Order In: Omar Tate Is Reimagining His New York City Pop-Up in Philadelphia
Acclaimed Honeysuckle Pop-Up is now operating out of South Philly Barbacoa. Omar Tate talks about takeout, inspiration, and his long-term plans for Philadelphia.
Welcome to Order In, our new coronavirus-related column where we reach out to restaurant owners and chefs to talk about what they chose to do with their businesses during the crisis, how they made that choice, and what delicious foods you can still get from them via takeout to offer support in this difficult time.
Omar Tate, cook and creator, Honeysuckle Pop-Up
Honeysuckle Pop-up started … as an extension of my will, need and desire to put out into the world a deeper conversation and connection to Black identity through food that wasn’t just southern or West Indian or African, because so many of us have moved and grown up in spaces and places apart from those places. Blackness is culturally represented in so many other places, like music and art. The format before the pandemic was an in-person dinner with wine and the whole thing.
When the pandemic hit, the pop-up became … an offering of human connection through food. It’s a reflection of what I have always really been serving my guests, which is knowledge, stories, information. The food is just the vessel that I use to express those ideas. Ben (Miller of South Philly Barbacoa) said I just do it there … so I’m doing 15 meals a week for $40 each. It’s an appetizer or salad, a main dish, a dessert and a beverage.
I include poetry because … at the in-person dinners, there was always poetry. The menu items corresponded with the title of a poem in the zine that each person would get. So I decided to offer up poetry and art as sort of a thank you card for people, that would give a little more depth of connection with myself, with the food.
Lately I’ve been inspired by … learning about barbecue and the cooking traditional of enslaved Africans during the Antebellum period, and that’s been really satisfying for me, and my most recent dinner was me cooking lamb in a pit for the takeout. I just feel really connected to trees and woods and fire and wind, so cooking over fire just centers me in my cooking in a way that no other cooking technique really does.
I’m excited to transition to Philly because … I started the pop-up in New York and I was like, Yeah, this will be cool. But the thing about being cool is that nothing cool ever lasts — cool is not classic. For my work to be classic I felt like I needed to go home (to Philly). I’m looking to acquire a space in West Philly to turn into … a community space where food is the anchor and I’m using food and art and language and spread that out across maybe a grocery and a cafe and a meat market, and the cafe could be malleable to do community organizing and high-end dinners, and casual things, too.
I cook because … In the beginning I cooked because I wanted more for myself as an individual, and now I cook because I think I have a lot to offer as an artist.
Even in the midst of coronavirus, I feel hopeful because … I’m so so situated and founded in my morals, and Honeysuckle always operated outside of the restaurants that are now dying. The brain behind Honeysuckle was always looking beyond this point.