Holy Roller is comfort food for the formerly-punk/now-aspirational class, serving up biscuits, booze, and attitude. Since we fit that demographic to a (perfectly distressed) T(-shirt), we felt quite at home with rocket salad, biscuits, tasty mixology, a soundtrack of throbbing hardcore, and Saint Iggy anointing us with a scowlful “Good Morning.”
Operated by an all-estrogen crew of Callie Speer (executive chef and owner), Britt Castro (pastry chef), Jen Keyser (bar manager), and Dori Moreno-Korn (general manager), the whole experience is well-thought out from the decor, to the soundtrack, to the service, to the menu, and to the food. This is an all-around good and comfortable place.
We perhaps overdid it on the bevs (or, as a friend puts it: “We were overserved.”), but the drinks were fun and delicious. I started my imbibition with the Effed Up ($10; Effen cucumber vodka, basil, ginger, and lime) followed by the Lust for Life ($11; Tito’s Handmade Vodka, ancho verde, lime, Jarritos tamarind soda, salt) while she sipped the Last Caress ($10; Greenhouse gin, Dolin blanc, lemon, lavender bitters, rambler sparkling water) followed by the Summer in Zacatecas ($11; Kimo Sabe Reposado Mezcal, strawberry and basil shrub, lemon, and Rambler sparking water).
For an appetizer, we went with the poutine-ish Trash Fries ($10; green chili, sunny egg, sour cream, corn, lime, cotija, jalapeno, and cilantro) which, despite the faux pas of misspelling chile, was thick with taste and messy as a gutter-to-glam life. For mains, I chose the Monte Bisco ($15; sugar-dusted biscuit, turkey, fried bologna, swiss cheese sauce, blackberry thyme jam, and sunny egg) while she went healthy with the Chicken Salad Panzanella ($14; mayo-free chicken salad, griddled bread, arugula, tomato, red onion, and red wine vinaigrette). The Bisco was an enjoyable merry-go-round of flavor and, despite the sugar dust, was thankfully not (all that) sweet. Admittedly, the biscuit did not compare with the God of All Biscuits at Fixe but was solid nonetheless. The bride absolutely adored the chicken salad. The lack of mayonnaise, the tasty tomatoes, the deep-fried croutons, and the pile of rocket has her wanting a return trip ASAP.
Because of Holy Roller, Eater Austin bequeathed Callie Speer as Chef of the Year in 2017. Callie, half of the power-lunch marrieds that includes her hubby Philip, he of Bonhomie and Uchiko, originally planned to call the place Bombshell because of her intent to bring together the best bad-ass females in the business but went with Holy Roller because it better fit the concept of what her team ultimately created.
Although we’re too old to slam dance, Holy Roller shows the power of nostalgia fused with today’s foodie culture, especially when it’s delivered with a side of punk attitude while the female patron saints of punk (including Debbie Harry and Patty Smyth) gaze down upon your brunch. And if you’ve been bad, there’s even a confessional where you can clean your soul after you inevitably clean your plate.
This review is part of our sequential tour-through-the-alphabet of Austin’s restaurant scene. Now you know our ABCs!
web&where: interwebs; 509 rio grande street; (512) 502-5119
overall: **** (food****; drink****; atmosphere****; service****; instagrammability****)
does it scramble? n/a
– meh [think twice]
* OK [it’ll get the job done]
** good [solid neighborhood joint]
*** damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
**** yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best]
the Last Caress
the Effed Up
Lust for Life
Summer in Zacatecas
the Monte Bisco
Chicken Salad Panzanella