Honeychiles, at The Charleston
174 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg
Rating: 4 out of 5 L's
I'm a firm believer in the five-second rule. This, however, was in the Charleston (imagine a hobo pissing on wet newspaper and you'll get a good idea of how the place smells). But there it was: a juicy piece of fried shrimp, beautifully seasoned and lightly battered, sitting near my friend's foot. I looked down, back up at my friend, and back down again, until I finally reached over to pick it up and pop it in my mouth. That's right, folks, the food at Honeychiles is so good, you'll eat it off the floor of the goddamn Charleston.
Let me explain. Honeychiles, the restaurant, operates out of the kitchen of the Charleston, which was previously used to prepare free pizza for drunk people. Now Jesse Crawford, Josh Martin and Jameson Proctor (the first two of the band Ex Humans, the latter of The Weight) cook up tasty and affordable Cajun fare, also for drunk people. Place your order at the counter in front and order a few rounds. When you're tipsy enough to start reminiscing about your punk rock days, it's time to go check on your food.
There is jambalaya, of course, with hearty andouille sausage and chicken, rice soaking up the fatty flavors and the heat. The smoked cheddar and green onion hush puppies are as dense as they are delicious, little cheese-and-cornmeal bombs spiked with piquancy. The black-eyed peas were fall-apart soft and smoky from the tasso ham. Choose the seafood special po'boy and hope they have shrimp, for reasons already stated at the beginning of this review—also, the first time I went the catfish was a little dry. All was forgiven on my second trip as I dug into a roll piled high with shrimp, topped with lettuce, tomato and thick daubs of tangy mayo.
The only thing amiss was the Caesar salad. Not that it wasn't good; it just seemed a bit pointless, a pile of iceberg lettuce in creamy dressing, little chunks of fried catfish alone in a sea of green. Surely these talented cooks can concoct a more inventive salad?
Try to grab one of the few tables outside, where the people-watching is unbeatable: European tourists on holiday, mustachioed men on Harleys, teenagers acting like it's no big deal and Generation Y in all of its iPhone-using, vintage clothes-wearing glory. The best part? You can probably get out of there for around $10 (not including the cost of antibiotics should you eat anything off the ground).