Technology changes everything, eventually, and restaurants are no different. Wawa (like Circle K or Sheetz) and Applebee’s were the first to do it around here: touch screen ordering stations. Applebee’s uses them in conjunction with servers; Wawa in place of an ordering cashier. Honeygrow takes the latter approach; at no point does one have to interact with an employee. It’s a fast-casual dining experience that I’m struggling to find a comparison for: a noodle shop without a distinctly Asian flair. It reeks of the Milennial attitudes of sustainability and clean eating, not to mention localvoreism. They even have a dessert committed to saving the honeybee.
Four touchscreen boards make for ordering stations. Your first step will be to input your name and phone number in order to keep track more personally than simply assigning each guest a number. Giving Honeygrow your phone number allows their system to send you text message updates, which will work nicely if you’re using their app or want to visit any of the nearby shops after placing your order. Now it’s time to choose what to eat: a stir-fry or salad. Both templates are fully customizable, though I do recommend that—for your first time, at least—you get dishes as they’re built. The exception, however, is the red pepper flakes. They aren’t some light dusting you might add to a slice of pizza; the oils from the pepper are included with the flakes. This makes the whole bowl spicy as can be, and while I like being in capsaicin over my head, I can understand that not everyone does.
I went with a seasonal recipe: a sausage and pepper stir-fry. The sausage was sweet, but as it came with red pepper flakes, it was not a dish I could wolf down. The flavors all cooperated wonderfully, and I always enjoy eating with chopsticks. The trouble arises when noodles wiggle wildly, sticking red pepper flakes to my lips or cheeks. The burning isn’t only in my mouth, then, and everything gets more complicated. It’s part of the fun, though, part of the challenge. As I didn’t grow up using them all the time, I’m not the most graceful with chopsticks, but I always manage to get the job done.
Perhaps the best thing about Honeygrow is that its brand is expanding. It hails originally from Philadelphia, but can be found from New Jersey to Chicago and Boston to Washington, D.C. To marry the attitudes of sustainability and clean eating with quality food (over such a distance), and then to put it all into a relaxed environment where even the most socially anxious can have precisely what they want is truly an achievement. If you’re not in the MidAtlantic, hope, pray, and send good vibes at the opening of a location near you; I know you’ll love it.