I went to Ho-Jacks restaurant in Carlton yesterday. Ho-Jacks is a new restaurant that recently opened up in the building where the old Carlton Grill used to be on 98 on the way to the lake. I heard several people say that the food is amazing, so I have been itching to go try it out. I wasn’t disappointed!
The Carlton Grill was always a favorite spot – fun place to hang out with friends, good food, and a great snowmobile destination. I was never much of a snowmobiler – never really liked being out in the snow – but, when I did go on a night trail run, it was fun to meet up with other snowmobilers at the Carlton Grill for a little something to warm the innards! I remember the Carlton Grill fondly, which is why I was so disappointed to find out it was closed and had been idle for some time when I moved back home. I understand there were a couple of owners who gave it a shot, but didn’t make it. Until now……..
The restaurant is now open and called Ho-Jacks! It is a family run business and seems to be doing very well (knock on wood – definitely don’t want to send any jinx vibes, here)! They make everything in-house and to order – in fact, one of the specials was a linguine dish that my waitress said was made with linguine pasta made fresh on the premises! Impressive! I found it to be comfortable and quaint – a nice homey country bar and grill ambience with a variety of food that ranges from good old comfort food to fine dining worthy delights. I found the prices to be quite reasonable, as well.
So, I decided to finally pop in for dinner yesterday. I arrived about 4:00, hoping to avoid the Friday night crowd. There was just one other table of diners when I was seated, but it wasn’t long before a steady stream of people started to enter and be seated. Before I knew it, the dining room was packed and there were people waiting at the bar for a table! I was so pleased to see the waitresses so busy with a nice dinner crowd – love to see a good new restaurant do well. Before the room began to fill up, I overheard the other couple say that they were there just the night before and were back because of how much they enjoyed the food. When the two tables beside me filled in with people who appeared to know each other, the man at one table asked the man at the other if he’d ever been here before. When he said, no, the first man said they come all the time and the food is always incredible! Good to know! As I watched other meals coming out to the tables, I didn’t see anything that I wouldn’t be delighted to have delivered to my table! A burger being served to a nearby table caught my eye – I definitely need to order a burger on a return visit!
Ok, so let’s back up. I was seated and my waitress came up and very passionately described the list of daily soups, appetizers, and specials…..and she did so in such detail that I felt like I could actually “see” everything she was describing…….and without reading it from a piece of paper! It all sounded sooooo good and at least one dish stood out, but I wanted to review the menu and see what else I had to choose from. The first thing I noticed on the menu was Fried Pickles – I smiled – I like Fried Pickles and haven’t seen them on a menu since I left the south! As I continued to scan the menu, I noticed it was full of comfort foods and burgers and dishes that sounded wonderful. But, I couldn’t stop thinking about one of the specials, so my mind was distracted. The specials of the night included, among other things, ribs and the standard Friday night Fish Fry with THREE preparation options – beer battered, corn flake encrusted, or broiled with a house rub. But, the special that got my mouth watering was the Beef Tenderloin – it was described as two four ounce filets sandwiched between grilled portabella mushrooms placed on top of garlic mashed potatoes and topped with shredded fried onion rings and a demi glaze! Now, I don’t really care for mushrooms and I was told that everything is made to order and can be requested anyway I want, but I let it come the way it was intended – I just removed the mushrooms. I know, what a waste, but I didn’t want to spoil the presentation because the description sounded so perfect! (and, no, I didn’t order the Fried Pickles – maybe next time – they are better with a sandwich, anyway!) It came with a salad of spring greens and some veggies on top – very nice salad! They also brought me a basket of bread and butter – several warm slices of a fabulously dense homemade bread with a crispy crust and herbs all through it. The butter was pretty special, too – one little cup with whipped regular butter and one with whipped butterscotch butter – YUMMO – a very pleasant discovery!!! And then came my dinner………I was so overwhelmed by the presentation and so anxious to taste it that I didn’t even think of taking a picture! I really wish I had, though – it was a beautiful work of art – a sculpture made of potatoes and beef! I sat there looking at it for all of about a minute and then dove in! I have to say that “delicious” is NOT a word I would use, here! Sorry, but I have to be truthful……..the word I would use is “OMG AMAZING”! No way would “delicious” do it justice! The demi glaze was rich and perfectly seasoned. The beef was tender, juicy, and bursting with flavor – and perfectly cooked! I am a real snob when it comes to my steak – I want it medium rare and any little bit over cooked can ruin a whole meal for me – with a few exceptions. This was perfect!
It was a LOT of food, though. Two four-ounce filets and a huge mound of mashed potatoes was more than I could handle. And I really wanted to see what they offered for dessert. So, the way I decided if I wanted to finish the meal or take part of it home and save room for dessert was to ask what they had for desserts. The waitress read a list of assorted pies and cheese cakes, all of which sounded delightful, but she had me at Lemon Meringue! I asked if the pies were made in-house and was told that the desserts were made by employees, family members of employees, and other local sources – all definitely homemade! So, I ordered the Lemon Meringue pie and a box for the rest of the dinner. Now, that right there is another testament of how good the meal was: I don’t usually take leftovers home – just don’t – I eat and enjoy what I can and leave what I can’t finish. I generally don’t want to eat it again after it has been sitting and reheated – absolutely doesn’t mean it wasn’t delicious and thoroughly enjoyable, I just don’t care for leftovers. It is rare that I take home leftovers – only when it is so good it is worth it! In the box, I put one of the filets, a little of the remaining mashed potatoes, two slices of that wonderful bread, and what was left of the butterscotch butter!
The pie came………it took my breath away! Again, I am so sorry I didn’t take a photo – it was a thing of beauty! I’m not a good judge of measurements, but I’ll venture to guess it was somewhere in the vicinity of three inches high! The lemon filling was smooth, creamy, and just the right mix of tart and sweet! The meringue was light, airy, fluffy, and ever so lightly toasted on the top – a good way to judge the perfectness of meringue is to put it in your mouth and press it between your tongue and the roof of your mouth, if it feels like little bubbles bursting, it is perfect! And this was just that and not too sweet!
So, Ho-Jacks is definitely on my list of favorite local restaurants! A little out-of-the-way, but so worth it! I give this restaurant a full FIVE stars and a big two thumbs up! I can’t wait to go again and I’m already thinking about what I might order……..hhhmmm, maybe one of those luscious looking burgers with an order of fried pickles!