Highlight of this week was a little excursion to Park Ridge for a menu tasting at a restaurant named, Holt’s. Located in the heart of downtown, this year-old sidewalk café seems like the perfect, summer hot spot for its city residents. My guest and I went on a Wednesday and the bustling scene could have fooled you for a Friday night.
We were greeted and seated by a very welcoming staff and our tasting began almost immediately. Our initial drinks were the Duke and the Spider Rico. The former came with a relaxing chamomile citrus vodka, fresh mint, fresh lemon, Julius Meinl green tea and honey simple syrup. I like my drinks sweet so I was exceptionally pleased with a honey based sweetener in my drink. The equally refreshing Spider Rico had El Dorado Rum, mint, fresh watermelon juice, lime and sufficiently sweet Demerara syrup. One sip in and I knew it wasn’t going to be a one-drink dinner.
There was something really relaxing about the vibe at this restaurant; a beautiful bar spans along one entire wall, comfortable seating at tables, large front-opening windows at the restaurant entrance and a spacious patio. I was moreover impressed with a board that caught my attention. Based on a pay-it-forward theme, restaurant patrons can pledge any amount for a friend/family member towards their next meal at the restaurant. What a pleasant surprise to walk in and know that part of your meal has been covered. Such a wonderful way of fostering gratitude and meal sharing. I hope restaurants in Chicago can start doing something similar.
For dinner, we were asked to order from the menu, although the Chef Delgado did send out some of his favorites. Two large plates of salad came out at first; The Kale & Brussel Sprouts with granny smith apples, dried cranberries, pecorino and lemon vinaigrette, and the Beet Salad with both red and golden beets, arugula, goat cheese and candied walnuts. Both had really fresh greens and ingredients that were delicious. Next in line was their popular Mac’N Cheese, which we ordered with the crab. A cast iron bowl of the creamiest Cavatappi with gouda, white cheddar and Monterrey jack topped with lots of panko came out, ready for us to devour. In my opinion, Mac n Cheese should be in its own food group, but this dish was simply superb! Soft, buttery, pasta which was crispy around the edges and decadent in the middle with all types of cheese you could imagine; we couldn’t get enough!
The Salmon BLT arrived shortly after and this was my favorite fish item from their menu. The loyal pescetarian in me had to leave out the bacon, but it made absolutely no difference to this delectable sandwich. Two beautiful, grilled Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon patties came served on multi-grain toast, with lettuce, tomato and a liberal spread of flavorful citrus dill mayo. My mouth is watering all over again. After lobster-grilled cheese, I think this could become the next big trend. And as if that wasn’t enough, we had their Wisconsin Cheese Curds on the side, which were lathered in a yummy Lagunitas batter. All I’ll say is, lots of fluffy, tasty little morsels disappeared as quickly as the sandwich did. And I definitely prefer the deep fried version of curds than any other version, surprise, surprise!
Then came a platter of three pretty looking Fish Tacos with wild Alaskan Cod, some red and green cabbage, fresh lime and chipotle mayo. Fish tacos are a staple on most summer menus these days, but if you get the marinate and the toppings right, it can still blow you away from time to time, like it did for me at Holt’s. The taco portions were also sumptuous here.
And finally, the dish we had been waiting for all evening, the Calamari pizza. Holt’s has an extensive selection of unique, specialty pizzas and of course I had to opt for the seafood one. Drizzled with olive oil, fresh garlic and mozzarella, the pizza was topped with fried squid and scallions. This is one of those dishes you just have to try for yourself. I was literally overwhelmed by all the wonderful flavors, and the squid was an exceptional choice. I predict this will also become a 'thing' very soon.
We ended with a surprise treat, which was their Passionfruit Panna Cotta, with fresh berries and a cute mint sprig garnish. I’m usually hard to impress with desserts that aren’t chocolate but the passion in this dessert (pun intended) could not be overlooked. A creamy treat with a little tang from the passion fruit paste and the right sweetness from the vanilla panna cotta. And with beautiful color too!
Stuffed is an understatement, but we were certainly excited about all the leftovers we got to take home. Everything, I mean everything we ate was phenomenal. I loved that Chef Delgado was unafraid to push the culinary envelope for Park Ridge residents. It is also refreshing to see consistent creativity on a menu. Thanks Holt's for a wonderful tasting!
Now who wants to take a road trip with me to Park Ridge next week?
Neighborhood: Park Ridge
Address: 43 S Prospect Ave, Park Ridge, IL 60068
Phone: (847) 720-4484
Hours: Mon-Thurs: 11:00am-11:00pm, Fri: 11:00am-1:00am, Sat: 10:00am-1:00am, Sun: 10:00am-10:00pm
Price: $8.95- $22.99