Monday, May 26, 2008

tragedy strikes


A lot has happened since we last wrote about the Lemont Street Cafe. Shortly after our original entry, LSC underwent a name change and the final phase of a nice remodeling, rechristening itself as the Shea Cafe. I don't know the story behind the name change, or if Shea was pronounced as "Shay" (rhymes with clay) or "She-ah" (rhymes with diarrhea). I'm leaning more towards the former, since it also rhymes with cafe and there was a sparse collection of baseball memorabilia in a display case by the register.

Anyway, the name change didn't bring about sweeping changes (though in rereading our original review, I can say with confidence the service really did seem to improve over the following year and a half, though it was never particularly bad to begin with). It was still the same good food and friendly atmosphere. You were always made to feel welcome, and you could tell that the owners loved their work and were truly appreciative whenever you walked through the doors. The Lemont Street Cafe/Shea Cafe was always one of our favorite spots for breakfast and lunch, a fact that wouldn't be clear to me until well after we'd written our original review and kept coming back for more.

Despite being one of our favorites, we spent a few months away from Shea exploring other restaurants in the area, always confident that we'd be able to return whenever we'd like. Imagine our shock and disappointment when we drove by more than a month ago to find this note taped to the inside of the door. I only hope that everyone there is back on their feet somewhere else by now. What a pity that restaurants run by passionate people can't make it here anymore, while others content to just go through the motions every day get to stay in business.


Ayinsan here. Around the same time Shea Cafe closed its doors, Spring View--another nice restaurant--shut down. Not sure what the "All New This Fall" message means. Will it be the same restaurant under new ownership? Will it be someplace completely new? The sign offers no clues, but apparently there will be something in this location come Fall. I have to wonder what will happen to the koi in the meantime. I hope they're okay. We've only been to Spring View a couple times, but I liked the place. I was sorry to see it go.


As if the combined loss of Shea Cafe and Spring View weren't enough, the Baker Square in St. Charles recently closed its doors as well. Okay, so it's not quite the same. After all, there are plenty of other Baker Squares in the area, so it's not like a unique restaurant has vanished forever from the face of the Earth. Still, I always liked the one in St. Charles. It always seemed a little cleaner, a little nicer.

Why are so many restaurants going out of business? Probably the sagging economy is to blame, at least in part...but I guess the real question is, why do so many crappy restaurants remain in business while the good ones die out? It's a mystery for the ages.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Honey, Glen Ellyn

499 N Main St
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137

May 12, 2008


It's hard to review Honey objectively. It took us a long time to get there, and then we had to drive around awhile longer looking for parking. So by the time we arrived, we were over-hungry and kind of irritable, and there was some construction going on right outside the window, so we had to listen to someone jackhammering through the entire meal. Of course, none of this is the restaurant's fault, but all of it combined to make the experience less pleasant than it could have been.

Honey is similar to Orange in the overall appearance and decor, and even the type of plates. The interior has a clean, open, well-lit look. Maybe my experiences at Orange colored my perceptions of this restaurant, but I expected to find a lot of different, exotic breakfast dishes here. However, the menu is pretty basic. There are plenty of egg dishes, but only a handful of carbohydrate-based breakfast entrees, and I happen to like carbohydrates for breakfast. There were pancakes, french toast (which was unavailable because they were out of bread), pan-fried oatmeal cakes, and one or two other things I can't remember now. I ordered the plain buttermilk pancakes, which were delicious, and a side of bacon. Considering how expensive said bacon was (at least three dollars, I think) I was disappointed at how scrawny the pieces were. They were sliced so thin, they were almost transparent.

Joe had the pan-seared oatmeal, which is something I've never encountered before: Oatmeal baked into big, solid triangle-shaped pieces and topped with dried apples, apricots and other assorted dried fruits. Possibly the largest amount of fiber ever packed into a single entree. If you need to--ahem--get the ol' pipes unclogged, this might be just the thing.

In front there's a little cafe type thing where they sell coffee and desserts. I got a vanilla bean cupcake, which I had later, and it was possibly the most intensely vanilla-flavored thing I've ever had. Don't get me wrong, it was good, but I couldn't eat more than a bite or two of it at a time. Maybe if we ever come back here, I'll try the red velvet or the chocolate flavored cupcakes.


Joe here. I'm not even sure I want to review Honey right now but since the chances of us returning there under better conditions any time soon are pretty slim, we'd better just make the best out of what we have. Honey sits in the middle of downtown Glen Ellyn, a pretty nice area that I've never been to before last week. I know, lots of suburbs like to flaunt their downtown authenticity these days -- usually with overpriced condos and banners on lightposts ("Visit historic downtown _____! Theatres! Shoppes! Parkes!") -- in hopes of establishing their street cred, or something. But really, this was a nice town from what we saw. We drove around for a few minutes trying to find unmetered parking spots, but should have saved ourselves the trouble since the one we settled for only cost ten cents per hour.

Our first impressions of Honey reminded us immediately of Orange in Chicago. The clean and cozy dining room was warm and inviting, but in a modern and minimal style that's a big break from the traditional family restaurant setup. The creative cuisine looked very Orange-ish too. No wonder; Honey's menu was designed by an (ex-?) Orange chef. We'd forgotten our camera on our trip to Orange and had to grab a cheap disposable one at the last minute instead. What a shame, since Orange's decor and beautifully-presented food was among the most photo-worthy we've ever seen. The same goes for Honey, so we made sure to bring the digital camera along and took lots of photos. However, tragedy struck again as I deleted almost all of them by mistake! You'll find some fine substitutions here, though.

I ordered the pan-seared oatmeal, which arrived in hefty little triangles decorated in dried fruits and drizzled in honey. It was truly a sight to see. How I wish I could show it to you! A little of this went a long way, and I was forced to box up the leftovers for later. I tried some of Ayinsan's pancakes and they were absolutely amazing. Smooth like velvet, lightly kissed with a touch of honey that gave them a sweet finish, and really unlike any pancakes I've ever had before. I only wish I was in better shape to appreciate them! I wasn't feeling my best that afternoon, and the effects of long drive along with the pounding jackhammer on the sidewalk just outside of the window we were sitting by -- I wouldn't think you could run a jackhammer on a piece of concrete only a few square feet wide for so long, but apparently you can make the experience last for more than an hour if you really want to -- were only further dulling my senses and distracting me from what otherwise may have been one of the best restaurants we've ever been to.

I can't blame Honey for what was a less-than-pleasant dining experience. I'd love to return soon, hopefully under better conditions all around, just to see if it's really good enough to be "the suburban Orange," or maybe even something better altogether. Maybe we didn't completely agree about Honey, but I know we'd agree that finding restaurants like this that are willing to try new things with old traditions sure makes writing this blog a hell of a lot more interesting.

HoneyMenu1 HoneyMenu2