Critic's star breakdown
- Food: 4 stars (out of five)
- Service: 3.5
- Atmosphere: 3.5
- Overall: 4
Holly's Eventful Dining started out as an on- and off-site catering venture, the palate-child of local chef Holly Hambright. Lately, the Baltimore Culinary Arts Institute grad has also been serving lunch to the general public in an open, non-event format, adding her creative kitchen flair to a rotating menu of noontime noshables. I recently met a friend for Holly's Eventful Lunch at the eatery, which is tucked away in the heart of the Homberg enclave, in the old Bogartz space.
I arrived a little ahead of our appointed time, so I got the quick 411 on the procedure. The weekly menus are stacked on a table, and once you've made your choices, an employee takes your order. Then you're free to grab any chips or drinks and claim the table of your choice. When your order is ready, they track you down and deliver it to your table.
The menu does change weekly, so the items I describe here may or may not be available when you visit. But this will give you an idea of what's in store. My friend and I sifted through a handful of sandwich and salad offerings, including the Crocque Monsieur, made with smoked ham, Gruyere and strawberry jam; the Mighty Meatloaf, featuring smoked cheddar and caramelized onions; and a straightforward bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato. All items are $8.50,
Most items are available in a variety of serving styles, such as on a multigrain baguette, in a wrap or over mixed greens. Homemade dressings include ranch, traditional or strawberry balsamic and mustard seed shallot or tomato vinaigrette. The soups available that day were artichoke lemon and gazpacho. If you want, you can get a half sandwich with a small salad or cup of soup, plus a beverage, for the same $8.50 price.
My friend got what I predicted she would — the smoked salmon tostada, which features that flavorful fish adorned with tomato hearts of palm relish, served over mixed greens with tomato vinaigrette dressing. I got reeled in by one of the specials, a Cuban sandwich, prepared in traditional fashion with shredded pork, baked ham, Swiss cheese, chipotle butter and pickles (also $8.50).
We placed our order, and I picked out a side of chips as well as cans of soda that we poured over ice. The downstairs seating area was pretty full, so we headed upstairs, where we occupied one end of a large table for eight.
Our orders were brought up to us remarkably fast, which led me to suspect that with a limited menu, they do a lot of prep and pre-cooking to allow for such quick turnaround.
Unfortunately, my friend hit a roadblock with her salmon. At the time she placed the order, she asked the employee if the salmon was cooked and was told that it was. However, upon its delivery, we discovered that it was, in fact, raw, cured salmon. I personally could eat that stuff up, but it wasn't my buddy's cup o' tea, so she took it back downstairs. She returned rather promptly with a plate full of her backup selection, Hazel's Chicken Salad, which includes a blend of celery and Duke's mayo and served with lettuce and tomato. Except for this one lapse in communication, our lunch at Holly's Eventful Dining was pleasantly uneventful.
As for the food, I think my sandwich could have been hotter temperature-wise, but otherwise, it was very good. The pork was succulent, and the chipotle butter was a great flavor accent. The chicken salad was likewise a treat, representing a nice balance of ingredients, tastes and textures. The portions of both meals were average to smallish for their $8.50 price tag, but that price does include tax.
I recommend Holly's Eventful Dining for anyone looking for a tasty but leisurely lunch with friends or an eclectically fresh alternative to big-chain fare. Bon appetit!
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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