The place used to be a warehouse. That much is clear. With its exposed beams and flaking brick interior it almost could have come straight out of a book by Charles Dickens. But it isn’t sitting there unused and abandoned. Instead there is a line outside full of couples leaning against its side, chatting and waiting. Yes, always the waiting, because regardless of when you shown up there are no reservations. And it’s the trendiest place on South Street. At least these days anyway.
I’ve been in enough of these places throughout the years, these IT places that thrive for a while and then fade away into the ether, but while they’re at their apex they are a glory to behold, like the second coming of Christ. And this line is testament to its current popularity. They take our names and we also wait.
The double entendre in the name is an evident homage to trendy names of other places that inspire smiles from those who pass by. Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat. At first glance one might even pass it off as a horrible pun, but the place is so much more. It’s café meets diner, a combination of standard fare and exciting homemade dishes that smell divine. With an ambiance to die for.
Now we are inside. They asked us if we minded sitting at the counter and I said yes. The better to hear the intimate conversations between workers as they go about their hectic day, always moving. Coffee? Yes please. And they get it, whippet quick. They wear no uniforms and have no nametags, all a part of the trendy ambiance that permeates the place. Oh yes, and it’s cash only, one of the few places remaining that is organic that way.
Word of mouth must be huge, I think, as I look around and take it in. Every chair is taken, every corner accounted for, as patrons talk at high volume and servers maneuver between them, as fluid as water. And the line is still forming out the door, on the sidewalk, and at the counter itself. They keep coming, and we wait for them, eager as beavers, awaiting our veggie burgers that called out to us from the menu. More coffee? Yes please.
Other couples share this counter, talking excitedly, kissing furtively, and looking around just as we are. They are from elsewhere, or this is their first time here. Either way they are as fascinated by the feel of the place as we are, dressed in reds and blues and drinking fresh squeezed orange juice. They are trendy because they are here. They have finally arrived and they want to be seen. I see them.
Our food arrives and we dig in like foreigners being given the finest dish of the land, in sync with the rhythms of the place, as comfortable as the others here. It is this dining culture that binds us together, that makes us one at this moment, in this place. The staff continue to move in their complicated dance, changing partners, shouting out “Get that bottle of champagne to the table in the corner,” while simultaneously wiping clean the large table that just got up. I see a couple at the end of the counter look at us, as if we are the reason they are here, enjoying a hearty lunch at this place.
I smile because it is this that makes Philadelphia so special to me. No matter how many places come and go, the city keeps churning them out like flavors of ice cream, one after the other, a huge thrill ride that has no end. As we make our way out of Honey’s (on South), I imagine we will be in another place just like it sometime later, maybe in three years, when it will be gone and another will be the trendy eatery/hangout spot for those in the know.
But we’ll always have Honey’s, at least where it counts, in our memories. We walk away hand in hand while others slide over to take our place in line.