Situated within the cultural cornucopia of Midtown Memphis, Mama Gaia has made her home inside the walls of the Ballet Memphis Building. Seemingly named after the Greek goddess of Earth, Mama Gaia was, until this past week, a vegetarian restaurant. In order to appeal to a broader audience, they’ve added chicken dishes to the mix, which is pretty cool because what non-pescatarian meat-eater doesn’t like chicken?! (By the way, if you don’t, PLEASE comment below.) We weren’t aware of the menu change before we went, and we actually chose to go BECAUSE of the vegetarian menu. We are interested in trying various cuisines that appeal to many different epicurean desires. With that being said, here’s what we tried:
Let’s start with the King’s food… because you know I tasted it.
Pepperoni Pitizza: King(4/5) Me(4/5)
Small but mighty! I will start by saying that I was a bit disappointed by its SIZE, but it more than made up for it in taste.
The amount of sauce on this pitizza was ample without being too much. I’ve tasted pizza sauces that were too sweet, or bitter, or just really unbalanced and commercial, but this wasn’t the case here. The sauce was good. I could taste the basics (which is a good thing here) tomatoes, salt, garlic, and the Italian spice trio.
The mozzarella tasted light and fresh and the pepperoni was so good that it took me back to a kindergarten field trip to Dominos. When I smelled the fresh ingredients that day, I was mesmerized by that smell and have always wished my finished pizzas tasted the way that prep area smelled in the Domino’s kitchen over 30 years ago. This one did. That pepperoni took me there. It wasn’t too salty. It was nice and thick. It was savory, and it was good.
That’s all I got to say about that….
Grilled Chicken Quinoa Bowl: King(3.5) Me(5/5)
When I tell you that I’d drive the 20 miles from my house to Midtown to get this, it’s no lie. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it since I left, and it wasn’t even my dish; it was the King’s! Anyway, I LOVED it. I only gave it back to him because I had my own food and my mama taught me not to be greedy. I try to listen to my mama. Moving on…
This dish featured quinoa, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, red onion, and grilled chicken. The grilled chicken was what you’d expect grilled chicken to be. I mean, to me it was a TAD dry, but it really worked here because it was seasoned well. I’m not mad at it because if you know you’re coming up short somewhere, you gotta try to shine somewhere else. Get your shine on, chicken. The addition of the cheese was weird to me at first, but it worked because it added a touch of sharpness to the mix, and the tomatoes added a freshness to it all that helped cut all the savory that was going on. The star of the show was the quinoa. This was quinoa done right. It had a very good, well-balanced, savory flavor. It was light and fluffy, and each one of the quinoa kernels just popped and felt so good in my mouth. The flavors and the textures in this dish were a home run for me. It was actually served with their Mama Gaia sauce, which tasted like creamy honey mustard (like O’Charley’s honey mustard dressing). Good sauce, but unnecessary here.
Let’s move on to my side of the table:
Smokehouse Burger: King(1/5) Me(1/5)
Okay, so, I know I’m suppose to sweep around my own front door before I try to sweep around somebody else’s, but I didn’t lead with this because I didn’t want to turn you guys off from this place in case people didn’t make it this far into the post. All I can say is that I didn’t like this Sam I Am.
The burger featured a veggie patty, smoked onion, and garlic aioli on a wheat bun.
The sandwich just didn’t work for me. The veggie patty was dry and had some kind of fragrant herb or spice, like ginger or cilantro, that seemed to overpower it. That flavor could have been the garlic aioli; I’m not sure because I didn’t try the patty without the aioli. Believe it or not, it’s really difficult for me to describe. I kinda think it needed some mushrooms in it to give it some real “chew” because the texture lacked substance to me. The main issue was that the patty was so dry that when paired with the bun, it made feel like I was eating a bread sandwich. This almost made me say I’d never eat another veggie burger again, actually, I did say it, but I didn’t mean it. For you, I will.
Grilled Chicken Wrap: King(4.5/5) Me(4/5)
This was really, really good. It consisted of grilled chicken (of course), red onion, diced tomatoes, cheese blend, romaine lettuce, and Mama Gaia sauce.
