Honeychiles’ Opens Up in The Charleston
Slimy, free pizza or tasty, cheapish Cajun food? Punk rockers/new restaurant partners Jesse Crawford, Josh Martin and Jameson Proctor are betting on the latter. The partners, best known for their music—Martin and Crawford are, respectively, the guitarist and drummer in the punk group Ex Humans, while Proctor plays in the country rock revivalist band The Weight—have teamed up to open up Honeychiles’, a new Southern/Cajun joint located in the kitchen of The Charleston on Bedford Avenue. Gone are the days of a free slice with every beer; in are the days of affordable jambalaya, po’ boys, and Cajun peanuts.
“The opportunity kind of fell in our lap,” said Martin, during an interview that took place on the restaurant’s official opening on Monday night. “They were looking for someone to take over the kitchen at The Charleston and we knew the bartenders. Jesse [Crawford] is a foodie. It’s kind of his idea.”After that, the Ex Humans members got Proctor on board, a veteran of the food industry and one of the masterminds behind ‘wichcraft, the cheap and popular gourmet sandwich chain with several locations across Manhattan. “I was actually trying to retire from the restaurant business,” said Proctor. “But these guys roped me back in.”
Located at the busy intersection right off the Bedford L stop, Honeychiles’ at the Charleston seems like a done deal, destined for late-night popularity. Within two hours of opening, the counter already had a stack of orders burned through. The Thursday before, which was their opening party, they gave out free crawfish and sold out of their entire partial menu. Moreover, Honeychiles’ is wisely set up to deliver late into the night: Sunday through Wednesday until 2am and Thursday through Saturday until 3am.
Musicians opening up restaurants are a common occurrence in Williamsburg. Crawford sees the connection as a fairly natural one. “I feel like it’s just another extension of the creative mind,” he said.“Utilizing the same muscles in the brain that might be able to come up with a riff, that might be able to come up with a recipe. Riffs, recipes—same [thing,]” he laughed.
For Crawford and his partners, who hail from the Southern cities of Jacksonville and Atlanta, the desire to do Cajun food comes from, according to Crawford, “strictly selfish” reasons. “We were just craving the food all the time and there’s no real niche or anything filling that void,” he said. “It kind of worked out that whatever I was craving was something the neighborhood was needing at the same time.”
As far as theirtattooed and cut-offed aesthetic goes, Crawford saw it this way: “Never judge a book by its cover. All the headlines and taglines are ‘Punks open this,’ ‘Punk, punk, punk,’” That’s cool. I mean, first and foremost, that’s what’s in our heart, we grew up with punk rock music. But we’ll be the first ones to throw on an Otis Redding record or a Wilson Pickett album before you know it. Or I’ll throw on some ‘Trane or Miles. We’re punks, but there’s other dimensions to us. I think that goes with any punk rocker. It’s a kitschy tagline for the media to hold on to. If that’s gonna get people to come out and eat our food, then [screw] it, I don’t care. That’s fine. I just want to feed people.”
Crawford and company may have broad musical horizons, but they did draw the line at certain kinds of music, one of them being the band Train, which was what I had, for a very brief moment, originally thought he was talking about. “Oh yeah, Train, Spyro Gyra, Traffic,” dead-panned Crawford. “I’m really into the progressive free jazz, uh, fusion movement.” He laughed. “No. The only fusion I’m into is fusion of food. I’m kind of a Puritan when it comes to music.”
Current items on the menu (which, along with the Honeychiles’ sign out front, was beautifully illustrated by cartoonist and neighborhood resident Avi Spivak) include “vittles”—chicken and andouille jambalaya (small portion $5/large portion $9), smoked tofu jambalaya ($4/$7) and the soon-to-be-classic po’ boys, featuring the seafood special (shrimp this week), or beef or veggie options. Some of the “fixins” include smoked cheddar and green onion hush puppies ($3) and delicious Cajun boiled peanuts ($3) which this Southerner will attest to being authentic with just the right amount of tangy kick.
But be on the look out for more exotic fare too. “I’m actually going to get gator as soon as I can,” said Crawford. “We might do fried gator and a gator po’ boy. In the fall, we’re going to do a shrimp and gator combo. And then maybe turtle gumbo, who knows? We’re trying to push the envelope and keep danger in music and food.”
Honeychiles’. At the Charleston. 188 Bedford Avenue (between North 7th Street and North 8th)