On the east side of Phoenix, next to a neighborhood called Delano Estates and in the shadow of the SR143 freeway, there’s a little building on Van Buren that has served for decades as a dining space. It was once a tiny Mexican restaurant, but more recently it has been re-imagined as a breakfast and lunch destination offering a blend of American and Mexican comfort foods. The result is the Bread and Honey House, a small establishment that opened just half a year before the pandemic and has adapted, endured, and expanded over the past few years.
The small, standalone structure speaks to a bygone era when Van Buren was a corridor of motor hotels on the way into town. It shares a parking lot with one of those former motels which has since been converted to a small apartment building. The location is about a half mile walk from both the 44th Street / Washington and 50th Street / Washington light rail stations. 44th Street, by Sky Harbor Airport, is the better choice for anyone traveling on foot while 50th Street is better for anyone using a bicycle. A railing outside the restaurant’s front patio serves as a bike rack.
The space inside is compact. Before the pandemic, it accommodated just a handful of tables. Now, seating is available only at a counter that wraps around two of the walls. The rest of the limited space is a waiting area for diners who are ordering at the counter, as well as customers picking up orders to go. Two patios, one in front and one in back, provide the majority of space for on-site dining. The restaurant’s walls, both inside and outside, are decorated with colorful murals, adding a bit of vibrancy to go with the red umbrellas that shade the outdoor tables.
The Bread and Honey House has an all-day menu, but breakfast items are the obvious place to start an exploration of what the restaurant has to offer. The choices begin with classics like two eggs prepared any way with toast and potatoes or French toast made with three half slices of brioche topped with berries, whipped cream, and caramel. A slightly lighter approach to breakfast known as the Sunshine Omelette is made with egg whites, sauteed spinach, roasted chicken, and Swiss cheese before being topped with fresh slices of avocado and tomato.
Another less indulgent breakfast item is avocado toast layered with cotija cheese, tomatoes, micro greens and one egg prepared as requested. At the other end of the spectrum lies El Hefty, a big breakfast sandwich fashioned from three eggs, a cheese blend, tomato, onion, and mayonnaise. Any of the breakfast items can be augmented with protein choices of sausage links or patties, as well as bacon. Another side, roasted potatoes, have been disappointingly dry on both occasions sampled. The fries are far better, even if they seem more like a lunch side.
The Mexican influence dominates the rest of the breakfast menu with a build-your-own burrito option and chilaquiles made with tortilla chips topped with roasted salsa, crema fresca, cotija cheese, sliced onions, sprigs of cilantro, and one egg. Similar Southwestern and Sonoran flavors are used in omelettes stuffed with either chorizo or carnitas. The latter involves rich pork with a crisp bark to complement the underlying tenderness of the meat. The carnitas are always available as an added side dish for anyone seeking an alternative to sausage or bacon.
Continuing into lunch territory, the carnitas are also used as a topping on the Burger a la Mexicana, where they join honey chipotle aioli, serranos, pickles, red onions, and
Swiss cheese inside a sesame seed bun. The aioli is also used as a condiment, along with chopped bacon, on the Honey Chipotle Burger. There’s a classic burger with simpler toppings, a decadent double burger with two patties, and a simple yet effective BLT with ample leaves of lettuce and slices of tomato, not to mention mayonnaise spread on toasted multigrain bread.
It’s also with lunchtime hours and a Mexican influence in mind that the Bread and Honey House produces one of its best dishes, Eli’s Fish Tacos. These are defined by generous slabs of fried fish served on corn tortillas with slaw, sauce, and cotija on top and lime wedges and salsa on the side. Despite being only two tacos, this is a surprisingly hearty lunch entree. The same can be said for the chicken quesadilla with a generous melted layer of mixed cheeses inside a big folded tortilla and accompanied by sides of guacamole, crema, and roasted salsa.
Chicken is also featured in a club sandwich with guacamole and a “sassy” sandwich with tangy sauce. In both, the grilled chicken breast within has been somewhat dry when sampled. More successful approaches to poultry are evident in chopped chicken and Buffalo chicken salads, which incorporate similar ingredients in flavors in a different format. A few final items worth noting are the birria taco and quesadillas. Unfortunately, these have been nixed at Van Buren, but they’re now sometimes available at a second location three miles north on Indian School.
The larger location in Arcadia shows the potential the Bread and Honey House has for growth, but the original site on Van Buren still has its charms in terms of homey atmosphere and outdoor dining. There are no desserts or alcohol, but the restaurant does have an espresso machine and serves a range of coffee drinks to be enjoyed under those red umbrellas. The space may be small and the location not obvious, but the Bread and Honey House has shown what can be done when there is a bigger vision than mere physical dimensions would suggest is possible.
4700 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix AZ 85008
50th Street/Washington and 44th Street/Washington stations