Cafe Hon
Cafe Hon, with the flamingo
Restaurant information
Owner(s)Denise Whiting
Street address1002 West 36th Street
Postal/ZIP Code21211-2415
CountryUnited States
Coordinates39°19′52″N 76°37′59″W / 39.331157°N 76.632920°W / 39.331157; -76.632920Coordinates: 39°19′52″N 76°37′59″W / 39.331157°N 76.632920°W / 39.331157; -76.632920

Cafe Hon was a restaurant in the Hampden area of Baltimore, Maryland.


Opened by Denise Whiting in 1992, Cafe Hon takes its name from a common term of endearment ("hon" is an abbreviated version of the word "honey") used by Baltimore residents for years.[1] 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.[2]

The restaurant closed in 2022, after Whiting leased the space to Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group. Whiting said the iconic flamingo sculpture will find a new home after the restaurant's departure.[3]


In 2002, the distinct flamingo sculpture was introduced above the restaurant.[4] The original flamingo was made of wire and cloth.[5]

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.[6] The issue was that the flamingo protruded into the public right-of-way.[7] 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.[5][citation needed] Whiting and the city finally reached an agreement, in which the permit fee would be at least $400 a year,[7] and the flamingo returned.[8]

The new flamingo that was introduced is made of fiberglass.[9]

Then-Mayor Sheila Dixon was present at the unveiling of the new flamingo.[10] 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.[11][12] This was one of Dixon's last public appearances before her resignation.[13]

"Hon" as a trademark

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"[14] or using it in general conversation.[14] 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."[15] The dispute prompted street protests on December 19, 2010, by Baltimore residents.[16]

On November 7, 2011, during the taping for Kitchen Nightmares, Whiting held a press conference with Gordon 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 was 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."[2] Whiting stated that the controversy over trademarking the word "Hon" had a huge toll on her business and her own health. Since it was first revealed in December 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.[17]

Whiting filed to have the trademark canceled and announced it on Facebook on November 11, 2011.[18]


  1. ^ Uzelac, Ellen (September 15, 1994). "A TERM OF ENDEARMENT? UBIQUITOUS `HON' USUALLY LOTS OF FUN, B". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b Gorelick, Richard. Tears, then hugs on Cafe Hon episode of 'Kitchen Nightmares', The Baltimore Sun, February 24, 2012. Accessed February 25, 2012.
  3. ^ April 29, Lauren Cohen (29 April 2022). "Cafe Hon Closing for Good, Foreman Wolf to Take Over". Baltimore Magazine. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  4. ^ "Quirks in the News". 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
  5. ^ a b "Baltimore News | WBAL Radio 1090 AM". 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2013-07-25.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ a b "Across the USA News from every state". USA Today. 28 October 2009.
  8. ^ "Baltimore News | WBAL Radio 1090 AM". Archived from the original on 2010-03-01. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
  9. ^ "Baltimore: At City Hall this fall, talk was of Flamingogate". 2009-11-27. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
  10. ^ Boehm, Mike. "Entertainment - entertainment, movies, tv, music, celebrity, Hollywood - -". Retrieved 2013-07-25.
  11. ^ Vozzella, Laura (2 December 2009). "Laura Vozzella: The prolific Juror No. 11 finally gets to speak out". Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  12. ^ Boehm, Mike. "Entertainment - entertainment, movies, tv, music, celebrity, Hollywood". Retrieved 2013-07-25.
  13. ^ Bykowicz, Julie. "Dixon resigns". Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on 2012-09-10. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  14. ^ a b "Newsbox". Archived from the original on 2011-10-04. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
  15. ^ Rodrick, Dan (11 December 2010). "Dan Rodricks: You don't own me, hon". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 16 December 2010.
  16. ^ Rosen, Jill (19 December 2010). "Demonstrators protest 'Hon' trademark in Hampden". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on 22 January 2011. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  17. ^ Gorelick, Richard (2011-11-07). "Café Hon owner Denise Whiting drops her right to the 'Hon' trademark". Retrieved 2013-07-25.
  18. ^ Goldfarb, Bruce (2014-04-16). "Café Hon, Gordon Ramsay and the fight to liberate a word revisited". Baltimore Post-Examiner. Retrieved 2015-12-06.