Hollyhock Hill Redux (April 22, 2017)

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rumaki
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2017/04/24 12:08:16 (permalink)

Hollyhock Hill Redux (April 22, 2017)

I was in Indianapolis for a board meeting this weekend, and on Saturday, went to lunch with a friend at Hollyhock Hill (which has been an annual "thing" for us for many years, except last year when I was in Latvia on my Fulbright).  As many of you know, Hollyhock Hill was sold in late December, and there have been mixed reports about what's going on there under the new ownership.
 
So, we were a little dubious.  But much of the place remains essentially unchanged:
 
1. Decor -- no differences as far as we could tell, including the wonderful hollyhock wall murals. Table settings, china, and mixed water goblets were still in place, as were small vases of fresh flowers on every table.
 
2.  Clientele -- when you go on Saturday at noon, at least in the Spring, there are birthday parties, showers, etc. galore, and this was still the case.  Looked like big family gatherings mostly, and they filled up much of the several rooms at the restaurant. All the groups seemed happy.
 
3. Food -- virtually the same as before, at least for what we ate. We each ordered the full fried chicken dinner (all white for me, mixed for my friend).  We were offered a glass of tomato juice to start, and assorted "salads" -- cottage cheese, pickled beets, lettuce with their house-made sweet-and-sour dressing), apple butter -- and biscuits were served almost instantly. Apparently you can still get the relish tray, but it wasn't offered, and we didn't think to ask for it, and it didn't materialize. None of the "salads" seemed at all changed from the past. The portions may have been a mite smaller than before, but were certainly adequate.
 
They have additional choices for sides now, including mac 'n' cheese, but we decided to stick with the traditional accompaniments:  green beans, corn, mashed potatoes and chicken gravy.  Everything was very good, and in fact, I thought the green beans were better than on my last visit in November 2016.  The fried chicken was delicious, clearly freshly fried with good-sized pieces -- and they still cut the breast in two crosswise, so you get a "pully bone" which is my very favorite piece.  I have to say that it did not seem EXACTLY like the chicken was previously, but my friend detected no difference.  If I had never had the original version of Hollyhock Hill chicken, I would have thought this was outstanding -- and indeed, it is, but it is not exactly like it has been for the past 50-odd years I've been eating it. The crust is a little different -- it flakes off more (in a good way), and actually reminds me a bit of my own version of pan-fried chicken.  This seems really nit-picky, but I mention it for you purists out there (if there are any).
 
After we finished the entree, they brought us the small basket of warm rolled-up damp terrycloth towels to wipe our hands -- again, a Hollyhock Hill tradition.
 
Dessert was a small dish of vanilla ice cream -- a slightly less generous portion than before. And instead of having a choice of three toppings (butterscotch, chocolate, and creme de menthe), you get a small pitcher of room-temperature chocolate sauce. It was perfectly fine.  I can't compare it with the chocolate sauce during previous management because I always had the creme de menthe.
 
We both drank iced tea -- perfectly acceptable quality, but not as good as the iced tea I had last March when we were in Kentucky for a few days.
 
The prices look the same (or very close).  The only thing I didn't care for were the biscuits.  But I've never thought they got the biscuits right at Hollyhock Hill.  Years and years ago, they served a fabulous homemade white bread loaf for each table, but that went by the wayside a long time ago.  They aren't bad biscuits -- but they just aren't as good as they could be.
 
Service was, at least at Saturday lunch, a crew of young, cheerful and attentive waiters and waitresses.  I can't tell you whether the Old Guard waitstaff (many of whom were there for years) is gone, or whether they don't do the Saturday service and only show up at dinner times.  
 
So for me, and those who love Hollyhock Hill, I'd say the news is good.
 
 
post edited by rumaki - 2017/04/24 15:31:20
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    ann peeples
    Porterhouse
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    Re: Hollyhock Hill Redux (April 22, 2017) 2017/04/24 12:50:30 (permalink)
    Good to hear, my friend. Its on my bucket list..
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    ScreamingChicken
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    Re: Hollyhock Hill Redux (April 22, 2017) 2017/04/24 13:24:47 (permalink)
    Sounds like the ownership transfer is by and large a success - and that doesn't always happen, as we know all to well.
     
