Katharine Shilcutt's 10 Favorite Dishes in Houston
10. The Shire at Hobbit Cafe
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
The Hobbit Cafe goes hand-in-hand with some of my best memories: long lunches with my mother in its old Shepherd location with the sprawling oak trees, the one-two punch of a sandwich at Hobbit followed by hours of reading inside the nearby (and now closed) Alabama Bookstop, a first date with a handsome surfer before a trip to the Contemporary Arts Museum.
The Hobbit Cafe has survived where most other Houston restaurants would not. It was a stretch to begin with, opening a vegetarian-friendly cafe with a Tolkien theme in 1972 -- first called "The Hobbit Hole," a name I can't quit calling it even today -- then moving from its long-established location on Shepherd after its red brick building was sold to new owners. That this quirky, vegetable-focused cafe filled with life-size Gollum figurines and witchy-looking carved chairs should survive all this time is a testament to the Hobbit itself and to the loyal Houstonians who kept it alive. Chances are that if you're a fan of the Hobbit Cafe, I can count you as a kindred spirit.
The Shire has alternated with two other sandwiches over the years as my "favorite" -- the Strider and the Thorin Oakenshield being the alternates -- due to the tangy, homemade tabouli on a bed of musky alfalfa sprouts with thick slices of fresh tomatoes on top. In keeping with Hobbit's tradition of serving comically oversized sandwiches, you don't just get a few slices of avocado on top, either -- you get a whole avocado. The Hobbit Cafe is where I go when I want a relatively healthy meal, cheerful service, a lush patio, a full belly and a cold beer (the craft-heavy list is one of the best in town).