There really isn’t a lot to say about the wrap except that I enjoyed it. I found the chicken to be flavorful and juicy and the salad-like components to be crisp and fresh just as they should be. The Mama Gaia sauce really spoke to me here. The sweetness, tang, and creaminess of the sauce made an ordinary grilled chicken wrap become a little more special. Now, I’m not a HUGE raw onion fan, so I removed a lot of it, BUT BABY, I tasted a little bit the onion in that wrap, and almost forgot they weren’t my favorite. Red onion was the perfect choice here, too, because of its unique sharpness and mild pungency that along with the house sauce, really helped to take the wrap to another level.
Let’s talk about the sweet stuff…
Vegan Date-based Chocolate Nut Brownie: King(4/5) Me(3.5/5)
Well, well, well, a vegan brownie. So, yeah, about that… I tried to keep an open mind about the whole thing. Is it even possible to make a scrumptious vegan brownie? Maybe, I didn’t find out this day. This one was pretty good, but it wasn’t quite scrumptious, but I think it really comes down to personal chocolate preference. Admittedly, I’m just coming off of a really long (7+ years) caffeine hiatus.
After being away from chocolate for so long, I’m always excited to have a chocolate treat. That being said, I like my chocolate in moderation. I’m certainly not a triple-chocolate-chunk kinda girl, and this brownie as a unit was a little too chocolatey for my taste. The top of it had a fudge-like consistency. It was certainly too thick to be considered icing. This was probably exacerbated by the fact that the bottom part wasn’t “cakey”, but almost truffle-like. If you’ve never had a truffle, imagine nougat with nuts. It was kinda cakey but mushy like a cake pop. As for the taste, I could definitely taste the dates, but it didn’t detract from the flavor. The King suggested that I try the top and bottom separately. That turned out to be a smashing idea!
As separates, each component got to tell its own tale. The top was still more like soft fudge, but I could appreciate it being itself instead of trying to impersonate icing…or maybe that wasn’t the intention. Either way, it was better by itself. It had the right amount of bitter and sweet. It had more of a rich, dark chocolate flavor, but the sweet dates mellowed out the bite from the cocoa. The bottom was my favorite part. The interesting texture that I mentioned above, along with the nuts and the rich chocolate flavor, made me want to put in a bowl, grab a glass of Moscato, and call it a night (because
Vegan Carrot Cake Balls: King(4/5) (5/5)
Talk about scrumptious! These bite-sized morsels of epicurean joy had me believing that I could be vegan. No they didn’t…well, they did, but I knew that was a whole lie. Any way. They got a 5/5 from me because they are crave-able. I have craved them since we left, and on pay day, I might just go and get me a couple….I’m going to TRY to wait till then. Let me tell you why I liked them so.
Everything just worked. Like the brownie above, they were more cake pop, but it worked really well here. I could taste the sweetness from the date, the bitter from the chocolate, the spice from the cinnamon, seemingly a hint of vanilla (or it could have been the hint of sweetness from the extra-finely shredded carrot). All of this was rolled in shredded coconut, and the coconut served both the texture and the taste VERY well. The mellow coconut talkin’ turkey with the bold flavor of the chocolate and the fancy gourmand goodness of the inside made me extremely happy. Well, I guess they weren’t talking turkey, they are vegan, so I don’t know what they were talkin’, but let me tell you, it was good conversation.
Overall: King(3.5/5) Me(3.5/5)
I’m not mad at Mama G. The service was friendly. It wasn’t all that
All in all, I’d go back. It’s a great place to grab lunch or a healthy dinnertime snack if you’re going to be eating your real dinner late. I say that because I was hungry again by the time I got home. Maybe if I’d left the bun on the burger I would have been sustained, but choking just wasn’t in my plans for that evening.
Are there any vegetarian or vegan restaurants that you’re curious about? Let us know in comments, and maybe we’ll check them out.Follow us on Instagram and Facebook!