It’s not easy to pin down Honey’s. Visually, this new West Loop restaurant, set inside a former machine shop, exudes a relaxed vibe. That holds true for both the lounge, with its whitewashed walls, high ceiling and marble-topped bar, and compact dining room, which skews Scandinavian cool with midcentury-modern chairs and plank-wood floors. Come early and you’ll be bathed in a soothing glow courtesy of the skylights.
But while Honey’s feels laid-back, tables are adorned with pristine white tablecloths. Housemade bread is served warm and paired with butter dusted with smoked Maldon salt. It’s the type of place where you’re just as likely to find, as I did, a trio of fashionably dressed older women discussing the sale of a friend’s villa sitting next to a young couple in cutoff jeans and baseball caps. Servers, whose uniforms of crisp white jackets and ties are accessorized with black Vans, ceremoniously fold your napkin when you get up from the table or bar as well as playfully offer a gratis splash of wine. “I have a problem,” deadpanned the bartender as he poured the small remainder of the bottle of the terrific, lightly effervescent 2015 Ameztoi, Txakoli de Getaria Rubentis ($14) I was drinking into my glass. (He’s got a knack for problem-solving, methinks.)
These contradictions aren’t random. Rather, it’s what the partners of Honey’s, whose varied résumés include restaurants, nightclubs, music and fashion, had hoped to create. (Virgil Abloh, creative director for Kanye West and founder of hot fashion label Off-White, is a minority partner.) “We wanted to take all those great elements of fine dining, high-quality ingredients, food and service,” says partner Justin Furman, “and take the edge off a bit.”
In the kitchen, Executive Chef Charles Welch (Sepia) translates that mindset into a concise menu of lovely Mediterranean-leaning dishes, many of which have had some of their ingredients visit the wood-burning grill. It’s not “fancy-pants food,” says Welch, who prefers to start with classic preparations and techniques before he makes a dish his own.