Sometimes you just need to put on your heels, a flowy dress, have a fresh face and get out and enjoy some good food. There’s a certain level of comfort you need when enjoying comfort food, with a twist, and an elegant twist at that.
I took my best gal — my little girl — out for Sunday brunch at Holley’s Seafood and Oyster Bar and wow, was it an experience! Holley’s is a modern, classic restaurant with a homey, down to Earth atmosphere, not to mention it has the best parking in Midtown.
For starters, I am not a seafood lover, but my daughter is, and I thought the place that I had been hearing rave reviews about was the perfect place for us to have a much-needed outing.
The timing was perfect because the owner and executive chef, Mark Holley, had just rolled out a Sunday brunch addition to his acclaimed menu of ocean-inspired offerings, but the menu is not limited to seafood, there is something for everyone.
We were a little late out the gate because the new brunch was launched on Feb. 28, but when dealing with food as sumptuous as what we were privileged to experience, it’s never too late. In fact, it was long overdue.
Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday, diners seeking a leisurely brunch can find an assortment of light brunch dishes in addition to heartier lunchtime fare, including a prix fixe menu of Southern-style breakfast. The menu features a wide-variety of dishes, including favorites from Holley’s regular lunch menu, which are available Monday through Friday. The prix fixe menu changes periodically and features an appetizer, entrée and dessert.
So we walked in as dainty ladies, but threw all the daintiness out the window once we sat down and loaded our table with the good stuff. Don’t worry, we kept our napkins on our laps the entire time, just as any lady should (wink). It was our day to let it all out and sample a mixture of things. We had a little bit of breakfast, a little bit of lunch and a little bit of seafood for good measure, which is what brunch is all about.
Holley knows Southern Cooking. He was “Creolized” at Brennan’s and has created a gumbo of riches of his own for his Houston hot spot.
“I’m originally I’m from Ohio, but I’m an honorary Houstonian now. I have been here for 30 years. I worked with the Brennan’s family for 12 years and Pesce for another 12, and I decided to open this restaurant and call it my namesake,” he said.
Holley made several sweeps through the dining room, making sure all diners were satisfied, and after he learned it was our first time visiting, he sent out a variety of things for us to try. You truly won’t believe all of the things we ate that day, so I will cut out all the explanations and just give you some short, tantalizing descriptions of each.
Let me begin with one word: BREAD. Holley specializes in fresh-baked breakfast breads, including his famous “Benne Seed Parkerhouse Rolls, with poblano pimento cheese, smoked drum mousse and pickled veggies. All you could hear was a couple of “oohs” and “ahhs” coming from our table as the two of us fought over who was going to grab and spread first. The pimento cheese was amazing! Holley is also known for his buttermilk biscuits with pepper jelly and the Texas Blueberry-Meyer Lemon Muffins.
Oysters: We stepped outside of our comfort zone for a moment and tried both raw and cooked oysters, but neither of us could wrap our ‘picky” pallets around those sea treats, so we sort of moved on quickly. But hey, we are the minority! Everyone else around us devoured the oysters, which Holley is known for making to perfection.
Sticky Ribs: Marinated in a Miso glaze and topped with Thai barbecue sauce, the ribs are indescribably flavorful.
Southern eggs Benedict with mustard greens: It was my first time trying it, but is now added to my favorites list. The dish had roasted pork tenderloin debris, poached eggs, buttermilk biscuits and chicory hollandaise, and the mustard greens were in true-Southern fashion. EXCELLENT!
Holley’s bacon cheeseburger: So I don’t think I need to describe how it tasted, I will just list the ingredients and you can figure out the obvious for yourself: Wagyu beef, bacon, pale horse ale mustard, Texas Gold Cheddar, bourbon, ketchup and fries. Now if I just sit a picture of it right here for you, we can move on with a simple “Oh Yeah!”
My little girl had the traditional “honest” beverages, of course, but “Mama” added a little spirit to the flute with a Texas Mimosa. Holley’s changed up the classic mimosa, replacing the O.J. with grapefruit juice, and added St. Germain, Combier Pamplemousse and Kraemer Brut for a quenching and satisfying pucker. I also switched it up a bit and had the Bloodline, the restaurant’s most popular signature cocktail, which has a bit of cucumber and lemon mixed with vodka. No worries, one each!
Dessert… couldn’t leave without it. We had the Down South Coconut Cake and a chocolate cake topped with smoked peanut butter and Cracker Jack.
After all of that, you would thing we had to be rolled out of the restaurant, but nope, that is not the case. Even though the food was “full of flavor,” it was not heavy at all. Or were we just light on our feet because we were drifting in heaven? I don’t know, go see for yourself. It is well worth the trip.
One thing you must add to your list, because it is definitely on my list, is Holley’s famous fried chicken night. The chicken is deep fried the old-fashioned way, and comes with three sides all laid out on tables traditionally decorated with a red and white checkered table cloths. Fried chicken night is an homage to Holley’s grandmother.
It is held on the last Sunday of every month, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and reservations are a must. There is only room for 120 diners, and all reserved tables must be for six or more guests.
Sign me up, and thanks Holley’s!