The Original Honey’s
Honey’s Family Sports Bar Restaurant
11115 North Dale Mabry Highway
Let me preface this review with: Holy shit, Honey’s chicken wings.
Other than Google confusing me on what I should list as the proper name of this restaurant, I couldn’t find anything wrong with my chicken wing crushin’ experience at Honey’s (caveat, their credit card machine was down and usually that’s a deal breaker as I am wont to never have cash in my pocket… except today I had some greenbacks in my wallet!). Honey’s was so good that it broke me out of my writing malaise. Before I ramble on about how much I liked the food, I’ll build out the atmosphere for you. Honey’s is a sports bar. When you step inside it’s fairly dark to give you a better shot at watching the game you want to see, without glare from the Florida sun. Honey’s has a fairly similar ‘feel’ to that of one of my old haunts in Lansing (see Bonnie’s Place), in that you can get a good bite to eat without a bunch of bullshit and maybe catch the game you wanted to see while you’re at it. Likewise the wait-staff aren’t scantily clad young ladies, serving you tender vittles with a side of silicone. Don’t get me wrong, I like the sight of pleasant looking young lasses as much as the next guy, but I don’t like feeling like a fucking creeper because my server is all T&A’d up so I wind up goggling at her while trying to mow down a burger. <insert stale ‘breast/chicken breast’ joke here>, yeah that’s not me.
One thing I find myself craving in Tampa are hole in the wall joints to grab a bite or a beer. Pyschoanalyzing this desire aside, finding these kinds of places in Tampa is fairly difficult. One reason Lansing may have a plethora of these kind of places could be due to the town’s blue collar residents. A city that was home to several GM plants and specifically to a large GM car assembly factory from 1901 until 2005, the longest operating factory in the US when it closed (all that remains are the gates and plots of land full of rubble); generations of line workers defining the culture in the Capitol City, subtly dictating the kinds of establishments that thrived and remained open throughout the years. For better or worse, the same culture that likely led to Lansing having more bars per capita than any other capital city in the United States. (This being a factoid I’d heard years ago and I can’t speak to the veracity of the previous statement, but suffice it to say that there are a shitload of bars in Lansing in comparison to the population density.) Another likely factor is the presence of Michigan State University. Cash strapped students are always looking for a good deal, and any joint with competitive prices that serves up a good dish can keep itself in business. While not all hole in the wall joints serve up the best experience (or the best of anything, sometimes they’re a hole in the wall because they just plain suck), there is something to be said for a place that must simply stand on its drink or food without reliance on being prettied up. My love of these places could be to due to being a general malcontent, or it could be the value of these places and the experiences I’ve had at them. You can only dine at an Applebee’s so often before wanting to kick and punch your way out of manufactured mediocrity.
Restaurants and bars in Tampa generally lean away from the hole in the wall and tend toward a vibe of business casual lunches and dinners. While there is nothing wrong with going out and not having to put up with that drunk guy in the corner cursing like a well traveled sailor, I generally prefer not feeling like I’m underdressed when dining in a t-shirt and jeans. Tampa certainly had a blue collar grounding with its early 20th century cigar production (see: Cigar City), but that same hard working populace did not seem to have the same impact that Michigan autoworkers had on their area. I don’t know whether that’s due to the drastic differences in the locale or some other influences (differences: where Lansing is bathed in snow for a quarter of the year and shares lists with the likes of Seattle and Buffalo for being some of the most overcast cities in the US, whereas Tampa is continuously drenched in sunshine and heat and you’re never far from a beach). Honey’s did not disappoint regarding appropriate dress and vibe, we felt at home in our t-shirts and jeans.
I had heard from my neighbor Lindsay for months that Honey’s has the best wings in Tampa. While she has yet to steer us wrong in this respect, I can be stubborn in quick acceptance as I generally like to find things out on my own (like my father before me, you can tell me the stove is hot, but I don’t believe it until my hand is burnt). I usually grab lunch with my friends/coworkers and we generally like to try new things for lunch, but unfortunately Honey’s is just far enough from the office that it managed to stay off our list of restaurants to try. Due to the distance, you’re pretty much bound to take a lunch that is longer than an hour. While an occasional long lunch isn’t a problem at work, you don’t want to waste a long lunch on a crappy or mediocre restaurant. Due to the blue corn Moon aligning with the stars and other mystical forces and shit, we wound up taking a shot at Honey’s today.
While Honey’s has a large and delicious sounding menu, I had eyes only for chicken wings today. On the advice of my coworkers who had gone to Honey’s the week prior, I ordered 16 of the Spicy Garlic Parmesan wings with a side of Hot Sauce and I was not disappointed. I would prefer that they sold their wings in 5’s or 10’s as I think 10 chicken wings are generally the filling point when ordering wings. Despite this, I managed to house 14 of these bad boys (the other guys at the table polished off the other two) and crush some fries. I washed it all down with unsweetened iced tea. I ordered a large order of the homemade fries to share with the table; the fries come in half pound and pound orders. Honey’s doesn’t mess around.
I don’t think my words will do Honey’s wings the justice they deserve. The wings themselves were high quality, with the perfect ratio of sauce to meat and lacking the superfluous amount of skin and fat that some wings have. The wings were cooked exactly how I like them, where the skin winds up a bit crispy but not overcooked and dried out or inundated with oil. The sauce itself was fantastic, a bit of heat with a bold garlic flavor and dusted with the right amount of parmesan. I enjoy some spice with my food and their hot sauce was the perfect compliment to the wings’ base sauce. Dan ordered the Spicy Honey Garlic wings, and anyone with a bit of a sweet-tooth would appreciate this flavor. They were sweet, yet not cloyingly so. The fries appeared to be house cut, lightly salted, and fried to order. If you want to eat chicken wings, and eat the best chicken wings in Tampa then you need to go to Honey’s.
My friend Phil ordered the Beef and Cheddar Sandwich which looked delicious, and Jacob ordered the Chicken Sandwich (which in turn looked delicious):
Overall Honey’s earned a Rating: stars. That elusive 5 is reserved for those meals that are so good you can’t put a finger on it, and typically involves the company with you. The spectre of returning to work may have been that -.5, but either way Honey’s deserves a visit.
-Matt in Tampa