Closure of iconic Baltimore cafe after 30 years will become Foreman Wolf concept – Baltimore Sun
Here is the 30-foot flamingo.
Hampden’s Cafe Hon on the Avenue is serving its last dinner Friday night before closing to make way for a new concept, according to a statement from Foreman Wolf, the restaurant group that took over the place.
Owner Denise Whiting, who founded neighborhood festival HONfest in 1994, said after 30 years of running a restaurant she expects “a bit of time off”.
Tony Foreman, co-founder of the restaurant group, acknowledged Hon’s story in a statement, saying, “We respect all of Cafe Hon’s efforts that have brought the spirit of this deeply Baltimore neighborhood to the public eye. .”
Cafe Hon was easily identified by the eye-catching and huge flamingo on its exterior by artist Randall Gornowich.
Technically speaking, it’s a flamingosaur, with a cutout of a tyrannosaurus behind it. Gornowich built the structure of the restaurant as a Christmas decoration. Years later, it’s still there.
In 2009, Baltimore residents rallied in support of Whiting after city inspectors said she had to pay hefty fees to keep the flamingo in place.
This resulted in a “Big Bird” PR campaign and what Whiting called “the best front-page story ever”. The front page of the Baltimore Sun, she said, showed the City Hall lawn, littered with flamingos on the City Hall lawn.
But Whiting became a polarizing figure during the restaurant’s years of operation. She drew the ire of many after dropping the word “Hon”, an affectionate term in Baltimore.
“She owns ‘Hon’ use rights to napkins, note cards, stationery, calendars and pens,” said a 2010 article in The Baltimore Sun. “Without his permission, it cannot be used on sweatshirts, hats, underwear, ties, shorts – and certainly not boas.”
The backlash caught the attention of Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares.” For a 2011 episode of the Fox TV show, Ramsay and his team attempted to revive Cafe Hon’s menu and public image.
Whiting later apologized in an ad with Ramsay, saying, “The word’s trademark not only nearly killed me, it nearly killed the business.”
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HONfest is set to return this year on June 11-12.
When asked what he could share about his plans for the space, formerly Benson’s Hardware, Foreman replied, “Nothing at all.”
Would it be family? Foreman wouldn’t say. Would it be a move for an existing restaurant? (Foreman Wolf runs Johnny’s and Petit Louis in nearby Roland Park, as well as two restaurants in Baltimore’s Harbor East neighborhood and one in Harbor Point.) He wouldn’t say.
All Foreman would tell The Sun is, “We’re very excited about the new location…I have a vision for space.”
He noted that the flamingo was leaving with Whiting.
Gornowich, the artist, said he would like to see it installed near the Roosevelt Park skate park.
“I don’t want to see it disappear. I think it’s become a bit of a landmark.