Denise Whiting Cafe Hon: A Baltimore Institution

Cafe Hon owner Denise Whiting drops her right to the 'Hon' trademark


When you think of Baltimore, there are a few things that come to mind: crab cakes, the Inner Harbor, and Cafe Hon. For over 30 years, Cafe Hon has been a beloved fixture in the Hampden neighborhood, serving up comfort food and hon culture to locals and tourists alike. But who is Denise Whiting, the woman behind the iconic restaurant? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at her story and the legacy of Cafe Hon.

Early Life

Denise Whiting was born and raised in Baltimore, and her love for the city and its quirky charm is evident in everything she does. After studying culinary arts in college, she worked in various restaurants around the city before opening Cafe Hon in 1992. The restaurant was an instant hit, thanks in part to its kitschy decor and menu of classic comfort foods like meatloaf and mac and cheese.


Despite its popularity, Cafe Hon has not been without its share of controversy. In 2011, Whiting trademarked the word “hon,” a term of endearment that’s long been associated with Baltimore’s working-class culture. Many locals saw this as an attempt to profit off of their heritage, and there was a backlash against Whiting and her restaurant. Eventually, she relinquished the trademark and apologized for any offense caused.

Community Involvement

Despite the trademark controversy, Denise Whiting remains a beloved figure in the Hampden community. She’s known for her philanthropy and her commitment to supporting local businesses and artists. Cafe Hon hosts regular events like art shows and live music performances, and Whiting is always looking for ways to give back to her community.

The Menu

Of course, the main draw of Cafe Hon is its menu. The restaurant specializes in classic American comfort foods, like fried chicken, burgers, and milkshakes. But there are also some unique Baltimore-inspired dishes, like the crab pretzel and the Old Bay wings. And of course, no trip to Cafe Hon is complete without a slice of their famous Hon cake, a multi-layered chocolate cake that’s big enough to share (but you won’t want to).

Hon Culture

One thing that sets Cafe Hon apart from other restaurants is its celebration of “hon culture.” Hon is short for “honey,” and it’s a term of endearment that’s been used in Baltimore for decades. The term is associated with working-class women who were known for their big hair, colorful outfits, and outgoing personalities. Cafe Hon celebrates this culture with its kitschy decor and events like the annual Hon Fest, a street fair that features live music, food vendors, and a “Best Hon” contest.


Denise Whiting Cafe Hon may have had its share of controversy over the years, but there’s no denying that it’s a Baltimore institution. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, a trip to Cafe Hon is a must-do. From the comfort food to the hon culture, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. And with Denise Whiting at the helm, you know that you’re supporting a business that’s committed to giving back to the community. So next time you’re in Baltimore, be sure to stop by Cafe Hon and see what all the fuss is about.