Leslie Montemurro and Scott Johnson know how to run an empire—a restaurant/bar empire, to be exact. Since opening their first venture, Fuel Cafe, they have added a growing number of venues to their list of successes. These venues are not mere carbon copies of one another, but places with a unique identity all their own. Among them are the Hi Hat Lounge, the Garage, Palomino, Balzac and Comet Cafe. Earlier this year, along with partners Valerie and Adam Lucks, they opened their latest creation, the Honeypie Bakery and Cafe.
Honeypie, located in the former Annona Bistro in Bay View, is an inviting spot. The front room features spacious tables, along with a comfortable bar that has a fine selection of microbrew and imported beers. The eclectic decor includes a large map of the neighborhood and assorted North Woods touches like stuffed deer heads, colorful ducks and a muskie. There is also a fenced outdoor patio, complete with hanging plants.
On the menu, you’ll find a few appetizers, some salads, five entrees, a soup of the day and, of course, desserts. The menu’s homemade items are reminiscent of Comet Cafe, but Honeypie adds a unique Midwest theme to its food, with chicken, pork and turkey dominating the meats. About half of the items are sandwiches with names like turkulator, porkslaw and Iowa skinny. Sandwich orders include some excellent homemade fries. For an extra dollar, the fries may be substituted with a soup or house salad. For $2, you may substitute the fries with a piece of pie.
The Midwestern theme is best expressed with the pork fries appetizer ($9). This is a bit like Quebec poutine, which is fries smothered with cheese and nearly anything else possible. Here the fries are topped with barbecue pulled pork, cheese sauce, bacon, scallions and even slices of pickled jalapenos. This is a mountain of food and will easily serve a group of people as a messy but fun starter.
Diners will also be tempted by a display case holding pasties ($5) along with pies and cupcakes of the day. Pasties are small pies filled with combinations of meat and vegetables. Cornish in origin, they can be found in Mineral Point, Wis., and more extensively in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. An alluring beef pasty comes with a fine crust and a filling augmented with potatoes and carrots. Vegetarian pasties are also frequently offered.
The chicken and biscuit pie ($11) is a ceramic crock topped with an amazing crust, rich and buttery. The chicken is in a broth with diced potatoes, carrots, corn and bits of sweet red pepper. It’s pure comfort food.
The davenport ($10) is the ultimate open-faced turkey sandwich. The bread includes caraway seeds, and the turkey comes topped with bacon, red onion and slices of tomato. You also receive horseradish mashed potatoes, Gruyere sauce and delightful cranberry sauce with the novel pairing of mustard. The tomato and onion feel a bit misplaced; otherwise, this is a fine choice for a hearty appetite.
The side items hold up well. A soup or salad is offered with the pasty for an extra $2. The salad, made of leaf lettuce with carrot, cucumber and miniature tomatoes, comes with dressings that show homemade touches like creamy herbed ranch or tart citrus basil. The pastrami corn chowder— mellow in flavor, not salty—is prepared with potato, carrot, celery and chopped mushroom.
Like Comet Cafe, the kitchen is efficient and the service aims to please. When in the mood for homemade foods, Honeypie will do the trick. Besides, where else can you order a Stoli martini with a chocolate cupcake on the side?