IN THE KITCHEN Make it fresh using quality ingredients is the cooking mantra of John Tracy, owner of Holliston’s Jasper Hill Café & Bistro, which opened this spring in the space of the former Pejamajo Café.
Open seven days a week, the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with an emphasis on a broad variety of salads and baked goods.
“We’re trying to do everything for everyone,” said Tracy, who worked for more than two decades as a chef and manager at restaurants, including Legal Sea Foods. Together with his wife, Denise, Tracy is owner, manager, and also head chef.
The couple had wanted a space that would be a place for people to gather in the morning or at lunchtime for meetings and conversation, and then offer live entertainment at night featuring local performers.
“We bought it because it had a music venue, and that was our vision,” Tracy said.
THE LOCALE Jasper Hill is in the center of Holliston, on a corner of downtown’s most prominent intersection, Washington and Central streets. Two sides of the café feature window seating and abundant natural light. Parking can be difficult for the area’s businesses, but Jasper Hill has a dedicated lot behind the building, accessible off Central Street. Seating is somewhat limited in the café, but offers a great view of the street scene. At night, the operation shifts into intimate bistro, and includes a full bar.
ON THE MENU Tracy’s approach to cooking is to make everything by hand wherever possible, including salad dressings. The lunch menu boasts 10 featured salads, which are packed with ingredients. Options include chicken Waldorf salad, with grilled chicken, grapes, Granny Smith apples, cranberries, and walnuts ($10), and baby kale and beet salad, which also has blue cheese, walnuts, red onion, and egg, ($9.29).
When I stopped for lunch with a friend, she ordered the cranberry bleu salad ($9), with mixed greens, blue cheese, walnuts, dried cranberries, and sliced pears, and she said it was delicious. Diners who want a heartier salad have the option of adding roasted chicken, turkey, or tuna for $2 more.
I chose one of the café’s featured panini sandwiches, the Cubano ($8), which had ham, Swiss cheese, and turkey with a chipotle mayo dressing. The side salads offered in lieu of chips are mixed dark greens; no iceberg lettuce here.
While neither of us had to worry about finding gluten-free options, the café has several. The restaurant carries gluten-free buns for its burgers and gluten-free wraps for sandwiches.
We found the service friendly and attentive. The only thing we did not like was the use of plastic plates and utensils, which seemed out of place. Tracy explained he unfortunately has to use the disposable materials because the town does not have a sewer system, and a restaurant-size dishwasher would overload the septic tank. This has influenced his menu choices, he said, limiting his ability to offer products such as steak.
On a sweeter note: The bakery counter is well stocked. Jasper Hill has a baker who works on the premises. The chocolate macaroons attract a loyal following.
“The combination of coconut and chocolate is very popular,” Tracy said.
Jasper Hill Café & Bistro is at 770 Washington St. in Holliston. Call 774-233-0853, or go to www.jasperhillcafe.com for more information.