Back in February, when Jacqui and I first stepped inside Honey, on an afternoon where there was muddy snow on the ground and we wore winter coats, I knew right away we’d found something special. It was either that visit or our next where this café filled with Amish chicken, grass-fed meat and organic greens had me fully won over, slapping the table and saying, New life goal! I’ll try every single item on this menu, just wait!
Seven months later, after more visits with Jacqui, several lunches with friends, weekend breakfasts, random takeouts, a great dinner date and a quiet birthday brunch, would you believe it, I am more than halfway there.
In fact, since I last told you about it, Honey’s become a part of my regular life, that place where I celebrate and enjoy conversation and always want to bring friends. We’ve now spent three seasons getting to know each other, the way you want to do when something (or someone) has really caught your fancy, and I’m happy to tell you this: we’re still going strong. In fact, yesterday, you could say we hit a new milestone, because yesterday is when I sat down with Honey’s lovely owner, Elizabeth Janus.
Seated next to me at one of the long tables by the front windows, Elizabeth told me about Honey’s beginnings while I sipped some of the cafe’s organic coffee. With her long brown hair and ready smile, she makes owning a restaurant look totally approachable, so I asked what inspired her to open Honey almost three years ago. Though she didn’t come from a culinary background, she’d been a part of Glen Ellyn for years and says she saw a need for a place emphasizing quality ingredients and modern comfort food.
Honey is her first and only cafe, and on most days, you can find her back in the kitchen, working just like everybody else on their staff of about 30 people.
Honey opened in November 2007, first only for breakfast and lunch, later for dinner, too. There are two main dining rooms, one in the front (where the bakery, coffee area and long tables by the windows are) and one in the back, which not only expands the general eating area but also is available for private parties.
In that back room, people have had showers, parties, even one wedding reception, which is the kind of thing Elizabeth loves, seeing people sharing important life moments at her restaurant.
The menu is all about real, homemade comfort food: chicken pot pie, a burger trio, grilled cheese with basil pesto, daily risottos, roasted cauliflower. They publish two versions of the menu each year, with updated specials and a glass case in front filled with options from vegetable platters to stuffed tomatoes.
And the thing that I love most about Honey is the same thing that drew me to it in the first place: where else can you find a suburban cafe that makes the conscious choice to use all natural beef, Amish chicken, organic greens and daily fresh bread from Labriola?
For that matter, where else can you find so many gluten-free (Tuesdays) and vegan (Wednesdays) bakery options? While it’s true Honey is not primarily a cafe devoted to special needs, their pastries—from cupcakes to bars to cookies and more—show an awareness of particular interests and are insanely gorgeous, to boot.
When I asked Elizabeth to name her favorite item to order, she cited the Not Just Grilled Cheese Sandwich, something she brought to the menu herself—aged white cheddar with basil pesto, arugula and sliced tomatoes on toasted multigrain bread.
I told her of course I’ve had the grilled cheese, too (pick an item, and odds are, I’ve had it!), though on sourdough. The first thing I ever ordered was the veggie burger—which was so good, I ordered it two more times.
My favorite lunch so far was a tilapia sandwich special, so thick with avocados and tomatoes, I almost couldn’t eat it, and my favorite dinner is, hands down, the Not Just Steak and Potatoes, with tender meat cooked in a delicious garlic sauce and served with a side of creamy garlic mashed potatoes.
On my birthday, my brother bought me a vanilla cupcake, piled high with perfectly swirled frosting, and I ate it in the car while we drove away from brunch. A few days before that, I’d pulled sweet potato fries off my friend Becky’s plate. A week earlier, Jacqui and I had whipped out our film cameras, shooting pictures while we ate.
I’ve been collecting all these Honey memories, gathering them together into a web of experiences, the combination of which makes me a regular—a regular who’s proud to be—the same way saved letters and photos show your relationships with people you love, and I’m walking forward into many more lunches and dinners and baked goods from Honey. Just you wait.
499 North Main Street, Glen Ellyn, IL?
*Save a lot of good experiences and yesterday’s cup of coffee, Honey’s given me nothing to write this article. I did it out of pure appreciation. Oh and if you’re from the area and want a brunch buddy, I’ll meet you at Honey—just name the time.