Nashville – A wonderful place for Vegan Food… Lunch @The Smiling Elephant

As Jackie said yesterday, so far on this vacation, we’ve been fairly underwhelmed where we’ve been traveling in terms of yummy plant based foods. To tell you the truth we’ve been underwhelmed by a lot of things in the south. There is supposed to be this great sense of friendliness and life is just more enjoyable down here, and we haven’t experienced that much… Until Nashville. This city has been fantastic. So far we’ve found great food, and the people here are super nice and talkative, and just want to engage you about most anything. I love it here. I can definitely see why musicians flock to the city, and in the spring/summer/fall when the weather is nicer, this would be such a fantastic place to hang out. That being said I also really enjoy the off season and having our pick of things to do without being overly crowded out.

We’ve been staying at the Opryland Hotel which is marvelous. I’d highly recommend it for anyone that is looking for a little escape. They have these massive indoor gardens, lots of restaurants and entertainment. Its also right next door to a very large “outlet” mall. We started our day off with a lack luster breakfast at Starbucks, because breakfast seems to be the one thing we can’t find a whole lot of around here. (Remedied today by granola and fresh fruit from Whole Foods, love that place.) After breakfast we got pampered with a massage for two at the spa here in the hotel. It was the first time for both of us, and it certainly won’t be the last. We left the spa at 1:15 and planned on trying The Smiling Elephant. I had found the place doing some searching around the internet for vegan eats in Nashville, along with Jackie getting a recommendation from Jill Phillips off of twitter. It was about 25 minutes away, but we didn’t care, we were all relaxy at this point. 😉

We pulled up, and if it weren’t for the GPS, we might have missed the place. Its just a small little restaurant without a whole lot of signage. When we got there we were also a little surprised that we were the only people in the parking lot. (That changed by the time we left, it was packed out.) We were also lucky we got there when we did, their lunch only goes from 11-2:30.

Smiling Elephant

We walked inside, and were greeted by super friendly people, and led to our seats. Its a very clean restaurant and the atmosphere was lovely. I felt like I was in a little part of Thailand. Loved it!

To start off we ordered a basil peanut fresh roll. These spring rolls were unlike any I’ve had before. They really knew how to work that rice paper, it wasn’t too chewy, nor was it crunchy, it was simply perfect. And the fillings of fresh vegetables with Thai Basil and some peanuts was amazing. I’m a poor photographer as I’ve clearly showcased the dipping sauce, but really, these are a must have treat.

Smiling Elephant

Jackie ordered up the Thai Veggie Stirfry, I ordered the Veggie Pad Thai. I have to tell you all that this gave new definition to fast food. We got this freakishly fast. I think Jackie’s plate was out within 5 minutes of us ordering.

Smiling Elephant

As you can see it was completely loaded with veggies. It had summer squash, zucchini, carrots, peas, broccoli, cauliflower. All in a mildly spicy sauce. There were also bamboo shoots in there and some sort of noodle, with a smattering of sprouts. Jackie finished it off, it was that good.

Mine took a bit longer, but it was also well worth it.

Smiling Elephant

This was not your Americanized version of Pad Thai. There wasn’t all that many noodles in here, and those that were in there were really big rice noodles. Loved it. It also wasn’t all sticky and stuck together. It was slightly sweet, without much spice to it, I could have gone for a little spice, but that didn’t detract at all. There was also lots of veggies as with the stir fry. I had carrots, sprouts, cauliflower, zucchini, summer squash.

I wanted to try everything I could on the menu. The green curry looked amazing, but I really wanted to try what they were famous for in the pad thai. Jackie and I may just make a road trip back to Nashville for The Smiling Elephant. It was that good!

Well that’s enough of a novel for now. We’ll hit you up with The Dog of Nashville later. 🙂

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