Cafe Reviews

Cafe Review: The Bread And Honey House Is a Hidden Breakfast and Lunch Gem

Chilaquiles and fish tacos from The Bread and Honey House.
Chilaquiles and fish tacos from The Bread and Honey House. Jackie Mercandetti
Have you ever had a breakfast sandwich with mayonnaise? Not an average or even a good breakfast sandwich, but a great one? The Bread and Honey House, a new eatery just east of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, builds a quirky, egg-stuffed version that, at first glance, looks concerning. Mayo. Slopped on the tomato. Really?

Actually, at first blush you might be asking yourself that about the whole operation. A 20-seater with just five small tables, a breakfast-heavy spot closed on Sundays — really? And just as with the mayo question, the answer, once you’ve had the experience, is a deafening yes. Yes, really.

Tall and cloud-soft, this breakfast sandwich is a game-changer. Chef Javier Perez buns it on pillowy challah. Outcroppings of egg project from the sides, a great mass of three or four eggs tri-folded with cheese, giving the egg element height, dimension, and lots of soft bite. Tucked under the top bun, you can see some mayo, tomato, and red onion. Together, they recall a backyard garden, but in small proportion to the soft egg and roll that dominate. Every last detail is thoughtful and on point.

click to enlarge Meet Chef Javier Perez, formerly of La Grande Orange, Luci’s at the Orchard, and Pomelo. - JACKIE MERCANDETTI
Meet Chef Javier Perez, formerly of La Grande Orange, Luci’s at the Orchard, and Pomelo.
Jackie Mercandetti
This feeling tends to emerge at The Bread and Honey House, which Perez opened in May with his wife, Ana Bautista, who manages the front of the house. More than a decade ago, when he was a young cook at La Grande Orange, Perez made breakfast sandwiches with mayo. That memory inspires the one he plates today.

Perez most recently cooked at Luci’s at the Orchard and Pomelo in northern central Phoenix. The Bread and Honey House is more of a small-volume family affair, with Bautista’s uncle having recently joined from Arcadia Farms in downtown Scottsdale to help Perez in the kitchen. Perez and Bautista’s kids even pitch in on weekends, including a teenager who pulls espresso, having been trained by the restaurant’s supplier, Firecreek Coffee Company in Flagstaff.

The menu is brief but with wide appeal. Food, Perez explains, is “American infused with Mexican.” It’s burritos and BLTs, crepes and omelets, simple but inspired plates already drawing the beginnings of a cult following. Part of the soft magnetism is the vibe. It flows from the room’s smallness and your proximity to the kitchen, the smile Perez may give you from behind the stove, the impression that you’re among friends. Construction workers from across the street stroll in for tea, return to work. Though there are just 20 seats, tables flip fast. Soon, seating will double, when the patios open for fall.

Breakfast options can be ordered during lunch. And yes, you can think beyond the mayo-slick bun.

click to enlarge The crepes are Napoleon meets conquistador. - JACKIE MERCANDETTI
The crepes are Napoleon meets conquistador.
Jackie Mercandetti
A breakfast burrito is halved on a bias, nicely stacked on the plate. It is aggressively griddled and filled, in parts un-crisped, with soft doughy kinks and folds. Scrambled egg and potato chunks make the tight tortilla stretch tight and bulge. Upgrade this already satisfying, hearty option with some crumbles of chorizo.

French-style crepes, another breakfast option, look similarly appetizing. Perez dials up this “Napoleon meets conquistador” concept of soft, overlapping chevrons with a shower of cut strawberries and broken pecans. Tres leches crema that emulates the milk-sopping cake dampens the top, bringing faint notes of caramel, cinnamon, and vanilla. This small-but-mighty plate brings something new and Southwestern, yet all the warm comfort you want when ordering crepes in the first place.

Though you may split a few breakfast offerings with friends or family, if you’re a fan of chilaquiles, Perez’s version is worth your full focus.

click to enlarge Don't get tired of fish tacos just yet. - JACKIE MERCANDETTI
Don't get tired of fish tacos just yet.
Jackie Mercandetti
He starts by cutting whole tortillas six ways and frying them. A deeply red sauce draws heavily on the magic of fried guajillo and pasilla chiles. Visually, the bowl is striking: red onion, cilantro, a white raft of egg, all buoyed on sloping chips. Forking in, you enter a depth of chips folded, curled, and overlaid in all imaginable degrees of crisp and softness.

Some chips even have that glorious, dark, burnt-top-nacho level of crunch. The chile heat is low, judiciously restrained. This lets the smoky, intensely vegetal flavors of the pepper smolder low and darkly, not unlike the warming influence introduced through the deft use of chicken stock.

These chilaquiles may be a little salty, depending on your taste for salt. They could use another egg. But the zing of red onions and fragrance of cilantro break the salinity and heft, and none of the chips are too soggy, something ensured by the brisk speed of service. This one is a signature dish.

Lunch options are equally on point. Again, nothing too jazzy or progressive. Just simple, well-cooked food with smart touches.

An order of quesadillas brings a toasted tortilla half-moon — folded, sliced, and oozing. You get sides of crema, mild-but-fresh salsa, and chunky guacamole that’s the best in the side trio. The cheese is nicely melted. Long strips of chicken hide under the tortilla. To find a fault would be to nitpick.

Nobody would blame you for having fish taco fatigue in 2019, but don’t miss the version here. Two tortillas heap with generous portions of cod. The flaky whitefish gets a Modelo battering and a perfect, heavily golden fry. Three-ounce hunks are piping hot and crackly, all delicate white flesh inside. Brimming from the well-griddled tortilla, too, is a slaw that gets a kick from marriage with spicy-sweet honey-chipotle aioli. There’s also a cotija sprinkling, cilantro, and fire-roasted salsa, not to mention a heavy dollop of guac. Again, simple but wholly on target.

click to enlarge Perez opened the spot in May with his wife, Ana Bautista. - JACKIE MERCANDETTI
Perez opened the spot in May with his wife, Ana Bautista.
Jackie Mercandetti
At The Bread and Honey House, the focus isn’t on design or story, but food, pure and simple. There are no mirrors. The only smoke comes from chiles. Prices are surprisingly good, and dishes follow suit. They follow suit to the point that the maple syrup beside the crepes is pretty much a decoration, and you don’t need to add hot sauce to anything. This modest eatery is a breakfast or lunch spot worthy of entering your regular rotation. The only thing it might be lacking is seating.

The Bread and Honey House
4700 East Van Buren Street
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Saturday; closed Sunday

Breakfast sandwich $8
Breakfast burrito $7
Crepes $8
Chilaquiles $9
Fish tacos $9
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Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy