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March 1, 2024

The ubiquitous 'hon' makes a splash in kitschy epicenter - Hampden's Cafe Hon becomes one of the main attractions in Baltimore's ever colorful and sometimes sensational local culture

By Patrice Hutton | April 29, 2006

It's hard to miss in the Hampden neighborhood of Bawlmer, Murlin.

About as hard to miss as a beehive hairdo.

Caf8e Hon, marked by a pink flamingo that spans two stories above its entrance, stands both as an eatery and a shrine to Baltimore's "hon" culture. Step inside and prepare to be greeted by a predominately pink d8ecor, a life size Elvis and a waitress named Janet, who pronounces "hon" in perfect Bawlmerese.

"Everybody around here has always called everybody `hon'," Janet Trimble, a long time waitress at the caf8e, said.

She placed a plate of french fries on a costumer's table with a smile, just as she has for the past 14 years.

That's a long time to spend perfecting your beehive hairdo.

Serving as a waitress at Caf8e Hon since the restaurant's inception, she's had plenty of time to practice.

A native of Baltimore and former Hampden resident, Trimble shared the Caf8e Hon story between taking orders and delivering food to tables of costumers. Behind the mismatched placemats and antique table sets, a series of local schoolchildren's renditions of beehives line the walls.

Caf8e Hon opened in 1992 as a testament to the generation who sported the beehive hairdo when the look flourished in the Hampden area.

Way back when, Trimble said, Baltimore resident Denise Whiting was driving down 36th Street in Hampden and saw a vacant property for sale.

"She drove by a place across the street from this present location and decided to buy it," Trimble said.

Legend has it that somebody asked Whiting what the purpose of her new business was going to be.

"It's a caf8e, hon," she replied.

A decade and a half later, Trimble and three of the original cooks remain. Meatloaf, pork chops, and fish and chips remain the caf8e's specialties. The caf8e's clientele has expanded from Baltimore residents wanting a quick meal to a steady flow of customers who are visiting Baltimore and have read about the caf8e in a national travel or restaurant guide.

The caf8e remains famous for its annual Hon Fest, held every summer to elect the year's best "Hon."

"The first Hon Fest was held a year after the caf8e opened. Three people entered and four people judged," Trimble said.

Today, Hon Fest attracts beehives abound and spans from Chestnut to Falls Road, attracting wannabe Hons who enter categories ranging from "Little Hon" to "Hon-ettes." This year's Hon Fest will occur on June 10.

Hon Fest entrants each have their own method of perfecting their beehive, Trimble said.

But Trimble, who still dons her beehive on Friday nights with the rest of the Hon crew, shared a bit about how she's kept her hair up over the years.

"First you tease your hair, then spray, then tease, then spray," Trimble said.

Preservation of the style has become an art within itself, she added.

"People wrapped their hair up in toilet paper at night so it wouldn't get messed up," Trimble said.

The updo would last a few days if you did it yourself, a week if you had it done at a salon and stuck around until the early 60s, when the hippies ran the style out of the neighborhood.

Its seen a renaissance, though, with a revival of Americana.

Next time you stray west of Hopkins and end up in Hampden, stop by Caf8e Hon. And for heaven's sakes, hon, if you're in Bawlmer in June, tease up your hair and see how you measure up among hons in Murlin.

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