Artist and Writer Combine to Create Southern Jewish Fusion

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IMG_20170123_100022Ellen Mogell and her partner, Jeb Woody, opened Honey’s Sit N Eat, a Jewish Southern diner, in 2005 after moving to Northern Liberties and noticing a lack of restaurants.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Mogell, a nice Jewish girl from Northeast Philly, had graduated from Moore College and, like many artists, needed an alternative income. She ended up owning Sonny’s Famous Steaks in Old City.

One day, Woody, a writer freshly arrived from North Texas, ambled into Sonny’s looking for a job. They wound up as partners in both life and business; Mogell laughed, “I’m an artist and he’s a writer, so we both ended up as cooks!” The two moved to Northern Liberties, and launched Honey’s.

They opened on a shoestring, and worked long hours. The restaurant was so successful, they launched a second location at 21st and South streets in 2013.

Mogell explained, “It was comfort food from both of our backgrounds. Jeb is from Texas, so he brings both Tex-Mex flavors as well as things like chicken-fried steak and country gravy with biscuits. My comfort food is bagels with whitefish salad, and matzo ball soup.”

Their two culinary heritages have fused quite well.

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Jeb Woody and Ellen Mogell

In a nod to traditionally Jewish diners, Mogell offers the country gravy and biscuits without sausage.

“We are not kosher, but we can accommodate kosher-style diners. The country gravy and biscuits is delicious. Traditionally, it is served with sausage, but we keep that separate so that more customers can enjoy it — vegetarians, and people who don’t eat pork, or don’t mix meat and dairy,” she said. “We have a lot of vegetarian and vegan options, so we can usually meet most preferences.”

One of the most popular items on the menu is the chicken salad sandwich, which Mogell describes as “so Jewish.” Served on grilled marble rye with lettuce and tomato, and accompanied by homemade coleslaw, it is a dish that, despite the changing menu and a large variety of weekly specials, will always be available — the customers adore it.

Mogell shares the recipes here.

Chicken Salad

1 3-pound chicken

4 scallions, chopped

½ red bell pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

½ cup raisins

½ cup chopped pecans

¾ cup mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, boil the chicken in water for an hour until cooked through. Allow it to cool slightly, and pull all meat from bones (both dark and light meat).

Place the meat in a large mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix well.

Enjoy right away, or chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Makes about 4 cups

Coleslaw

½ head red cabbage, shredded

½ head green cabbage, shredded

2 red bell peppers, diced

2 carrots, shredded

½ cup chopped parsley

cups mayonnaise

½ cup Dijon mustard

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple

cider vinegar

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon chili powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.

Toss well to blend.

Place in the refrigerator overnight; this is much better made a day ahead.

Makes about 8 to 10 servings

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