Denise Whiting, who sells real estate and does some catering on the side, has opened a small restaurant in Hampden that probably wouldn't be getting so much publicity if it weren't for its wonderful name. Cafe Hon has its virtues, but there are plenty of other places that offer good hamburgers and cheap prices.
I'll say this: Cafe Hon is, well, cuter than most sandwich places. It has cute little tables with bachelor buttons in little vases. It has a vintage Fire King stove and cute little prints on the walls and pretty floral tablecloths. OK, I wouldn't paint one wall mustard -- it's not my favorite color -- but the one across from it is a handsome dusty rose.
This is very much a homey little business, and you accept that. Neighborhood people come in not only to eat but to chat with the owner, which sometimes slows things down. The owner, short-order cook and waitress seemed a little overwhelmed by their initial success the two times I ate there; but if you aren't in a rush you can have a decent meal, probably for under $5.
Lunch or dinner is going to be soup or a sandwich; the choices are limited. But that sandwich might be egg salad on toasted cheese bread ($2.95) -- shades of the old Hutzler's lunch room -- or a juicy hamburger made with good beef ($3.25). With it you could have a side order of hand-cut french fries ($1.25).
The menu is so ordinary it'll put you to sleep reading it, with its BLTs and cheese steaks. (There is one special each evening, such as chicken sesame pasta salad.)
Some things, though, are a bit out of the ordinary: Cafe Hon is proud enough of its ground beef supplier to list him by name on the menu (Al Wasky). The coffee comes from the Coffee Mill, and you can get hazelnut for 10 cents extra a cup. The hot fudge sundae is made with a homemade hot fudge sauce. And most interesting, Cafe Hon is the only place I know of that offers Saturday brunch. This is an idea I like very much. After all, why spend your whole Saturday doing chores when you could be lingering over a second cup of coffee and another blueberry muffin?
If you thought the lunch/dinner menu was limited, wait till you see the brunch. Basically, you can have eggs or you can have French toast. If you feel like lunch food, a few breakfast-related sandwiches are offered: a toasted Western ($2.95), an egg sandwich ($2.50) or a BLT ($2.95). Otherwise it's eggs as an omelet or not, eggs with or without sausage or bacon, French toast with or without sausage or bacon.
The Western omelet ($4.95) was the star of our brunch -- hot, fresh and soft, studded with crisp bits of green pepper and onion. The French toast ($2.95) was perfectly respectable but nothing out of the ordinary. Side orders of bacon and sausage (each $1.50) both tasted good; but even if they are cooked in advance, you shouldn't serve sausages stone cold.
What Cafe Hon sets out to do, which is nothing very ambitious, it does pretty well. If I had only one suggestion to make, it would have nothing to do with the food. I'd get them to keep the floor swept -- the tiles show every last crumb, and for some reason that really bothered me.
Where: 1009 W. 36th St.
Hours: Tuesdays through Thursdays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fridays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch only; closed Sundays.
Credit cards accepted: No.
Features: Sandwiches, brunch.
Non-smoking section? No.
Call: (410) 243-1230.