Dinner Out @ Honey

Moving to Northside, we gained the luxury of a number of solid restaurant options.  But, it's particularly satisfying to drink a glass of wine at home and then walk down the street to a steady favorite from the last several years.  A combination of refined and relaxed, Honey is one of Cincinnati's restaurants that makes me feel like there's no need to go to Brooklyn or San Francisco for a hip eatery.

The Food:  On our most recent trip, we started as we almost always do - Honey fries.  They're skinny-cut, skin-on potatoes fried (many to a delightful crisp) and delivered with a mouthwatering sweet chili sauce.  Ordering the fries gives us a chance to ponder the menu a bit longer, as well as the specials, of which there are always at least a few.  On this past trip we ordered a bottle of wine during the decision making process as well - a bright, crisp rose.

There were three of us, and we decided to split three mains.  First, the grilled Pat La Frieda burger with Roth Käse Rofumo, bacon, guacamole, tomato, and red onion on a toasted onion bun with (yes, no shame in it, more) honey fries.  Second, a skate special that came with a couscous and corn deep fried fritter with artichokes and leeks, plated with a tomato vodka broth and green-herbed oil.  Last, a mint-scented sweet pea ravioli in a pool of Riesling-laced chicken broth topped with mascarpone and crispy pancetta.  Mmmm - makes me hungry just thinking about it!

We ordered the burger medium rare, and it was perfectly pink throughout.  A simple guacamole meant you could really taste the avocado (one of those never-going-to-be-local delights), and the cheese added just a hint of smokiness to each bite.  It reminded me a bit of the gouda and guac sandwich at Sitwell's, an old regular order.  The consensus at our table was the skate was a bit overdone, but all was definitely not lost.  With the square fritter acting as the base, it's soft crunch went well with the snappiness of the shaved leeks.  Apparently I was the only who got any artichokes, but I thought they worked well with the tomato broth to bring a nice tang to the dish.  There was also a spicy profile brought by something in that fritter that I really enjoyed.  In fact, a background warmth provided by unnamed and indecipherable spices was a common theme with all the dishes.  Our ravioli with sweet peas was pleasantly peppery, and while it was the most subtle set of flavors on the table, the delicate pasta earned top honors in Sarah's opinion.  The chef did a great job overall with mixing textures, and we were all contentedly full.

Desserts are often a fun finish at Honey.  They are always playing around with new options, and the ice creams are made in house.  On this trip they were all just a bit off - the server would have us until one ingredient (white chocolate or mint julep ice cream for instance) just didn't quite mesh.  Once we ordered foie gras bacon ice cream, because, well, we didn't think we could pass up such a thing.  It wasn't our favorite, but we tell people about the experience fairly frequently.  Recent positive exploits have included a to-die-for chocolate cake (photos at the bottom of this post) and a flight of three ice cream floats laced with liqueurs and liquors.

The Ingredients:  Honey frequently names the sources of its ingredients (i.e. Sallie's asparagus and Rouster's apples on the current sample menu), and it is great to know they support local farmers and producers.  This is one of the many reasons to appreciate what is done at Honey, and I'm looking forward to even more local options coming soon.

The Story, Setting, & Service:  As I mentioned above, Honey is a neighborhood place for us and definitely a destination for others.  In fact, Sarah and I ate dinner there the night we got engaged, so it does hold a particularly special spot for us.

Inside, the restaurant is an attractive, often dimly lit space with expansive (20' or more) ceilings.  Prints of various flora are framed and match the small vases and candles that adorn each table.  They have an outdoor area as well, although I've never eaten there because when the weather is nice, it is always taken quickly

The service at Honey is the one thing that has had its fits and starts.  For a long time, the servers were always very friendly and knowledgeable, and the pretension level was quite low.  On our last few visits, we've had a bit of attitude from servers a couple of times - nothing even close to turning us off completely, but we have had moments of wishful thinking.  I could be wrong, but it seems like remaining a neighborhood favorite for generally laid back Northside and Clifton locals must be a top priority, so I can only imagine that Honey's easy going roots will win out over time.
Honey is a great place for an intimate meal or gathering of old friends.  Along with excellent dinner options, they've also got a fantastic brunch on Sundays from 11-2.  We hope to have this be a consistent stomping ground for years to come.

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