The Garden of Eating: The decor and menu are as fresh as the name at Holiday Gardens

Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

As food and beverage manager, Rick Jackson has a lot of responsibility at Holiday Gardens. The fact that he owns the restaurant lets him take that much more pride in the sumptuous menu that matches a sophisticated but cozy decor.
-Staff photo by Ricky Russell

March 25, 2004 -- There's no need to wait around for a festive occasion to go out and celebrate, because every day's a holiday at Holiday Gardens restaurant.

Whatever the season may bring there will always be something exciting going on, according to Rick Jackson, the new owner of the full-service restaurant located inside the Holiday Inn at 1495 East Industrial Drive. Jackson said he has all kinds of theme dinners in mind, from poolside summer luaus to Easter bonnet buffets.

"I'm trying to not really compete with anybody, just give the community something different," said Jackson, who even invites community members to come out on their birthdays for a free dinner and a piece of cake. "I'm really having a lot of fun with it."

Jackson, born and raised in Sulphur Springs with Holiday Inn owner Charles Helm, only recently came back to the area after his good friend offered him the opportunity to lease the restaurant facility inside his hotel establishment.

Jackson is no stranger to the food industry. During the 80s, he was the proprietor of the Pier 30 seafood restaurant located on Interstate 30 on the western edge of Sulphur Springs, and at one time he was the owner of several Kettle restaurants throughout the Metroplex.

"It's nice to be back home," Jackson admitted. "This is probably the most beautiful dining room in town. I don't think there is anybody that can touch it as far as atmosphere goes."

The restaurant offers a fine dining experience, according to Jackson, who often refers to the restaurant as the "glass house," due to the huge picture windows that line the restaurant and provide a nice view of the hotel's pool area. Numerous chandeliers hanging from the ceiling add a special touch of class.

"On Friday and Saturday nights we use white linen table clothes, folded napkins and candlelight," said Jackson. "A lot of people are looking for a place they can go dine and have a nice glass of wine or cocktails with their dinner.

"We get pretty fancy," he added.

Hardy plants thriving throughout the restaurant make Holiday Gardens the perfect name, according to Jackson, who designed the menu to go right along with the garden theme atmosphere. It includes several cuts of beef and steak specials such as The Gardener's Choice, which is USDA Iowa beef cooked to perfection and includes baked potato or fries, garlic mashed potato or rice pilaf; salad, a cup of soup or fresh steamed vegetables; and a dinner roll. Plus, you can add a side order of shrimp, scallops or oysters.

"Neptune's Garden" offers a variety of seafood dinners, "Garden Mixtures" offers an assortment of salads. "Gardening by Design" allows you to build your own burger and other sandwiches; "Fountains of the Garden" includes a wide selection of drinks; and "From the Orchard" comes an array of desserts including all kinds of fruit cobblers, fruit pies and much, much more.

"The buffet is our really big deal," Jackson said. "We have all you can eat catfish, usually four or five other meats to choose from, lots of veggies, a salad bar, and Hopkins County stew is always our soup of the day."

And, according to Jackson, he has the best cook in town -- his aunt, Linda Barnes.

"I feel very fortunate to have her around," he said. "She learned how to cook from my grandmother, so she learned from the best."

"You've got to have the heart to cook when you're cooking for a lot of people," said Barnes, who said she has been cooking all her life. "I know all the recipes by heart. And a lot of times it's just experimenting and playing with the recipes. We know what we like, so that's the way we cook it."

"And we always try to make it look good," added Jackson. "If it looks good, it will taste good."

Jackson's aunt isn't the only family member helping him in his latest endeavor -- several cousins also work at Holiday Gardens.

"We always want to have a beautiful buffet," said cousin,Rose Kamalsky, who claims that decorating with food allows her a creative outlet. "You can really use your imagination."

The restaurant also offers a full breakfast menu with pancakes, omelets and a variety of skillet breakfasts.

Also provided at the restaurant is The Green Room, which is adjacent to the dining room and can be used as an extension of the restaurant or may be reserved for anniversaries, reunion, banquets or receptions.

"A lot of the clubs are loyal customers to us," said Kamalsky. "The Pilots, Kiwanis, Rotary -- they're all devoted to us, and we appreciate that."

Jackson said he believes consistency and good food are the key ingredients to a successful restaurant, but fun and enjoyment are important elements when it comes to work.

"The big deal for me is that I am enjoying myself," he explained. "It's a lot of fun to be home and every day look up and see someone you went to high school with or one of their kids. I have a lot of roots here. And that's what we're all about -- hometown hospitality."

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