It’s seems like Holly’s 135 has been downtown for a long time, but it’s only been a bit over nine months since the Grand Opening in the midst of an ice storm. It was an eventful start that had people from all over downtown gathering there by the end of the night as it was one of the very few restaurants able to be open. An auspicious beginning.
In the last ten months, she’s been listening to downtown friends and neighbors and, as a result, she’s made some changes you might not have noted if you haven’t been in recently. She knew the downtown location would offer a unique set of challenges. She doesn’t have a proper location on the premises, for example, which is obviously an issue for a restaurant. As a result, the food is prepped in the Gourmet’s Market and cooked (if it is hot food) at the downtown location. The restaurant serves no fried food. She refuses to use microwaves and refuses to serve food that isn’t at its peak.
She’s also learned that downtown residents and visitors are more price-conscious than she’d anticipated. She hear from neighbors that while people loved the food, they felt reluctant to eat there often due to the price-point of her food. She removed a couple of the most expensive items on the menu, added a couple in their place which were more modestly priced and combined the lunch and dinner menus into one which included the lower-priced lunch items. The menu now offers a range that fits any budget.
It’s all part of why she’s been so successful in her other businesses: she listens and isn’t too proud to correct course. She says the downtown business started with an “idea” which evolved based on “responses of guests.” One 100 block resident who moved to the city from a larger city told her she was “ahead of her time.” She simply says, “it’s important to listen and respond.”
She’s also developed specials to compete with price-points of other restaurants and changed them as the situation dictated. For example, she’d had a taco feature on Tuesdays, but with their increased availability downtown she’s shifted to a Vietnamese slant on Tuesday’s menu – which is something you won’t find anywhere else. She pretty much runs Italian specials on weekends. She offers $6 sandwiches on Wednesday (normally around $10). Brunch is offered on Sunday (her quiche is amazing).
The available space has also expanded with permanent seating and service upstairs. It’s a perfect space for larger groups. I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite meals I’ve ever had in the city was in that cozy second-story room (when it was Shuck). It’s also available for small events, like office parties or birthday meals, if you’d like to make a reservation.
I’ve said before Holly’s 135 is a part of a larger move toward better downtown cuisine. The new restaurants which are opening are largely offering a better quality food and the established restaurants are responding in kind. You’ll not have a bad meal at Holly’s and you’ll find lots of gluten-free and vegetarian options if that’s what you want or need. If it’s been a while since you’ve dropped in, now’s a good time to give it another look.
Finally today, I have a pair of tickets to Mark O’Connor’s concert at the Bijou Monday night. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and use the subject line “Mark my word!” The deadline for entry is midnight tonight (12/4). Include a phone number. I’ll randomly select and notify the winner. Good luck.