Fast-casual is a big buzzword in the restaurant scene these days. Everywhere you turn, eateries that prepare high-quality cuisine without full service seem to be popping up.
Honeygrow is such a concept, specializing in salads, stir-fries and fruit bowls made with fresh, local ingredients. The Philadelphia-based company opened two locations in Baltimore in late 2016: Charles Village and, most recently, the Exelon Building at Harbor Point.
We headed to the city's newest mixed-use development to see what all the fuss was about. We walked into Honeygrow around 11:30 a.m. on a weekday, hoping to beat the lunch rush, and the place was already bulging with customers, most looking like office workers.
The staff behind the counter and open kitchen greeted us, and we got in line to order our food. A menu of stir-fries and salads is posted on chalkboards hanging on a wall, along with the names of area farms whose products are used — like FreeBird Chicken from Fredericksburg, Pa., and kale from Richardson Farms in White Marsh.
You can pick suggested dishes like spicy garlic with chicken, or the Chesapeake crab (available only in Maryland and D.C.) with white noodles and Old Bay sauce. You can also make up your own combination. The same goes with the salads.
There's a sweet side, too — the restaurant's honeybar offers fresh fruit with additions like granola and yogurt, and different kinds of honey or maple syrup.
We liked the do-it-yourself touchscreen ordering process. It took about 10 minutes for us to get our meal; we were summoned with our numbers when the food was ready. There are several tables and a counter, but a lot of people were waiting to take their food to go.
Honeygrow founder and CEO Justin Rosenberg said he became intrigued with stir-fries and salads during a period of his life when he was vegan, and was inspired to start a fast-casual restaurant.
"It's based on a plant-based diet," he said. "We wanted to launch what we love."
Scene & Décor The Harbor Point Honeygrow is a functional space with a small dining area, glass windows; concrete floors; wood, white tile and stainless steel accents; and a mural and chalkboard designed by local artists. The bench seating isn't very comfortable, and we felt confined by an unmovable table.
Appetizers Not applicable
Entrees I'm not sure there's a wrong order to be had. The ingredients are fresh and well-prepared. We really liked the Sweet Soy Five Spice stir-fry ($8.45) with brown rice, togarashi-spiced (a peppery Japanese blend) turkey, green beans, red onions and sesame seeds. The Walnut St. Noodle Salad ($8.45) succeeded with whole-wheat noodles, organic arugula lettuce, mushrooms, raw cauliflower, roasted walnuts and crispy Parmesan wafers. The walnut lemon dressing paired well with the mix, but it was doled out sparingly. We could have used more.
Drinks Fountain drinks made with real sugar are offered, as well as bottled spring water and San Pellegrino sparkling water.
Service The staff behind the counter is polite and welcoming.
Dessert The honeybar allows diners to create their own snacks with chopped fresh fruit, garnishes and local honey. The Wildflower ($6.70) — featuring mild honey, yogurt, strawberries, pineapple and coconut — was a treat. The Clover ($5.45) features floral honey; we chose to add apples, grapes, blueberries, chocolate chips and granola for a delicious mix.
Backstory: The Philadelphia-based fast-casual chain Honeygrow started in 2012 and is growing. It will open its 16th store, in Brooklyn, N.Y., in April, with another location planned for Chicago in the fall. The Baltimore restaurants in Charles Village and Harbor Point opened in November and December, respectively.
Signature dish: Chesapeake Crab stir-fry
TVs: No TVs
Where: 1309 Dock St., Harbor Point
Contact: 667-212-3934, honeygrow.com
Open: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Credit Cards: All major
Reservations: Does not accept
Bottom line: If you're looking for a quick, freshly made, delicious meal, a visit to Honeygrow will leave you satisfied.