Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cafe Hon... How Come This Place Isn't Any Good?

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.

Cafe Hon in Baltimore


Rachel said...

I agree, cute idea, icky food. I haven't been there in years, but I can only imagine it got worse. I remember going there once and getting a pretty okay tuna salad blt/melt type thing for lunch. When some friends wanted to go there for dinner, knowing that I didn't like of the (overpriced, not tasty) dinner items, I asked the waitress if I could just get the aforementioned sandwich. Which is a special request but tuna salad was on the dinner menu in a different dish so it wasn't like they didn't have the ingredients. The waitress swore up and down not only that they wouldn't make it for me, but that they never have served it. Even after I pointed it out to her on the lunch menu. So, bad food, dumb help.

Mega Munch said...

But your friend's fish and chips were OUTSTANDING, right? After all, your REALLY can't screw up F&C (drop frozen fish and chips in deep frier, remove, serve).

Baltimore Snacker said...

Hey HG, I posted this post - which was also a comment to my Cafe Hon post on my page - without knowing you were posting it!

As I thought, I am probably too easy to please, which is why I don't mind the place. You are right, it isn't the greatest place. I have to say the salad I got was the best thing food-wise. I really did like it. But everything is overpriced, even if it was spectacular food, spending $12 for lunchmeat roast beef on a piece of bread with gravy and fries is a bit exorbitant.

This will sound disturbing, but I must say: your description of this meatloaf intrigues me enough that I might just have to try it, for the sake of science, just to see how bad it really is. Perhaps I'm a glutton for punishment?

Dan said...

I'm just discovering these comments now as, for some reason, Blogger has stopped notifying me when comments get posted. Grrr.

Rachel... I'm glad I'm not alone in my thoughts on Cafe Hon.

Mega... I think his F&C were just okay, but yes, it is possible to screw them up. In fact, he and I are going to do a F&C tour of Baltimore one day and try them at a bunch of different places to see if we can find "the best" at least on that day. Too much batter, too long in the fryer... so many things to go wrong.

Snacker... you are a brave man. I've actually had the meatloaf sandwich there a couple times and it wasn't too bad. Maybe they were just having an off night in the kitchen, but damn were they off!

Frank said...

Is this Dab who use to work at Marriott Hunt Valley?

Frank said...

Dan---Did you use to work at The Cinnamon Tree at MHVI?

Dan said...

Frank: Nope, not me. Sorry...