Post image for The Smiling Elephant

The Smiling Elephant

by Angela Roberts on July 3, 2012

If I hadn’t heard so many good things about the Smiling Elephant, I would have surely passed it by. It’s looks are unassuming, and it’s on a street I don’t drive down very often.

But it’s Nashville, and here, it’s all about word of mouth in a tight knit community that rallies around local restaurants, dives, joints, especially when they are devoted to bringing food to us in a unpretentious and fresh way.

We were lucky enough to go early, and claim a table on their small patio, which they didn’t seem to plan to use. Good thing, because we hung for a few hours just enjoying the great food on a warm evening. Our friend who I will call Miss Propaganda joined us, which is always a pleasure because although not a food blogger, she takes pictures of her restaurant meals as compulsively as I do. No need for me to beg for patience or explain the camera.

I didn’t see some of the more typical dishes I’ve seen in other Thai restaurants, and I had to ask our very gracious server what she recommended. I was shocked in a good way when I saw blue crab on the menu. Living so close to Baltimore, we ate blue crab at least weekly growing up. Crab cakes. Stuffed flounder, crab cocktails, crab salad. It was still considered somewhat a delicacy because of it’s price, although readily available.

We started with a few appetizers.

The fresh peanut roll with basil was crunchy, flavorful and better than any spring roll I’ve ever had.

Shrimp dumplings.

Side Salad with a very spicy lemongrass ginger dressing, mixing well with fresh greens and pineapple.

Khao Kai Ra-bert
Mild stir fry with Blue Crab, Garlic, and Ground Black Pepper served with a Fried Egg and Rice. I substituted minced pork with blue crab for an extra $4.50. It was outstanding, as they give more than enough crab and the egg made so much sense in the dish, although at first I was unsure I would like it.

Chicken Cashew Stir Fry with Satay Sauce
By request, our take on a popular Thai dish. Sauteed with Pineapples, House Roasted Chili Peppers and Broccoli. Served with Jasmine Rice.  That same spicy sauce accompanying the salad was on the plate. Loved it.

Smiling Elephant Pad Thai
Stir fried Green Bean Noodles with tofu, eggs, bean sprouts, ground peanuts and choice of meat. *Contains dried shrimp in seasoning

Many people claim that this the best Pad Thai they have ever eaten. If Pad Thai is on any menu, Mr. St orders it.  He said it’s the best he’s ever had in Nashville.

The down side of eating at the Smiling Elephant is that they do not serve any alcohol. The upside is the food is great, fresh, light and a wonderful place to eat Thai food. We will go back again and again, especially on those nights we want to eat on the lighter side.

They live up to their mission to serve healthy, authentic Thai cuisine. Everything is cooked to order and they never use MSG. The service is very accommodating. Ask about their specials and for recommendations.

The Smiling Elephant on Urbanspoon
The Smiling Elephant on Foodio54

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Norma-Platanos, Mangoes and Me! July 3, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Look good to me..I like the chicken cashew

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Grishma @Zaikazabardast July 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm

never heard abt this restaurant b4! Thanks for introducing it to me. Also do they have vegetarian options?

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Corrie July 3, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Right!!….Thats it!!….down the street for lunch to my fav Thai place….Pad Thai rice noodles and Char kway teow……D’oh now I’m so hungry!!! :-)

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Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella July 4, 2012 at 6:25 am

What a lovely find! And the best pad thai? That’s some achievement! Happy 4th of July to you Angela! :D

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Jeff Mac July 4, 2012 at 10:41 am

Yes, Smiling Elephant is ridiculously good! I love the fact that they have the street cart that they restaurant exanded from still parked in the room!

Had the daily curry last time I was there and it was hot enough to scar me but I couldn’t quit eating it. I also love all the fresh vegetables in their Tom Ka Kai soup.

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Magic of Spice July 4, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Love the name :) Great review and the food does look fantastic…no alcohol is a bummer though ;)
Have a safe and happy 4th!

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Joan Nova July 4, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Looks wonderful. I recently had an experience like that with a Peruvian restaurant. I almost didn’t go in because the exterior wasn’t what I was expecting. What a loss that would have been. We had a great time – and meal! Sometimes you’ve just got to step out of your comfort zone …

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amy @ fearless homemaker July 5, 2012 at 7:01 am

Sounds tasty! I still have never been to Smiling Elephant but it’s been on my to-try list for quite a while. Must get over there soon!

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Karl July 6, 2012 at 9:57 am

I have been wanting to try this place! I am definitely taking Sarah tomorrow…yum!

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Teresa, foodonfifth.com July 6, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Angela, you are hitting some of my favorites with your culinary tour of Nashville and beyond! I love this little restaurant and tell everyone about it’s delights.

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Shanna July 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm

We love Smiling Elephant! Hard to beat a Thai restaurant that doesn’t use canola or vegetable oils. And Mr. ST is so right–the pad Thai is what I loved, too!

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sippitysup July 7, 2012 at 11:41 pm

You bring out the country boy in me! XOGREG

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