Photos by Katie Noble
Hamilton’s Honeycomb buzzes with activity all day long. Early morning brings people grabbing coffee to power them to work. Moms arrive soon after, babies and Cheerio-toting toddlers in tow, and settle down at the café’s long wooden table. After the lunch crowd clears, middle schoolers pile in for an afternoon snack at the inviting counter. Friends and family stop by throughout the day. Often it feels like the entire community has passed through Honeycomb’s doors and found themselves enveloped in its welcoming atmosphere.
That’s exactly the goal, says Lauren Moran, the busy chef-owner at the center of this hive of activity. The bakery’s made-from-scratch food, retail goods and hip décor—oak flooring from Northeast Architectural Salvage, hand tiling, grey-blue color scheme—exude warmth and all bear Lauren and her family’s handiwork.
Having grown up in nearby Wenham, Lauren opened Honeycomb in July 2017, only five months after leaving a prestigious job as executive pastry chef for several businesses owned by legendary restaurateurs Garrett Harker and Jeremy Sewall. The 2007 University of Delaware graduate majored in television broadcasting but was always interested in food, even dreaming of hosting a Food Network show. Summers were spent working in the Nantucket food industry, where she became fascinated by “how magical it could be to get it all right—the music, the lighting, the food, the presentation.” Whenever possible she worked in the kitchen, and eventually entered Boston University’s Certificate Program in Culinary Arts. The intensive program exposes students to all aspects of the food industry, and includes classes by working chefs (many famous) as well as instruction in food writing, food photography, nutrition and restaurant operation. Although unsure if she wanted to become a chef, Lauren knew her future was in food.
Thinking that pastry would satisfy her creative urges, she landed at Sel de la Terre and worked her way up to head pastry chef. She later joined Harker and Sewall’s team, becoming executive pastry chef at Eastern Standard Kitchen and Drinks, Hotel Commonwealth, Island Creek Oyster Bar, Row34, Row34 Portsmouth and Island Creek Oyster Bar Burlington. Three of the restaurants opened during Lauren’s tenure, and she oversaw the pastry aspects of starting a restaurant—from construction to choosing a menu to managing staff.
It was this experience, Lauren stresses, that gave her the skills and confidence to open a place of her own. Opportunity knocked in 2016 when a property next to her parents’ home became available. With gentle nudging from her family, she and her new husband (Billy Moran, whose family owns Cornwall’s in Boston) took the plunge.
“I had a tough time deciding on a name for my bakery,” Lauren explains. “It had to be something related to food, and also something that could encompass more than that. We sell wine and beer from great producers all over the world. Our cheeses are the best in New England. We have handmade pottery from Vermont and linens from a friend and co-worker in Lynnfield and really care about bringing the best-quality food and other items into our shop. We’re trying to celebrate all the craftsmen and producers around our area. When I found the honeycomb tile that I wanted to incorporate into the design, it clicked. We are a family unit here and we work like bees in a hive. We have to, in order to be successful. I feel so lucky to have my husband and our families involved in this project. My dad makes his famous salsa for our breakfast burrito, my mom is in charge of our retail goods and my husband does the bookkeeping and helps in the front of house. If I didn’t have them, this wouldn’t be possible.”
Most days Lauren begins work well before dawn. She prides herself on making everything from scratch and using the best quality ingredients. It’s exhausting, she says, but it makes the difference. Her croissants are made with French butter and fly off the shelves. Breakfast sandwiches include a bagel or biscuit made that day, homemade sausage or bacon, black pepper aioli, an organic egg and Grafton cheddar cheese. She’s also known for her honeybuns—a brioche dough filled with honey pastry cream and topped with a honey–brown butter glaze. A delicious chocolate tart, shortbread made with her great-great-grandmother’s recipe and more fill the bakery case. Enticing sandwiches, salads and soups round out the lunch menu.
Less than a year into Honeycomb, Lauren already is planning its future. Her goal is to fill the place with activities that bring the community together both day and night. Cooking classes and a private dinner club are two ideas she’s considering. Experience has taught her that expansion must be done thoughtfully, so for now she’s focused on her already-perfect present.
248 Bay Rd.,