I made my first visit with a couple of friends to a new pizzeria in downtown Elizabethton. Jiggy Ray’s Downtown Pizzeria, which is owned and operated by John Malone, opened for business back on Black Friday.
The new restaurant is located in a building that formerly housed a New Orleans-inspired eatery but has remained vacant for several years. The new occupant has completely transformed the space into an exciting, visually appealing environment.
The dining area features a corner stage at the front of the restaurant. When the stage is not needed for live entertainment, there’s a table set up on it with a chess board for any interested players.
Seating is available at tables and booths, which are arranged to give the restaurant an open, spacious appearance. The walls are painted red while also featuring some weathered wood and exposed brick. There’s also a vintage mosaic tile floor. A 12-foot-long salad bar, which is stocked with a good variety of ingredients, is placed along the wall toward the back of the restaurant.
An upright piano sits along one wall. Also displayed on the walls are various vinyl records, as well as framed pictures of music artists and album covers. There’s also a border of vintage license plates along the top of the wall from states across the country. Some vestiges of Christmas remained during our visit, including some charming holiday knickknacks displayed in the windows at the front of the eatery.
Upon entering the restaurant, a server welcomed us to Jiggy Ray’s and invited us to seat ourselves anywhere we pleased. We chose a comfortable corner booth and our server, Chris, soon arrived with menus. She also alerted us to the special pizza of the day, which was a Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza.
The menu has even created a hybrid cuisine coined “Itappalachian,” which is described as “where Italy meets Appalachia.” Pizza is the star of the menu, available as a choice of build-your-own pies or specialty pizzas, which include Jiggy Ray’s Hillbilly Pit Pie. This fusion of southern barbecue onto a classic pizza starts with hand-tossed dough, Jiggy Ray’s original secret sauce and toppings that include slow-smoked pulled pork, bacon and a classic cheese blend. For an even more authentic taste, the menu suggests, add some coleslaw.
Other specialty pies include the Itappalachian Meat Mountain, which is described as offering more meat than a cattle drive. Toppings include pepperoni, sausage, grilled hamburger, bacon and slow-smoked pulled pork. On the opposite extreme is the Slices of Salad, made on a gluten-free crust and offered toppings such as kale, spinach, romaine, black olives and tomatoes.
Toppings for build-your-own pies include regular toppings such as pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, black olives, jalapeno peppers, banana peppers, extra cheese, Italian sausage and green peppers. For a modest extra price, you can also add specialty and premium toppings, including applewood-smoked bacon, fresh basil, pineapple, slow-smoked pork, grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, brisket and Italian beef.
The menu also offers some sandwiches and appetizers, which include Cheese Bread, Garlic Bread and Pretzels with Beer Cheese.
Based on our server’s enthusiastic description, we decided to start with the Pretzels with Beer Cheese. This hearty meal-starter feature four large, soft pretzels, served warm and encrusted with salt crystals. They were delicious with the beer cheese, which was enhanced with Sierra Nevada pale ale. Enjoying the pretzels also gave us extra time to look over the menu.
Two of my friends decided to share the Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza. This daily special started with a scratch-made crust that is glazed with garlic butter and Frank’s red hot sauce before being covered with fresh rotisserie chicken, blended cheeses and plenty of bacon. To finish off this pie, it is drizzled with some homemade ranch dressing and sprinkled with snippets of green onion.
With a promise I could sample some of the pizza, I chose to try a featured sandwich — the Itappalachian Legend. This sandwich is made from slow-cooked seasoned Italian beef served on a crisp baguette and smothered with a special blend of cheese. A container of au jus is served on the side.
My friends and I each also ordered single-visit trips to the salad bar, which was a big hit with my entire party.
This well-stocked bar offered a variety of greens, including baby spinach leaves, mixed bay greens and romaine, as well as a variety of vegetables, including broccoli, mushrooms, green bell peppers, peas, cucumbers, carrots, red onion and cherry tomatoes. The bar also offered other salad toppings, including chopped eggs, crumbled bacon, slivered almonds, croutons, raisins and both black and green olives. All the vegetables on the bar tasted crisp and fresh, making for three delicious salads that we enjoyed while we waited for the pizza and sandwich to arrive. For those looking for a lighter meal, an all-you-can-eat visit (available for a slightly higher cost) to this bar could be just the ticket.
Upon arrival, they didn’t fail to impress. The pizza featured a thin crust that’s just the way I like it: hearty and substantial, unlike some thin crusts that have all the texture of a soda cracker. I loved the crust, which had a perfect, chewy texture. Frank’s red hot sauce on this flavorful pie gave it just a little extra kick, melding with the other ingredients to yield a delicious pie. I also really enjoyed my sandwich, which was sort of like an open-face roast beef sandwich that had been piled high with melted cheese. The roast beef used on this sandwich was delectably tender. All in all, this sandwich is a hearty meal in itself.
For those interested, our server also informed us that the restaurant expects to have a permit to serve beer by the end of January.
I enjoyed my first visit to Jiggy Ray’s immensely and am certain it won’t be the last. The restaurant and its fun, energetic atmosphere is a welcome addition to downtown Elizabethton. If you’ve not yet visited, what are you waiting for? The year is still young, and Jiggy Ray’s certainly has the right pizza waiting for you. If you go, let them know they were recommended.
AT A GLANCE: Jiggy Ray’s Downtown Pizzeria, 610 E. Elk Ave., Elizabethton. 518-1500. Open daily from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Menu items $17 and under. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available.