The Honey Pot traps some tourists

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by Eric Ginsburg

We arrived just before the dinner rush began but fully expecting to try and duke it out for three neighboring barstools at the back of the restaurant. It was a Saturday night, and whomever answered the phone at the Honey Pot earlier that day said the earliest time we could lock in a reservation for three would be 8:45. But this would be our only chance, so we gambled, and with luck someone canceled just before we sauntered in.

See, my parents were visiting from Boston last weekend, as they do about once a year, and wanted to try something new. I’ve lived in Greensboro for almost a decade now, and in that span we’ve hit every higher-end restaurant the Gate City has to offer — several of them twice. We even managed to fold in a run to the divey but excellent Boss Hog’s barbecue in east Greensboro and hit up the new (and worthwhile) brunch at Southern Lights Bistro this year.

But I’ve really fallen for Winston-Salem in the last year since we started Triad City Beat. I’d taken my parents to the Camel City before — the highlight was a meal at Bib’s, we agree — but my knowledge of the city runs much deeper now. Given their appreciation for quality food, not to mention their willingness to pick up the tab, I knew I wanted to take them to the Honey Pot.

So after an informal tour of Black Mountain Chocolate, dipping into a few Downtown Arts District galleries and being surprised how many close unreasonably early on Saturdays, enjoying an afternoon cocktail on Single Brothers’ patio and swinging by West End Millworks for a quick tour and to say hello to Scot at Sutler’s Spirit, we headed to Fourth Street.

The 'rents
The ‘rents

The Honey Pot opened just a hair over a year ago, and friends started recommending it to me a few months ago. “It’s fancy, with an Asian influence,” they’d say, “and it’s excellent.” So never having been and without even glancing at a menu online, we slipped in.

It’s a small space, with seating for 50 including eight stools at the bar. This night the crowd leaned towards small groups like ours. It’s not a white-tablecloth, date-night and classic-music kind of place, unless we’re talking classic rock — Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits didn’t play audibly enough for my mom to identify it by name, but loudly enough for her to roll her eyes.

The restaurant is a touch less refined than its upscale counterparts and slightly disjointed in theme, not surprising considered it’s owned by the same people behind Tate’s Craft Cocktails next door. But we weren’t fazed — we effortlessly talked over the music and marveled at the food.

Duck laap
Duck laap

Follow our lead and start with the duck laap, a Thai dish of ground duck with chili powder, kaffir and toasted rice powder. We scooped spoonfuls onto bibb lettuce and stuck cucumber slices on top, the cool greens somewhat cutting the delicious spice of the fowl.

The menu is an amalgam of options ranging from Buffalo-fried oysters and buttermilk-fried poulet rouge leg to goat vindaloo, a spicy Indian curry. My mom, a lifelong Northerner who likes to indulge in sweet tea when visiting, almost ordered the fried pork chops to soak up the South, but we settled on a side of braised collards that were as vinegary as anywhere else but a surprise to these Yanks.

Given that ramen is the current leading food craze, plenty of Triadians are frustrated at the lack of local options. But I’m here to tell you that the roasted rabbit ramen at the Honey Pot — served in a magical, sweet shoyu broth with pickled shiitake mushrooms, greens, rabbit bacon and a Japanese seasoning called furikake — is unbelievably good.

My mom and I argued over the final bites, compromising when I let her polish off the well-executed house-made tagliatelle pasta with black truffle, morel mushrooms, red Russian kale and pecorino. But then, as I tried to tell a story, my dad successfully snuck his spoon into the ramen bowl for several bites.

The menu at the Honey Pot changes every six weeks, so chances are high I won’t experience the joy of the rabbit ramen again. And my parents certainly won’t — they were home in the snow less than 24 hours later.

Panna cotta (left) and chocolate bread pudding
Panna cotta (left) and chocolate bread pudding

But we left excited about everything we ate, including the sea scallops and a chocolate bread pudding (we ordered both desserts on the menu because hey, they’re on vacation).

On the short drive back to Greensboro, my parents asked if I was thinking about relocating to Winston-Salem, a question that wouldn’t have occurred to any of us on previous visits. But I have been considering it, and they could see why after our day downtown. The trick is convincing them they should make the move, too.

Visit the Honey Pot at 285 W. Fourth St. in downtown Winston-Salem or go to honeypot-wsnc.com.