By Marie Muir | Photography by John Michael Simpson
There’s new restaurant buzz in Lakewood for those emerging from their quarantine cocoons. The red barn on Chapel Hill Road, formerly County Fare Food Trucks & Bar, is now The Honeysuckle at Lakewood. Farmhouse chic decor, a half-acre of outdoor dining and long strands of Edison light bulbs make customers feel like they’re at a pig pickin’ in a neighbor’s backyard.
The bar and restaurant opened on Sept. 19, 2020, with an ambiance and menu inspired by the restaurant’s sister establishment in Chapel Hill, The Honeysuckle Tea House. Chef Mark Mishalanie serves up American classics with bold flavors and flair. Appetizers of note include the Lakewood Brussels sprouts, butternut squash bruschetta and Durty South fries: Honeysuckle Mead-braised smoked pork served over house-cut fries and topped with spicy queso and green onions.
Originally from California, Mark has almost 30 years of culinary experience under his belt, which includes a victory on Food Network’s popular TV show “Guy’s Grocery Games” in 2016. He says he approaches cooking like a handshake: “If you eat your way through the menu, you’ll have a better understanding of who I am than somebody who I’ve actually talked to or hung out with.”
His favorite is The Burger – a mouthwatering stack of chopped short rib and chuck beef patty served with white cheddar cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, arugula, tomato, house-made pickle and garlic aioli on a brioche bun. The restaurant also boasts an exciting beverage program that features handcrafted cocktails centered on meads made by The Honeysuckle Meadery in Chapel Hill, plus North Carolina craft beer and an impressive selection of bourbons from across the country. The Instagram-able Bee’s Knees cocktail, for instance, mixes Old Grand- Dad bourbon, lemon-ginger mead and lemon juice with a honeycomb slathered in sweet nectar from Mebane-based King Cobra Apiary.
To ensure smaller groups could gather safely throughout the winter, the restaurant built enclosed picnic table shelters called “hives” that seat up to six people. Rain or shine, customers can sip and savor in a hive, which also serve as VIP areas for Honeysuckle’s Summer Music Series and outdoor festivals.The staff is also planning monthly cuisine events and partnering with Durty Bull Brewing Company and other North Carolina breweries like Wicked Weed Brewing and Appalachian Mountain Brewery to launch new products this summer.
The Honeysuckle at Lakewood co-owner and Southern Harvest Hospitality Group owner Tom Meyer believes the community’s creative collaboration and resilience will help local restaurants recover from the pandemic’s onslaught. In March 2020, The Honeysuckle team partnered with Southern Harvest and Unique Places to Save– an entrepreneurial nonprofit that invests in places that make our communities unique – to launch Love and Nourish, a nonprofit that provides family-style meals to food-insecure communities in Durham and Cary. That initiative brought Honeysuckle’s staff back to work and has fed more than 250,000 people.
“We believe in and celebrate our Durham community,”Tom says. “As longtime Durham residents, we felt like we needed to provide a safe, fun, relaxing antidote to the pandemic for our community.”