AMONG THE PLETHORA OF ETHNIC RESTAURANTS in the greater Chapel Hill/Carrboro area, one would be hard pressed to find even a sliver of space that hasn't long ago been filled, but Bill and Betty Witman have done just that in opening Honky's. Located on Franklin Street in former site of the colorful "Wicked Burrito," Honky's stands as the region's first fully Caucasian restaurant.
Honky's, as their logo says, is "just like eating at home." Its creative fusion of North Carolina and Ohio foods will meet the area’s twin culinary deficiencies: authentic non-ethnic North Carolina home cooking which the majority of Chapel Hillians who hail from other parts of the globe have never experienced and Yankee comfort foods which the many northern transplants continually long for but up until now have not been able to find except on Christmas vacation back in Cincinnati.
214 West Franklin
Rating: ***** (out of 5)
You may be thinking, so this is "a white bread restaurant"? I share your excitement. No chewable baguettes at Honky's, just an "open loaf" of Wonder® Bread.
Honky's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. To give Honky's a full and fair test, I tried all in one day -- and I wasn't disappointed.
Honky's features a literal "Variety Pak" of cereals for breakfast -- served right from the miniature boxes. Children love them (but so do Mom and Dad!) Also available singly are Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, Cheerios and Wheaties. I had a bowl of Life, the featured selection of the day, lightly dusted with Dixie Crystals and splashed with cool half-cup of Carnation. You don't have to be Mikey to love it!
Rather than offering the mundane and over-worked "fresh, not-from-from-concentrate" orange juice served almost universally at area eateries, Honky's features Bluebird orange juice "right from the can." It'll take you straight back to a sticky summer's morning at Grandma's house!
For lunch I had the signature Honky's special: the Grilled Cheese Samich. Lightly basted with Blue Bonnet, the slices of sandwich white were cooked in a double-heated press grill which left the processed American cheese food oozing from between the flattened and precisely browned toast. Delectable! Ovaltine® in a chilled glass of two-percent Coble set it off perfectly.
At a neighboring table they ordered an American classic, a Franco-American classic, in fact: spaghetti and meatballs. The sauce was microwaved to a boil and the smell nearly irresistible. I know already what I’ll get next time!
Dinner is served "family style." The entrees are meatloaf and a nightly chicken special. The night I was there it was boiled. And when Honky's says boiled, they mean boiled, boiled until the meat was falling off the bone. The vegetables du jour were Del Monte's green beans and Green Giant® corn niblets. Cooked to mush just the way you remember them.
And every dinner comes with a bottomless basket of Nabisco Saltines. You know, no meal at Honky's would be complete without crackers.
Dinner is, of course, "All You Can Eat." Or, as Betty says, "It’s 'More Than You Should Eat!'
Honky's is perfect if you're on what Uncle Bob used to call a "Seafood Diet" -- where if you "see food," you eat it.
Honky's desserts are prepared by Food Lion. The chocolate chocolate cake was still slightly frozen, the way I love it. Topped with a heaping dollop of Cool Whip, it is to die for!
And speaking of things to love, Glen and Ann Smith, who shared the table with me, were just delightful company -- very well mannered and they didn't practice the "board-house reach" either!
With a hostess like Betty Witman, I guess I shouldn't be astounded at the civility of the clientele. Betty is a retired pediatrician whose people-skills are only exceeded by her deft touch in the kitchen. Betty says years of practice at minor surgery "really help when wielding a kitchen knife."
Bill mans the cash register. Bill retired from his work as a certified public accountant specializing in managing medical practices. Behind his gruff exterior, Bill is, as you might expect, a teddy bear. Bill says his only regret in making the career change is that he has had to give up golf, tennis and fishing to make time for balancing the register drawer each night. As Bill points out, "You can't use a computer to count cash."
I give Honky's FIVE STARS!! (But only because our rating system won't let me give SIX!!!)
Honky's is open daily from 6:30 am to 8:00 pm. The associated Honky's Catering specializes in supplying home-cooked food for church covered-dish potluck dinners.
Gary D. Gaddy, who is himself of the Caucasian persuasion, eats out way too much.
A version of this article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday December 13, 2007.
Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy