Review: Honey (Brunch)
(This is the second in a series I’m dubbing “The Grand Tour of Northside, Cincinnati’s Brunch Capital”. See the previous entry on The Comet, and expect to see Take the Cake later this week.)
I reviewed Honey’s dinner a couple of years ago and loved Chef Shoshannah Hafner’s playful menu with sweet, spicy and savory contrasts. After several brunches at Take the Cake, I realized that I was overlooking one of Northside’s original brunch spots, and insisted that Terry and I try to get to Honey early– right after opening– to secure a spot for brunch.
Honey’s surroundings are even better in daylight– cozy and modern, and it wouldn’t be out of place in San Francisco or Chicago. I think many Cincinnati naysayers forget that we have places like Honey, which are effortlessly chic and hip, but also feel at home. The crowd was varied– from “ladies who lunch,” to hung-over twenty-somethings, to families with small children, to couples. Honey, unlike across-the-street brunch neighbor Take the Cake, does have a full bar– so we started off with some morning libations. Terry grabbed a Salty Dog (grapefruit juice and vodka with a salted rim), which he swears he hasn’t seen on a menu in years. I got a Honey Royale, their take on a Kir Royale, one of my favorite French beverages (though I hear they’re very unfashionable these days). It’s honey liqueur in champagne– you get a sweet, floral, honeyed nose to the champagne– very nice without being too sweet.
Because we were feeling gluttonous (and they looked so good…), we grabbed some apple beignets. They were crispy outside, but a little underdone on the inside, still very delicious, and that outside texture was perfect. They were less like Cafe du Monde beignets (or the ones I’ve had at Bouchon in Las Vegas), and more like oversized donut holes, and served with a very stiff, sweet whipped cream.
Terry must have had a sweet tooth that day, because he followed up the sweet beignets with frangipane French toast. Frangipane is a spread made of almonds that tastes nearly identical to the almond paste my grandmother put in tea rings. It was spread on thick-cut French bread, dipped in egg batter, fried crisp, and topped with almonds. The banana compote and whipped cream rounded out the plate of some of the best French toast I’ve ever had. We actually swapped plates at one point since we liked both dishes equally– that rarely happens at our table.
I picked the Eggs Benedict– lots of ham, poached eggs, hollandaise with fresh basil and topped with oven-dried tomatoes on top of a croissant. There were lots of textures here– creamy, chewy, crispy– and salty, savory, and a little bit of sweetness from the tomatoes. While the croissant was a tiny bit chewy, once the yolk seeped through the dish as I took a few bites, the texture was perfect and the plate was beautiful.
Honey didn’t disappoint– it’s a little upscale, a little downhome, and entirely delicious. Just get there early– the tables in this small restaurant fill up quickly (though you can while away the time at the bar with a salty dog and a newspaper– not a bad use of a Sunday morning).