EDITOR’S NOTE: UNFORTUNATELY, HONEY’S PLACE HAS SINCE CLOSED.
3 Deering Ave., Portland
It’s been said that as a city grows, so does the culture within it. By this measure, Portland is obviously in a very positive growth spurt.
Once conspicuously devoid of decent ethnic cuisine, gastronomic excitement was generated here by an explosion of quality bistros in the 1990s. Now, hopefully, a bourgeoning revolution of new ethnic eateries will truly put Portland on the culinary map.
A recent visit to Honey’s Place encouraged my optimism.
My associate and I sampled three different options for lunch that day. The barbequed Hot Links ($4.95 for a lunch-size order) and barbequed spare ribs ($8.95 for lunch) were from the everyday menu; the barbequed pig feet ($12.95) were that day’s special. All of these dishes were served over rice and drenched in a ketchup/vinegar/molasses-based sauce.
Pigs’ feet are a lot of work, but when prepared properly, they’re a tasty mess. There’s very little meat, but lots of flavor and texture. These came with boiled cabbage. Delicious.
The other two entrees were not quite as exciting.
Honey’s offers both beef and pork spare ribs. We chose the pork, with a side of collard greens ($2.75).
The two large ribs were very meaty; they seemed more like chops than ribs. They were a little tough: it seemed they did not get the slow-and-low treatment barbeque deserves. However, the accompanying collards were prepared to flavorful perfection, cooked with ham hocks and dusted with a touch of red pepper flakes,
I was confused by the hot links, having never before eaten a sausage covered in barbeque sauce. It was interesting.
I was further thrown by the notion that traditional North Carolina-style barbeque involved serving hot Italian sausage links. When asked about this, the chef said andouille sausage would be more appropriate, but the cost of procuring it locally was prohibitive.
The links were served with beautiful, creamy black-eyed peas. All the dishes came with slightly sweet cornbread.
Growing up in New York, I was fortunate to have a nice selection of soul food places from which to choose. When assessing the merits of this type of cuisine, I always go to the Big Three: collards, black-eyed peas and cornbread. Using this as a gauge, Honey’s is a hit.
However, I found the barbeque to be not quite up to standards. My taste buds said, “broiled, not barbequed.”
The pig feet special, at almost $13, was not a bargain considering the price of pigs’ feet. I suspect the cost of this and of Saturday’s special, chitterlings ($15.95), is a reflection of these dishes’ culinary novelty, not their wholesale cost. Sunday’s special, by comparison, is chicken and dumplings, for $5.95.
Other daily specials include jambalaya, oxtails, and ham hocks. The list of sides includes homemade mac and cheese, candied yams, and grits – all very cool and very different for these parts.
Honey’s Place offers both eat-in and take-out service. The seating area is roomy and comfortable, with two small lounge areas at either end. Mellow soul music provided a fitting atmosphere. The server and chef were very friendly, willing to answer any question with a smile.
Canned soda and iced tea are the main thirst-quenchers on hand. Honey’s Place doesn’t yet have a liquor license, but once they do, ice cold beer is the way to go.
If you like soul food, or just want to try something a little different, you’ll enjoy Honey’s Place. Viva la revolution!
— Mort Viande
Honey’s Place is open Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m.-7 p.m.