Breakfast food is so basic, it has to be really well prepared to make it worth one's effort to get up, rally the troops and get out the door before noon on a weekend. There should be flourishes. Exquisitely fluffy biscuits, for example, or homemade strawberry jam. Also: There should be dishes the average person doesn't have the inclination (or, let's be honest, the ability) to whip up himself on a Sunday morning: huevos rancheros, eggs Benedict. So what to make of a breakfast restaurant that has neither flourishes nor elaborate dishes? There's something to be said for the charm of a basic greasy spoon, but what if the personality is missing as well?
Breakfast Blahs: I'm stumped about Honey's Kitchen in East Atlanta. Owned by the same people who brought us Cantina La Casita around the corner, Honey's lacks the boisterous personality of its sister restaurant, and does little to fill the void. The place is a total snooze, from the décor to the menu. Linoleum floors give the small dining room a dingy, institutional feel that's only intensified by its stark, white walls. Red accents and a handful of forgettable prints don't do much to lessen the effect. The space just feels unfinished. There doesn't seem to be much of a crowd, either: Most tables were filled at 11 a.m. on a Sunday, but there wasn't a soul to be seen during a weekday lunch hour. It's a shame, because they do a much better job with lunch than they do with breakfast.
Wake-Up Call: The best way I can think to describe Honey's breakfast fare is half-assed. Nothing's inedible, but nothing leaves a favorable impression, either. A breakfast special of country-fried steak with eggs and home fries is unavailable, but my second choice, Honey's country skillet, turns out to be a success. A cast-iron skillet is loaded up with potato wedges, sautéed peppers and onions, bacon, and two fried eggs. A blanket of melted cheese tops it all off. It's artery-clogging, but pretty tasty. That's it for the good stuff, though. A waffle is thick and heavy, barely warm enough to melt butter. A spoonful of grits is a congealed lump. Flabby hash browns taste like they came straight out of a freezer bag. The steak half of steak and eggs has a deathly gray pallor, but it's actually tender and peppery and ultimately a nice complement to sunny-side-up eggs.
Out of the Frying Pan: Lunch is more satisfying than breakfast. It's a meat-and-veggies setup, and it's still no-frills, but at least they are serving food that you couldn't whip up on a whim at home. Country-fried steak, piping-hot from the skillet, has a great crunchy coating that stands up to a ladle of cream gravy. Rotisserie chicken is a little dried out, but a swipe through the mashed potatoes sets things right. Collard greens, spicy stewed apples and ham-laced baby lima beans are good bets for sides. Skip the soggy fried okra.
Basic food and pared-down digs have worked well for these folks over at La Casita, but somehow the personality of the neighborhood has infused itself into that shack of beer and burritos. Honey's looks drab, is lacking in personality and too often the food just falls flat. The restaurant is going to have to step up its game if it wants to survive in Atlanta's cutthroat breakfast wars.
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