(keep reading to learn what happened)
Season: 5 | View All Season 5 Episodes
Original Episode Air Date: February 24, 2012
Cafe Hon Address: 1002 W 36th St Baltimore, MD 21211
Cafe Hon was a Baltimore, Maryland restaurant featured on Season 5 of Kitchen Nightmares.
Though the Cafe Hon Kitchen Nightmares episode aired in February 2012, the actual filming and visit from Gordon Ramsay took place a few months earlier in November 2011.
It was Season 5 Episode 13.
This episode of Kitchen Nightmares is a lesson about how much harm can one person do to his own business while being blinded by their cult of personality or by their greediness.
Cafe Hon is a restaurant located in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore which opened in 1992 and has since been a local trademark for serving good American comfort food.
Denise Whiting is the owner and has put a lot of effort into keeping it successful.
That much effort and desire to make a profit that she actually trademarked the word Hon and took ownership of it, so that no one else can do anything with the actual word without her permission.
This is the story where Gordon Ramsay comes along in an attempt to save the business.
“Hon” is traditionally a very important and valuable term for the local community since it is usually used as a kind, familiar way of addressing someone.
Once Denise decided to steal this from the locals, chaos came into her life.
People stopped eating at Cafe Hon, the media and the community engaged in a lot of adversity towards Denise’s actions, practically there began a war between one business woman and the city.
No one liked Denise anymore, not even her staff.
She made all the wrong decisions in the management of the restaurant and got to the point where all her money were being put in a falling business.
In the episode, Ramsay first gets an idea of what is happening from the media and the staff, goes to the restaurant and meets the main characters of the story, gets a taste of the menu at Cafe Hun and decides the dishes are disappointing, and also observes the kitchen working on a busy evening.
Everything is a mess, Denise is the center of all the problems, so the following day Ramsay gathers all the personnel to let them talk about all their complaints concerning their boss.
Denise gets a really cold shower from everyone and becomes more aware of what is actually the issue in her business.
Next, on the way to save Cafe Hon, Ramsay meets some local representatives to talk about the Hon trademark and how Denise’s actions affected the local community and its pride.
Denise listens to the entire conversation and is amazed by what people actually think of her.
She is humbled and decides to do the right thing.
So, after Ramsay redecorates and redesigns the entire menu for Cafe Hun, they both go to the local radio, where Denise officially apologizes to everyone for having made such a terrible mistake with the Hon trademark.
She also announces that she will cancel the trademark.
This is actually confirmed later in November 2011 on her Facebook page.
So was the Cafe Hon Kitchen Nightmares episode a success after Gordon Ramsay implemented his changes and Denise gave up the “hon” trademark? Let’s find out!
Cafe Hon Update - What Happened Next?
Now that we’ve recapped the Cafe Hon Kitchen Nightmares episode, let’s talk about what happened to the restaurant after Gordon Ramsay and his crew left Baltimore.
First off, Denise didn’t keep all of Gordon’s changes, as she did make some changes to his menu.
This includes changes to the crab cakes.
Despite that, Cafe Hon was still doing quite well.
Gordon Ramsay revisited the restaurant in May 2012 and it seems like the restaurant had been able to move past a lot of the bad press over the “hon” trademark.
Here’s a video of the Cafe Hon revisit – it starts at around 2 minutes in the video:
About a year later in May 2013, Cafe Hon further redecorated and renovated the restaurant.
Cafe Hon Reviews After Kitchen Nightmares
Overall, Cafe Hon had just a 2.5 star rating on Yelp and a 4.0 star rating on Google Reviews.
While that sounds bad, recent reviews from 2020 on were much more positive, most likely because the restaurant had shed much of the bad will about the “hon” trademark.
Here’s a sampling of some of the reviews that were written long after the Cafe Hon Kitchen Nightmares episode.
3 star Yelp review from December 2021:
So the crab dip was frickin delish. Good quality crab, sweet, chunky, not too much cream cheese or mayo. The fritz sandwich was okay. Good bacon, but chicken salad was nothing special. Tasted fresh at least. The fries are skinny. Pretty good fries. The special sauce wasn’t well balanced. Too flavorful, I think too much lemon and garlic. Made me kinda sick. The honey mustard my girlfriend loved but somehow I thought it tasted like sherbet lol. Anyways, would come back for the crab dip and try some other entrees.
4 star Yelp review from June 2021;
My group went for brunch at Cafe Hon. We were seated and served quickly (and a party of 8-10). I will need to have another visit – I had no greeting from Elvis and perhaps afternoon service is different than morning. The food was good. Just being on The Avenue makes me happy!
5 star Yelp review from February 2021:
Love Sunday Brunch at Cafe Hon. Old World charm, earthy and not trying too hard to be something it isn’t. Owner Denise, does a good job with the menu, l Iike all the egg dishes.
5 star Yelp review from November 2020:
Very nice people, it’s a cozy nice place with good food. I don’t know why people rated this place low. Highly recommend.
Is Cafe Hon from Kitchen Nightmares still open?
Cafe Hon closed on April 29, 2022, which means it survived for a full decade after the Kitchen Nightmares episode aired on TV.
The restaurant closed because Denise Whiting wanted to move on with her life, perhaps into a more retirement-like lifestyle.
In an interview with Baltimore Magazine, she had this to say:
It’s something that’s been in the works for a long time. I’m 63, and it’s time for me to look into doing a little something different. When I started, I never imagined it would last this long. But I really feel like I’m on a path, and this is the next thing. I’ve always known that when the time was right, the opportunity would present itself.
The restaurant was sold to Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group, which will transform Cafe Hon into a new concept and name.
Overall, while this one will technically go on Gordon Ramsay’s closed list, I really don’t think you can call it a failure by any means.
Denise kept Cafe Hon open for 30 years – three full decades. That’s far longer than most restaurants get.
Additionally, Cafe Hon survived for a full decade after Gordon Ramsay’s visit and didn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down.
Denise just wanted to move on with her life after 30 years, and that’s no one’s “failure”.
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Last updated: 2022-05-01 08:24