Cafe Hon

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Cafe Hon
Cafe Hon, with the flamingo
Restaurant information
Established 1992
Current owner(s) Denise Whiting
Street address 1002 West 36th Street
City Baltimore
State Maryland
Postal code/ZIP 21211-2415
Country United States

Cafe Hon is a restaurant in the Hampden area of Baltimore, Maryland and site of the annual HonFest every June.


Opened by Denise Whiting in 1992, Cafe Hon takes its name from a common term of endearment ("hon" - an abbreviated version of the word "honey") used by Baltimore residents for years. In 2010, Whiting announced the opening of HONtown, a gift shop across the street from the restaurant. In 2014, the gift shop relocated to a smaller space next door to the restaurant.

On February 24, 2012, Cafe Hon was featured in an episode of the Fox network's Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay.[1]


In 2002, the distinct flamingo sculpture was introduced above the restaurant.[2] The original flamingo was made of wire and cloth.[3]

In October 2009, the city of Baltimore announced the Cafe Hon had to either get a permit for the flamingo at a cost of $1300 for the first year and $800 each year thereafter or to take it down.[4] The issue was that the flamingo protruded into the public right-of-way.[5] The bird was temporarily removed while this case was being disputed.

Whiting stated that the flamingo was "hibernating" during its time of absence, and was determined to fight the city.[3][citation needed] Whiting and the city finally reached an agreement, in which the permit fee would be at least $400 a year,[5] and the flamingo returned.[6]

The new flamingo that was introduced is made of fiberglass.[7]

Then-Mayor Sheila Dixon was present at the unveiling of the new flamingo.[8] Following Dixon's trial on corruption charges, Elaine Pollack, known as "Juror no. 11" during the trial, came under fire as it was later learned that she was present during the unveiling of the flamingo along with Dixon.[9][10] This was one of Dixon's last public appearances before her resignation.[11]

"Hon" as a trademark[edit]

In November 2010, Whiting trademarked the term "hon" for use on napkins, buttons, hats and other promotional material to promote Cafe Hon. The trademark, as stated by Whiting, doesn't prevent anyone from saying "hon"[12] or using it in general conversation.[12] The trademark issue was criticized by Dan Rodricks, columnist for The Baltimore Sun: "You can't own something that doesn't belong to you.... 'Hon' isn't unique to Denise Whiting, no matter how special she wants us to believe she is."[13] Because of Whiting's trademark many citizens of Baltimore were outraged and took to the streets in protest on December 19, 2010 to express their anger.[14]

On November 7, 2011, during the taping for Kitchen Nightmares, Whiting held a press conference with Ramsay present where she announced that she would be relinquishing the "Hon" trademark. Ramsay stated that with Cafe Hon, "There was a level of hatred that was almost untouchable. I've never known a restaurant to have such a huge issue." The Cafe Hon episode of Kitchen Nightmares has been briefly described in a Baltimore Sun article, stating that while a typical episode features "slovenly kitchens and indolent staffs", the Cafe Hon episode dealt with a "unique" public relations issue, "one woman vs. a city."[1] Whiting stated that the controversy over trademarking the word "Hon" had a huge toll on her business and her own health, she estimated that since it was first revealed in December of 2010 that "Hon" was trademarked to her, she estimated a "20 to 25 percent drop off" in sales and that she needed to sell her IRAs just to meet payroll.[15]

Whiting filed to have the trademark cancelled and announced it on Facebook on November 11, 2011.[16]


  1. ^ a b Gorelick, Richard. Tears, then hugs on Cafe Hon episode of 'Kitchen Nightmares', The Baltimore Sun, February 24, 2012. Accessed February 25, 2012.
  2. ^ "Quirks in the News". 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  3. ^ a b "Baltimore News | WBAL Radio 1090 AM". 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ a b "Across the USA News from every state". USA Today. 28 October 2009. 
  6. ^ "Baltimore News | WBAL Radio 1090 AM". Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  7. ^ "Baltimore: At City Hall this fall, talk was of Flamingogate". 2009-11-27. Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  8. ^ Boehm, Mike. "Entertainment - entertainment, movies, tv, music, celebrity, Hollywood - -". Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  9. ^ Vozzella, Laura (2 December 2009). "Laura Vozzella: The prolific Juror No. 11 finally gets to speak out". Los Angeles Times. 
  10. ^ Boehm, Mike. "Entertainment - entertainment, movies, tv, music, celebrity, Hollywood - -". Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  11. ^ "People speak out on Dixon's plea deal - Baltimore Sun". 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  12. ^ a b "Newsbox". Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  13. ^ Rodrick, Dan (11 December 2010). "Dan Rodricks: You don't own me, hon". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 16 December 2010. 
  14. ^ Rosen, Jill (19 December 2010). "Demonstrators protest 'Hon' trademark in Hampden". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  15. ^ Gorelick, Richard (2011-11-07). "Café Hon owner Denise Whiting drops her right to the 'Hon' trademark". Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  16. ^ Goldfarb, Bruce (2014-04-16). "Café Hon, Gordon Ramsay and the fight to liberate a word revisited". Baltimore Post-Examiner. Retrieved 2015-12-06. 

External links[edit]