecked with parsley and bits of red pepper. The chicken proves the made to order test: the breast chunks are moist and tender - perfectly cooked.
The menu includes ravioli filled with mascarpone and corn, veal or chicken. Panini include prosciutto and provolone; fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil; and a chicken breast, ham, pepperoni and Swiss cheese creation. Nana’s lasagna, pasta faggiole, baked ziti and Poppy Frank’s meatballs all look like contenders for our next visit. Appetizers come out for the dinner menu (bruschetta, caprese and garlic cheese bread) and a chicken parmigiana joins the lunch line-up for the dinner entrees.
Veggie Eater: You need to be sure to alert the staff if you are vegetarian. Items that may seem veggie friendly may in fact have a meatified component. Case in point, the Broccoli Rigatoni. It is normally served in a chicken broth. However, since each dish really is made to order, they chef will happily make it without. It was a heaping serving of rigatoni with what appears to be pan steamed broccoli. The broccoli is soft enough to easily cut with a fork when scooping up the pasta, but not soggy. It is served with parsley, olive oil and a bit of garlic. They left the cheese on the side in case I was vegan; I happily dumped the Parmesan on top. The pasta was cooked well; I like it a bit more al dente, but it was not overdone. We opted to finish with cannoli; the waitress was honest that the cannoli shells were not made there, but the mascarpone filling was. A few token mini semi sweet chocolate chips dotted the filling. Typical Italian fare: sweet, not cloying. Not sure from where the cannoli shells harkens, but they were fresh and crumbly. Not fine dining, but the closest I’ve come to mom and pop Italian-American dining since moving to Nashville.
Meat Eater: They advertise Nana Rosa as an Italian market, but there wasn’t much available to our eye. They also say they make Biscotti but don’t have it on the menu. Hmmm. Probably worth asking about. Nana Rosa is a good place for families. Kids won’t feel out of place and what child doesn’t enjoy a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs? They don’t have a wine license yet, but you can bring your own bottle. Nana Rosa lived up to our Italian-American hopes and will probably become a regular spot for us. They keep long hours, serving up breakfast and lunch and staying open for dinner until 9pm Thursday through Saturday. We paid $34 with tax and tip.