Hollis Country Kitchen has been on our target list for a while, but every time we’ve driven by at dinner time, the small parking lot has been packed, leading me to assume the equally small restaurant would be equally packed inside. Being the impatient sort, I would drive on by.
Mrs. Gourmet finally got tired of these drive-bys, and announced on a recent Saturday that we WOULD be going to Hollis Country Kitchen, and we would be going EARLY to beat the dinner rush. I’ve learned over the years that when Mrs. G speaks in capital letters, it’s in my best interest to proceed as directed. And as usual, she was right.
Hollis Country Kitchen is an all-day restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner at the center of Hollis Village. Inside the vestibule is a collection of high-top and low-top tables, with banquette seating along the length of the front wall. A full house is somewhere around 60 people. Lots of blond wood furniture gives the impression of a breakfast place, though maroon walls help set the mood for dinner.
We were the first diners of the evening when we arrived. The hostess/waitress greeted us and told us to sit wherever we liked. We chose one of the banquette tables on the front wall.
While it’s in no way an ethnic restaurant, there’s a Greek/Mediterranean theme at work in the decor and, to a certain extent, in the menu as well. The walls are decorated with a collection of old family (we assume) photos and Eastern Orthodox icons. In fact, an icon of St. Euphrosynos the Cook watched over Mrs. G’s shoulder for our entire meal. We figured that was a good sign.
The dinner menu changes frequently according to the website, but based on what we saw online and in the restaurant, it’s always well-rounded, with lamb, chicken, beef, parmigianas and seafood. Kabobs are regular features, too, and there are a number of daily specials. The emphasis, in this town with deep agricultural roots, is on locally sourced ingredients.
Mrs. G suggested we start with the Artichoke and Spinach Dip ($6.50). This common appetizer came with a twist: a healthy portion of feta cheese, which made this version tangier, creamier and better than any I’ve ever tried. Mrs. G said she preferred the more traditional feta-free style, but I couldn’t get enough of this one. And the gently toasted pita points made excellent dipping vehicles as well.
For her entree, Mrs. G chose Chicken Carbonara ($17.99), a huge dish of pasta with gently fried chicken breast tossed with crispy chopped bacon in a creamy Parmesan cheese sauce. The boneless chicken was moist and tender, and the serving was so plentiful that she took at least half of them home to enjoy for a second time.
As soon as we walked in, I noticed the wonderful aroma of roasting lamb, so I knew what I’d be ordering. There were a few options on the menu the night we visited; I chose the Hollis Lamb ($20.49). Looking something like a deconstructed kabob, the dish featured a half dozen chunks of wonderfully seasoned lamb, grilled to medium as requested, with a slight char. The lamb was accompanied by a roasted red potato and a grilled melange of red and green peppers, zucchini, summer squash and red onion. As if that weren’t enough, three pan-seared shrimp were along for the ride. As I’m typing this, my mouth is watering remembering how good this dish was.
We were so pleased with our meals that we decided we had to try a couple of the desserts — tiramisu and almond cake ($7 each) — that we ordered to go.
Mrs. G is nuts for tiramisu, and this version would have been excellent had it not been for a slight hint of bitterness in the filling.
The almond cake, on the other hand, was fantastic. Built very much like tiramisu, this was moist, creamy and richly infused with almond liqueur. It was a real treat to end an excellent and long overdue meal.
Despite its location in one of the more upscale rural communities in the state, there’s nothing fancy or pretentious about Hollis Country Kitchen. Our tab, with one beer, came to just over $67.
The space is humble, the food is excellent, the prices are reasonable, and the service was friendly and informal.
It’s too bad we drove by so many times before we finally stopped in.