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.

beignets_cropped

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.

crop_frenchtoast

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.

DSC_0187

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).

Honey on Urbanspoon

  • http://www.vandeneynden.biz/blog Rose

    Hey! You changed your look again! It’s very clean and bright–but I miss your little “Julie” cartoon in the upper left corner. Any chance we’ll see her again?

    I’ve got to get out more and try some of these places. But since I’m on a new eating plan now, I guess I’ll wait a while.

    Hope to see you soon!
    .-= Rose´s last blog ..Monday Message from Merlin 2-8-10 =-.

  • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

    She’ll be back! I’m still working on the site. :)

  • http://5chw4r7z.com 5chw4r7z

    That looks awesome, the Northside is filling up with brunch spots for sure.
    I want to try that french toast.

    And I too like the new cleaner look.

  • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com The Boyfriend

    Great review. Spot-on. (I should know…I was there.)

    P.S. – One “no” vote on the new look. I, too, miss the Julie cartoon. Sniff.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      She’ll be back! Darnit.

  • http://Cincinnatinomerati.blogspot.com Laura

    Wow, that looks amazing. We’ll definitely have to check them out for brunch soon. Nice pictures too! Looks like you are enjoying your new camera. How did it go taking it to the restaurant?
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..A-Team Chili: =-.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      It wasn’t as bad as I thought. It helped that everyone else was VERY into their meal and it was a little noisy– much harder to do at a quiet restaurant (tried it at Nicola’s) where people can hear the shutter.

      • http://Cincinnatinomerati.blogspot.com Laura

        I can imagine that. At least with a better camera you can get nice low light pics without needing to use the flash, but you’re right, it is a little noisy. The flash is our biggest no-no–if it’s too dark, we just won’t take any pictures. Sometimes you can adjust shutter speed to compensate, balance the camera on the backside of a plate to keep it still.
        .-= Laura´s last blog ..A-Team Chili: =-.

        • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

          Flash is just rude, imo, so when I see folks who have obviously used flash– ouch. I think a restaurant like Red will never get pics out of me because it’s SO dark. I need to play around with more settings for sure for those “not quite too dark” settings.

  • http://www.gourmetorgourmand.blogspot.com Lesley

    I’ve been going to Honey for brunch ever since it was the original Honey (in the 90s, pre David what’s-his-face). I LOVE their brunch. THe prices are reasonable and the food is very “gourmet” in its approach. The thing that is so great is that they welcome children. No crayons and such, but they will work with kids to make something they will like.
    Honey Royale is fantastic. I love it. As for the popularity or not of Kir Royal, I have to say that I’m not really of the same opinion of DL. I was in Paris not so long ago and the kirs and kir royal were on just about every menu and were flowing.
    .-= Lesley´s last blog ..Cincinnati’s "Via Vite" e molto BENE!! =-.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      I love kir royales, or even just plain old kirs, and saw them all over Paris too!
      Yes– I noticed there were several (well behaved) kids with their families. It didn’t feel kid-oriented, but very kid -friendly.

  • Brian

    Quick q: what is more kid friendly: Honey or take the cake?

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      Toss-up. You get a table to yourself at Honey (the ones at TtC are communal). Honey has a full bar (appealing to some parents, I hear). I think you’d be comfortable at either.

  • http://johndoesthedam.blogspot.com John

    julie- i dig the new layout.

    clean and efficient. A+

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      thanks. I’m still going to customize it a bit more and maybe add a background color, but I am LOVING the clean lines.

  • Dan

    Julie, we must have been to Honey for brunch on the same day! My husband and I were there this past Sunday and we also hugely enjoyed the apple beignets. (Although the peach beignets they had this summer were in fact the BEST THING EVER.)

    We really, really love Honey – the food is consistently inventive without being pretentious, service is friendly yet efficient, and the prices are extremely reasonable considering the quality of the food. (Exception: you take a bath on mixed drinks.) We’re fortunate enough to live in Northside, and it’s wonderful that we can walk down in jeans if we want for an impromptu nice dinner and feel comfortable OR dress up and really make it an occasion.

  • DB

    Very good review. I think you should lose the cartoon though, I hated it.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      Really? That’s a new one . :)

  • Lauren

    I will admit it: I consistently forget about Northside when thinking about where to brunch on the weekends. Shame on me, because that meal sounds (and looks) delicious!

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