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10. Honey

Where to Eat Now 2011

Shoshannah Hafner is shy. The 43-year-old chef and co-owner of Honey (with her husband Doug) speaks softly, thoughtfully, and rarely makes direct eye contact with anyone when she emerges nightly from the kitchen to have a seat at the bar. She’s also tiny and pretty in a Lisa Loeb way, without any of the weight characteristic of a chef. The only reason any of this matters is that it’s a contrast to the food she’s become known for since opening Honey five years ago: zaftig portions in bold, nearly raucous dishes of homespun beauty at bargain basement prices. Immense bricks of Creole meatloaf draped in tasso ham gravy. Burgers topped with bacon, guacamole, tomato, and red onion that beg to be halved. Vegetarian fare—there’s almost always a tofu dish or crisped polenta cakes with seasonal accoutrements on offer—and towering, pie-eyed desserts. The menu carries a dozen or more dishes that are better than your bubby’s on most days, and are at the very least intriguing on the occasions that they falter (a sauce that’s too pasty, a custard too grainy).

Like the food, the room is lively (which can translate to stridently loud when

it’s full of babbling diners) and unpretentious but improbably cool: a 46-seat bistro-ish scene framed in horticultural prints, pouring craft beers and champagne cocktails at the bar, and driven by the likes of Keane and Etta James on the iPod playlist. Service varies; it can be at times quirky and is often slow, unless you happen to be under the care of Ben Smith, a three-year veteran who works every role—host, server, wine steward, bartender—simultaneously, and it would seem, effortlessly.

4034 Hamilton Ave., Northside
(513) 541-4300
Not Ranked Since 2007

Photograph by Ryan Kurtz
Originally published in the March 2011 issue.