    Is it possible the chicken batter/breading formula is the same but the oil has changed?
    #3
    rumaki
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    Re: Hollyhock Hill Redux (April 22, 2017) 2017/04/24 13:40:37 (permalink)
    Is it possible the chicken batter/breading formula is the same but the oil has changed?
     
    It is possible. Hollyhock Hill always used to use lard to fry the chicken.  Perhaps they have changed that.
     
    #4
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re: Hollyhock Hill Redux (April 22, 2017) 2017/04/24 15:27:53 (permalink)
    Maybe it's the organic flour!  No mention of the frying medium, though:
     
    https://hollyhockhill.com/menus/
     
    This year's Indiana crossing is routed well to the south of Indianapolis so hopefully I'll get the chance to visit next year.
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    rumaki
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    Re: Hollyhock Hill Redux (April 22, 2017) 2018/06/25 14:36:23 (permalink)
    An update:  I was at Hollyhock Hill yesterday (Sunday, June 24). A few minor details to add to my report from 2017.
     
    We arrived just before 12 noon (they open at noon on Sundays) and were seated right away. There appears to be new wall paper (I liked it -- a subtle stripe)  and new art in some of the rooms, but the big hollyhock wall mural is still there. 
     
    Table settings:  no longer do they set the table with the wonderful multi-colored glass goblets for water. In fact, there are no water glasses at all.  I asked for  glass of water and the waiter immediately brought it to me in a purple glass goblet. It was refilled throughout the meal. My dining companion and I both had iced tea, served in rather institutional, nondescript glasses.  The tea was not my favorite (as I wrote in 2017), but it was OK. And this was refilled throughout the meal, as well. 
     
    We both ordered the classic fried chicken dinner.  This time, I specifically requested the relish tray, and it was brought promptly. More modest in size than under the former regime, it consisted of carrots, celery sticks and I think radishes.  No black olives, though.
     
    We were served tomato juice at the beginning, as well as the salad, which is now presented in a low, flat bowl and consists of lettuce, shredded radishes, and grape tomatoes (yellow and red) in a very large portion that you serve yourself onto a salad plate.  Their classic salad dressing, in a cruet, is on the table, and you add it yourself (unlike in the past, when the salads came pre-dressed).  I liked that a lot. The salad was very fresh. We were also served pickled beets (still delicious!) and cottage cheese (I didn't care for it too much; it's the kind of cottage cheese that's more like a thick paste, without distinct curds -- but that's a matter of personal preference).
     
    The waiter also brought a basket of rolls. The saga of the dinner rolls continues at Hollyhock Hill! This time they were small pretzel-roll-type rolls. They were good, but would have been better if they had been hot, or at least warm.  Foil-wrapped butter pats accompanied the rolls, and of course there was apple butter on the table, too. 
     
    The chicken arrived and it was delicious.  We chose the mixed, and got two pieces of breast (cross-cut, with a pulley bone piece), two thighs, and two drumsticks.  We each ate two pieces, and my friend took the leftovers home.  Chicken appeared unchanged from the original recipe.  We also had very good "real" mashed potatoes (bits of skin could be detected), good gravy, and ordinary corn, and green beans that are better than they used to be but NOT as good as I remember from my childhood, when they were really cooked to a pulp. Again, a matter of preference.
     
    The waiter brought a basket of warm damp terrycloth washcloths to clean up your hands after the chicken. Dessert was vanilla ice cream to make your own sundae.  They are offering all three toppings again (creme de menthe, chocolate and butterscotch), served in maple-syrup-type pitchers. I had my favorite creme de menthe and it was good.  At a nearby table, a group was celebrating a birthday, and they brought the honoree brownies with birthday candles stuck into them.   So it appears the brownie alternative is still available, if you prefer it to ice cream sundaes.
     
    Another party was ordering a wide variety of food, including what looked like ribs, and macaroni and cheese from the expanded menu.
     
    We were in and out in about 75 minutes. They didn't rush us, but I had to get to the airport, so we didn't linger.  There were several other tables occupied, but it wasn't crammed with customers as it used to be at Sunday noon.  It was very pleasant. Big band music on the sound system, but not loud or intrusive.
     
    Bottom line:  It's GOOD!  The chicken is great. The salad is, in my opinion, a huge improvement over the old version.  Rolls still need some work . . . 
     
     
     
     
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