Classic American fare with a memorable twist
As soon as the front doors open, the kitchen is a flurry of activity. Hungry customers head to the counter to order one of Nick and Rachel Giacopelli’s creations for lunch. Online orders come in as fast as the couple fulfills tickets for guests in the dining room. As the restaurant fills, an email comes in asking them to cater for the local football team Friday night. The Giacopellis definitely stay busy keeping up with the demand for their delicious dishes; but busy is a good thing.
Nick and Rachel are the owners of HoneyBadger Grill in Troy. For nearly five years they’ve served up their unique, fresh style of sandwiches, wraps, burgers and more to a steady stream of loyal customers in Lincoln County.
The couple has roots in the restaurant world, first meeting as teenagers while working at a Hardee’s. They moved to Troy and both worked corporate jobs in St. Louis County, an hourlong commute. As their son, Brady, grew older, they became less and less interested in the rat race.
“We would drive by this vacant building every day not far from our house,” Nick says. “We knew there used to be a restaurant there so it had to have some infrastructure. We took a look and just kind of built the restaurant from the studs up and opened in March 2019.”
The food at HoneyBadger is an extension of the Giacopelli’s kitchen. Freezer space is minimal, so they prep fresh ingredients and housemade sauces daily. Nick says that forces them into a popular side that sets HoneyBadger apart. “One of the most important things we do is fresh cut our fries,” he says. “You can get frozen fries anywhere. But fresh-cut fries just taste and look so much fresher.”
It’ll be hard to visit HoneyBadger and not try the Badger Sauce, their signature housemade sweet and spicy barbecue sauce found throughout the menu. “We have six everyday sauces always available,” Rachel says. “But then we do special sauces every once in a while as well for specials.”
Too hungry to wait for your meal? Order one of HoneyBadger’s most popular appetizers for the table: tumbleweeds. The thinly sliced onion straws are quickly fried and served with a cup of Nick’s housemade chipotle ranch.
If you’ve brought your appetite, you can’t go wrong with the namesake HoneyBadger sandwich. The towering sandwich starts with a toasted brioche bun topped with a pile of housemade pulled pork, tumbleweeds, sweet and spicy coleslaw, pickles and Badger Sauce. “The sweet from the sauce and spicy from the coleslaw mix together,” Nick says. “Then the crunch of the pickles and tumbleweeds just brings everything together.”
Other sandwich options include the Cubano with pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles on a hoagie pressed on the flattop and the customizable grilled cheeses with your choice of cheese and plenty of protein options.
Have a napkin ready if you order the Badger Burger. One-quarter pound of freshly hand-pattied ground beef is placed on the flattop before Rachel smashes it as thin as she can. It’s cooked on both sides and topped with your choice of cheese, an over medium egg, tomato, onions, pickles and Badger sauce on toasted brioche. “The way to do it is with that over medium egg and have the yolk break as you eat it,” Nick says. “It mixes with the Badger Sauce really well. It’s going to get messy.”
Other popular items include the Buffalo chicken wrap, California Cobb salad and quesadilla.
Become the chef when you order HoneyBadger’s build a bowl. Start your order with a base of either white rice, fresh-cut fries or lettuce. From there you choose one protein and narrow their list of a dozen toppings down to your favorite four. It’s served with one of the couple’s sauces.
With nearly 7,500 possible combinations your creativity is your only limitation. For something light, you could do white rice and grilled chicken topped with zucchini, carrots, lettuce and green peppers with a mango habanero dressing. Or you could opt for a heavier meal with a base of french fries topped with crispy chicken, nacho cheese, shredded cheddar, onions, pico de gallo and Buffalo sauce to create your version of a Buffalo chicken horseshoe.
While the menu is a representation of the food Nick and Rachel — Cuivre River Electric Cooperative members — enjoy, the restaurant represents their family being together. When tossing around ideas for what to name their restaurant, Nick thought back to coaching Brady’s football team years earlier.
“The viral honey badger YouTube video had just come out and he and all his 11-year-old teammates wanted their team name to be the Honey Badgers,” Nick says. “We drove up here one day and I said to them, ‘Just hear me out on this, what about HoneyBadger Grill?’ They didn’t say no right away, so it stuck.”
“I wanted something unique that represented our family, but didn’t want something like Nick and Rachel’s Grill,” Rachel says. “HoneyBadger ties into our family and our time together.”
Being together was also a goal for the Giacopellis when designing their dining room. While they send plenty of to-go orders out the door, their dining room can fill up. “We like people to come here for the community and camaraderie aspect,” says Rachel. “We put these 12-foot tables in for a reason, so different families might end up sharing a table and conversation.”
Specialties: Appetizers including tumbleweeds and Buffalo chicken dip. Sandwiches, burgers and wraps including the HoneyBadger, pulled pork, Cubano, Buffalo chicken and Badger Burger. Daily specials including tacos every Tuesday.
Price: Appetizers from $4.50 to $7.50. Salads, sandwiches and wraps from $5.50 to $9.25. Build a bowls starting at $8.50.
Details: Open Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday. Cash and credit cards accepted. Nonsmoking. Located at 10 Oakley Plaza in Troy. Contact at 636-775-2888 and www.honeybadgergrill.com.