Honey's Sit 'N Eat: "Honey's Ambience"

800 N. 4th Street

The story of Honey’s Sit n’ Eat, begins in the 1990’s for both Ellen, my partner, and me. She was opening her first restaurant with her family, about the time I started my first cooking job. I was in Texas, at Eddie Mac’s, an independent drive-through-only burger joint, that’s still open. She was here in Philadelphia, at the beginning of the revitalization of Old City.

Fast forward to 2003 and we have been living together in Northern Liberties for about a year. Ellen, who owns Sonny’s Famous Steaks with her brother in Old City, had been talking about opening another restaurant, and I wasn’t necessarily challenging myself professionally. After a bit of debate, we decide to partner up and open a neighborhood spot together. The occupation of the space sort of fell into place and we were off, albeit to a very slow start. It took over a year and a half to open, due to construction, and a number of related and unrelated issues.

This allowed plenty of time to nail down our concept, our menu, and our approach. We both wanted to build a menu from things we liked to eat. Food that was important to us on an emotional and cultural level. I grew up eating chicken fried steak. I ate it 5 days a week in high school in the cafeteria. Then on Sundays there was all-you-can-eat chicken fried steak for $4.95 at MG’s. It was a local legend, and packed every weekend. The owners weren’t foodies, they didn’t go to culinary school, and didn’t mess around. They made good food for people who wanted good food. The town in which I grew up didn’t have “high-end” restaurants. Red Lobster was the “nice” place to go eat. The mom and pops were just that. They made food they ate, and ate the food they made, and all of it with love. I wanted to recreate that here. I also wanted to serve cream gravy, because I couldn’t find it up here, and I missed it. My mom used to mail me cans of Rotel Tomatoes until Super Fresh got wise to them (perfect cheese dip additive).

That’s the reason we have a menu with chicken fried steak, and a nova lox platter. That’s why you can have matzo ball soup before you eat your fried shrimp Po’ Boy. We’re not kosher, and not even traditional in the since that we’ve applied our own perspective to traditional items. Our “latke” is as hybrid as a Prius. We created the latke as a team: Ellen grew up eating latkes, and I grew up loving anything fried- therefore, we have a Southern Fried latke. (which some folks HATE, I mean hate. Just the idea upsets some people the first time they see it. That’s NOT A LATKE, they say. But it is. It’s our latke.)

My partner and I are also a couple and we are expecting our first child in October [2009 – editor’s note]. When we first opened, a local television station came to do a small interview and promo on Honey’s. Off-camera, the star of the show was surprised that we were both business and life partners. She warned us of our demise as a result. I have to say that we have never gotten along better than we do now, and we’ve been open for a little over 4 years.

The story of the name stems from 2 things; it rhymed with Ellen’s other restaurant and it described our relationship. The “Sit n’ Eat” was born from a mindset, or at least an approach, of a lack of formality. Both us missed family meals we had as kids. Ellen after synagogue and me after Baptist sermons both were with our families, eating what we had always eaten, and our parents where eating what our parents had always eaten, and our grandparents eating what our grandparents had always eaten, holds something special for us. Although it is different, we wanted to create a space that felt like having family meals at Gramps’ or Bubby’s.