Holly Miller’s dream of owning a country-style restaurant complete with local vendors with a monthly Sunday market never died.
It was just temporarily delayed.
After several months of remodeling and installing the infrastructure needed to run an eatery at 1204 Bear Lane in Monticello, she opened Holly’s Country Canning & Craft Kitchen in March, only to have the dine-in portion shut down due to COVID-19-related restrictions.
But Miller is a determined soul. She had already been operating her freezer and take-and-bake meals for a several years, so she was more than ready to provide the take-home option that was still allowed.
Looking back, she sees it as a blessing that allowed her a soft opening of sorts.
“In a way, COVID-19 worked for me, because I was able to still make a living off the take-and-bake and freezer meals while the restaurant was closed, so that all the construction could be completed,” said Miller, a rural Atwood native who now lives in Monticello.
But she is still itching to serve dine-in customers, which could start happening in the next month. In the meantime, she is serving up to 75 customers a day with curbside and takeout, mostly during lunch hours.
“The Monticello community has been great,” she added.
Miller’s goal is to have a Cracker Barrel-style establishment where people can both eat and shop. Her restaurant capacity is about 75, which will be trimmed to about 36 for a while to afford social distancing in the next phase of COVID recovery guidelines.
There are also four vendors, with room for up to seven currently, and many more during Second Sunday Markets which could resume as early as next month.
Growing up on a farm gave Miller a lifelong appreciation for country cookin’, something she promised husband Jason would be included in her offerings.
“One of the things my husband said to me was ‘when you open, please make real farmer food.’ So there will always be meat and potatoes, and we will always have salads and wraps for healthy items as well,” she said.
Generous portions are also on the plate – or takeout tray currently. Her $10 lunches include an entree, side, dessert and drink.
“It’s real country farm food, a little elevated. Everything is homemade,” said Miller, saying the menu includes hand-fried country fried steak, real mashed potatoes, and potato salad from scratch.
One of her specialties once dine-in begins is a “volcano potato,” her spin on a twice-baked. The potato is served on end instead of flat, with filling spilling out the top and town the sides.
“I’m pretty famous for my dessert,” she adds, pointing to specialty cake flavors like strawberry and devil’s food cake that is already feeding into the sweet tooth of local patrons.
Her cooking obsession started with canning, encouraged with equipment she received from her grandmother.
Things then got a bit out of hand, she jokes.
“It started out I was going to get a little storefront with a little kitchen, do take-and-bake and freezer prep. Then, the more I thought about it, I could have the restaurant I want, serve the food I love,” said the 1991 Atwood-Hammond High School graduate.
Holly’s Country Canning & Craft Kitchen
Holly’s is currently open for curbside and takeout orders from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Specials are announced on her Facebook site. Freezer prep and take-and-bakes are also readily available in the restaurant during those times.
To order meals, call 217-762-FOOD (3663).