On a Mission: Honeysuckle Provisions

A singular Afrocentric grocery, Honeysuckle Provisions holds the belief that a restaurant can be a force for change.

8 min read
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During the darkest days of the pandemic, Cybille St. Aude-Tate and Omar Tate found light in fantasy. The two chefs had met in early 2020, while cooking at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival, though both had long lived in New York City, orbiting one another professionally and philosophically. Now, their lives upturned by an uncertain world, Cybille was living with her mother on Long Island and Omar was back in his hometown of Philly and their courtship was playing out over long, impassioned chats on FaceTime.

"You think anything is possible because everything is ending," says Cybille, reflecting on those transformative conversations that led to her relocating to Philly, the two getting married, and charting out a new life together. "We spent time fantasizing about a supermarket on a corner. A place that did all the things we wanted to do. Not like a traditional restaurant, but one that fed our community and served food that was nostalgic, that we grew up on."

What began as a private node of connection is today Honeysuckle Provisions, the Afrocentric grocery and takeout café they run together in West Philly. Opened in 2023 and financed through a GoFundMe campaign, it's best understood not merely as a conventional restaurant but as a platform for the couple to express their most tightly held convictions: celebrating Black culinary traditions and supporting Black farmers and food makers. Located in a part of the city with a turbulent history — from Black families being relocated by developers in the late 1960s to gentrification today — the underlying aim of Honeysuckle is to use delicious food as a means of addressing what Omar describes as "the erasure of Black history and culture."

You become aware of these larger aims through aroma and osmosis as you enter the intimate space, which Omar likens to "a version of our living room." There is a miscellany of VHS tapes, a small library of books donated by community members, and various artifacts on display — a West African maternity statue, a sack of Madame Gougousse rice. "It's a Haitian American thing," explains Cybille, whose family comes from Haiti and who has used her own cooking — as well as her career as a children's book author — to bring attention to Caribbean culture and history. "It's the next best thing to Haitian long grain rice." The sack is not merely visible to customers because storage is tight; it alludes to the Haitian economy's long dependence on growing rice and the predatory US policies that devastated Haiti's domestic rice industry.

Most dominant, though, is the lit-up glass case containing their prepared food: Danishes with pimento cheese, plantain snack cakes, West Indian-inspired beef patties, and pastries stuffed with collards and a jammy egg. Like the hot dishes made to order — such as their turkey hoagie, served on a roll made with benne seeds from East Africa — a repository of memory is built into each ingredient, each dish existing as a kind of subversive narrative about African American culture. On Fridays, for example, they feature fish hoagies stuffed with fried whiting, dill pickles, and Havarti — a riff on the sandwiches long served at Black Muslim takeout restaurants.

"We're not profitable at this point, and yet we are still able to morally deliver on promises that we made to ourselves."

Omar Tate, Co-Owner, Honeysuckle Provisions

Omar identifies first and foremost as an artist, though he’s worked in some of New York and Philly’s premiere restaurants, among them A Voce and Fork. Prior to the opening of Honeysuckle Provisions, he ran a lauded New York-based pop-up series, also under the name Honeysuckle and billed as "a narrative of Black existence," which led, in 2021, to an invitation for a nearly month-long residence at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Dan Barber’s temple of farm-to-table dining in Tarrytown, New York. While initially motivated to make that kind of conceptual supper club experience into a brick-and-mortar, he began conceiving of Honeysuckle Provisions, as it exists today, when a grocery store in his mother's predominantly Black Philadelphia neighborhood closed.

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In addition to its cooked food and a robust catering operation, the restaurant sells dry goods and produce—to be grabbed on the go or subscribed to via their Black Farmer Box, a weekly CSA-style medley from various producers, among them Smith Poultry, Farmer Jawn, KJ Organics, farms at the intersections of 61st and Osage Streets and 8th and Poplar Streets that have no names, and the couple's own plot, which shares space with Plowshare Farm and Sankofa Community Farm.

"I always love spending more time with the farmers," says Omar, whose days are generally spent running around to his various producers, bringing back goods to be transformed through baking, sous-vide-ing, salt-curing. "Sometimes I get caught up going to pick up stuff. The last time we were at Sankofa, we dropped off catering and ended up planting garlic with them for two and a half hours." He laughs, though he wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's important to have real relationships with the people that supply us with food. It's not just food — it's a transfer of energy. The transfer of something special, that holds sanctity."

Omar Tate, Co-Owner, Honeysuckle Provisions

For Cybille and Omar, Honeysuckle Provisions is the first chapter in what they envision as a larger energy transfer plan. Under the umbrella of Honeysuckle Projects, they've been working on securing funding for another, larger space that will operate as a fast casual restaurant, a fixed-menu supper club, an art gallery, and a community center. "We're looking to expand our wings throughout the city and find ways to engage with other neighborhoods through pop-ups, dinners, activations," says Cybille, adding that, down the line, she could envision Honeysuckle spreading beyond Philly.

"Many other cities face the same plight," she says. "We're finding ways to show up in those neighborhoods, to be a safe space for people to explore and dive into their Blackness. Provisions is the leadoff in a really cool Black relay."

About Secret Menu

We created Secret Menu, a print and digital magazine from DoorDash, on the belief that one restaurant's story can help or inspire another. We're proud to elevate stories that connect local restaurant communities and celebrate the craft and ingenuity that makes them so vibrant here on the Merchant Blog. Read more Secret Menu stories here.


Kiki Aranita
Kiki Aranita

Chef & food writer

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