Let me preface this review by saying that Holly’s 135 is now closed, but you can experience the expert cuisine of Ms. Holly Hambright at two other locations around town: Holly’s Gourmet Market and Holly’s Corner, so I felt it still warranted a review.
Okay, now to get down to it and talk about Holly’s 135 – the downtown cafe that was located in the historic 100 block of South Gay Street. It was a cozy, inviting atmosphere with a large, wooden bar to saddle up to for an intoxicating cocktail.
We went for dinner on a Saturday night on the off chance we could get in without a wait and sure enough, we were seated quickly at a booth. Even though the space is small with high ceilings and the kitchen was fairly open in the back, it was not overly noisy, but rather quite nice. There was a large, raucaus group in the back of the restaurant that made it a bit noisy, but once they were gone it was fine.
Oh look, my handsome dinner date. 😉
Holly Hambright is the chef-mind responsible for the menus at Holly’s 135, Holly’s Gourmet Market and Holly’s Corner. You may be very familiar with the work of her sister Peggy over at Magpie’s, an institution in this town. Seems Holly ran off to go to culinary school and gain invaluable experience at hotels, catering companies, and restaurants throughout the country, then she returned home and began slowly making her mark on the food scene in Knoxville starting with her catering company. Her food is distinctly southern and comfortingly casual, yet with a flair that makes it a step above.
Don’t fret – many of the menu items seen at Holly’s 135 can also be found at her other establishments, including her quiche, soups, sandwiches and many to go items. She also often serves up special dinners over at Holly’s Gourmet Market featuring her finer cuisine using seasonal ingredients and flavors. In fact, she is hosting a Valentine’s Dinner (and brunch) menu coming up this weekend that sounds incredible.
From the drink menu, we each chose a signature cocktail to try. I had the Margaret – cousin to the margarita – a heavenly concoction of tequila, house made sour mix, fig jam (yeah you read that right), and rosemary. Sweet and savory – just delicious.
Remington had the Manzanita – another tequila beverage, but a take on a spiced apple cider with St. Germaine, apple cider and cinnamon. Spicy and yummy and so warming. Holly’s definitely got the beverage making thing down to a science. Epicurean is a word I would used to describe the creativity behind the drink menu. So anytime she’s serving up adult beverages – don’t walk, but run.
For dinner, I had the Webster plate off the Local Love section of the menu. It was a mint lamb meatball plate with lemony feta rice, olive relish, arugula, tzakiki salad and toasted naan. The meatballs were very flavorful, filling and cooked to perfection. They paired perfectly with everything on the plate, but especially the lemony feta rice, which was to die for. Each element of this dish had a part to play – the perfect bite was getting a little piece of each thing on your fork together – the relish, the meatball, rice, and tzakiki.
Husband had the Fowler plate – pickeled oven-fried chicken, green onion kim chee slaw, sambal mayo, and pasta salad. Again, you would think these things would be an odd pairing – kim chee with sambal mayo – but each element had a part on the plate and were delicious together. The chicken was perfectly fried, cooked to tender perfection, BUT (and this is about the only negative here) it was a chicken thigh and it was a bit fatty. Dark meat is not everyone’s preference, but of course it can remain tender and juice a lot easier than white meat. That said, the sambal mayo was a revelation and the kim chee slaw full of bitey acidic savory goodness.
So while you can’t go check out Holly’s 135 anymore, you can still get your grubby little paws on Holly’s delicious food in Knoxville. Check out Holly’s Gourmet Market for breakfast, brunch, lunch and event dinners and check out Holly’s Corner for lunch and to go items. Or have her cater your next part with Holly’s Eventful Dining.
Enjoy! <3 K&R