After a half-dozen or so visits I have come to the undeniable conclusion that Cafe Hon (1002 W. 36th Street, Baltimore 21211) may be one of the worst restaurants in the area, yet it seems to get a continual pass from people because of its kitschy decor and hon-tastic setting.
I've had everything there from soup and sandwiches for lunch to dinner entrees and I've never come away thinking, "Hey, that was pretty good."
In fact, my last visit was a disaster and has turned me off to the place for good. It was a Friday night in early February and my buddy and I had spent the day off from work up in Philly. We returned to Baltimore, met up with some friends for happy hour down in Hampden and decided to get a bite for dinner.
With Holy Frijoles telling us we'd have to wait 30 minutes for a table we hoofed it down to Cafe Hon where there were tables aplenty. I was in the mood for some serious comfort food and decided on my old standby: The Meatloaf Dinner.
Frankly, my belief is that any diner or cheap eats type of restaurant can be judged by their meatloaf. It's one of the simplest things in the world to make but also easy to screw up. I firmly believe that if you can't make a decent meatloaf, how can I trust you to make anything else well?
My wife joined us for dinner and ordered a burger cooked medium rare while my friend had the fish and chips. When my meatloaf arrived it was literally inedible. Not because the meatloaf itself was bad. In fact, I have no idea how the meatloaf tasted because the entire thing was covered in the worst, saltiest, most horrifyingly awful attempt at an herbed gravy that I've ever had in my life.
I literally took the pieces of white bread that were sitting under the meatloaf and desperately attempted to blot the horrific sauce off the meat. While this helped a little the sauce had still seeped into the meat, basically turning the whole thing into a chewy salt lick.
But I got off easy. When my wife's burger arrived at the table it was, um, undercoked. No, wait, what's the word I'm looking for? Oh, right. Raw. That's it.
Apparently misunderstanding "medium rare" to mean "bloody, cold and raw," the cooks (and I use that word ever so loosely) had basically browned the burger on both sides and served it up.
So atrociously raw and inedible (in other words, 2/3 of our meals were wretched beyond belief) was the burger that the two halves of the patty easily separated in her hands because the insides were still bloody, cold and raw.
At least the waitress was sharp enough to recognize this disgraceful display and took the burger off our bill.
Like I said, this was not a one-time experience with Cafe Hon. I've had a half-dozen or so meals there, all of which have ranged from staggeringly mediocre to immediately forgettable. But this took disregard for the diner and a lack of interest in preparation to new heights.
Maybe the owner should concentrate more on the food being served than playing up the kitschy angle and Hon-gear.
There are too many decent places to eat in the area for me to give Cafe Hon another shot.