IF The Decemberists’ album The Crane Wife married Emily Dickinson and set up house, their home would look like Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat. With Baroque-esque wallpaper, cracked mirrors, and gilt picture frames, Honey’s has the sort of old-world Southern charm that welcomes you in with open arms even as it presses you up into its rather large, lilac-scented bosom. It could be in any city, but is most definitely locked into a time period close enough to ours to make it feel familiar–like coming home–while still yearning towards a past replete with linen napkins, smelling salts, and doilies. There’s nostalgia here; it scents the walls and rims the lips of the coffee cups (which are, ironically, from Ikea). Through the large village-bakery type windows, you can almost hear Scout’s galloping footsteps on the sidewalk. Like Dill’s active mind, Honey’s “[teems] with eccentric plans, strange longings, and quaint fancies.”
Located at the corner of 4th and Brown in Northern Liberties, Honey’s is my panacea; it is comfort fare at its very elemental best. I admit to a rather hefty bias here: they serve amazing seasonally-inspired french toast (the autumn Peaches and Cream is my favorite) that may well be the best I’ve found in Philly so far.
True, the wait can be long–up to 45 minutes on Sundays–but it is worth it. Weekdays and Saturdays are slower; the most I’ve had to wait is 10 minutes on a Monday and 15 on a Saturday morning. Brunch for two usually tallies up to about $22; though Honey’s is cash only, they do have an ATM on the premises. During cold winter days, they set up heating lamps on the pavement outside and you can sneak inside for hand-warming cups of coffee. Helpings are on the hearty side and the coffee (decaf or regular) is endless. Fresh squeezed orange juice is available; a perk of sitting at the counter is getting to smell that startling orange tang whenever someone orders a glass.
D and I had decided, much earlier in the month, to meet up at Honey’s. We had a craving not only for the food, but for the corner table–tucked up against the wallpaper, wrought iron farm implements, and cheerfully swinging kitchen door–from where we could watch the goings-on laid out before us. Though Honey‘s is not a people-watching place, it’s a comfort to see that food being shared, and to hear the rumble of satisfied conversation.
D, devout vegetarian and reveler in the magical alchemy of food, chose the Eggs Benedict. It was a last-minute decision; she had been considering the Berries and Cream Challah French Toast or the Tofu Enfrijoladas. Like all good decisions, she didn’t double think herself and just chose on a whim. Our waitress helpfully guided D to substitute spinach for the ham when she asked for the vegetarian version. The Hollandaise sauce was lemony with a hint of chive; the eggs were poached to perfection, breaking open to reveal the yellow inside, and melding with the sauce to create a rich, sensuous mouthful balanced by the garlicky steamed spinach.
As for me, the grey day had determined my choice; it couldn’t be anything but the Two Giant Buttermilk Pancakes with Bananas and Chocolate. I wavered for a moment between Bananas and Almonds, Bananas and Seasonal Berries, Walnuts and Peanut Butter Cups…but fell back on the satisfying, moist delight of the banana-chocolate combination. You can’t ever go astray with that.
The food and the ambiance lend themselves to talking about dreams, mutual friends, adventures to be had and adventures had, and the beautiful reckoning of spring. Details emerged and swam before us; somehow, the morning stretched into afternoon and before we knew it, we were concocting plans for future travels, future homesteads, and future bread ovens. There’s something in the air at Honey‘s. Like a good, classic ghost story, it makes even the wildest, secretest, hungriest dreams seem tame-able by daylight.