Under The Radar: Middle Earth Dining At Hobbit Cafe
Nestled in the cobblestoned, tree-lined corner bordering 2243 Richmond and Portsmouth lies Hobbit Cafe. Originally named The Hobbit Hole Cafe, this cozy eclectic eatery has been catering to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike since the early ’70s (their original location was on South Shepherd). Many longtime Houstonians have probably been here at least once or twice.
Inside the former house, the decor is what you would expect for an establishment named after J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The walls are adorned with posters, drawings and paraphernalia associated with the books and the movies. The wooden floors, earth-tone paint, decorative mantle and big, throw-covered leather chair near the hostess stand all work together to give the space a warm and inviting feel.
Outside, Hobbit Cafe boasts one of the prettiest, most charming patios in Houston. It wraps around the building, is bordered by a small white picket fence and framed from top to bottom by years of swirling ivy and jasmine. It’s the one of the best outdoor spaces in the Upper Kirby area for relaxing, even in Houston’s sweltering summer heat.
The food menu hasn’t changed all that much over the past few years — and that’s just fine because it works. It focuses on hearty sandwiches, burgers and south-of-the-border specialties. Somehow, all this comfort food still manages to not be too heavy.
The sandwiches are named after characters and places from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. (It would be a letdown if they weren’t.) These include Gandalf with avocado topped with mushrooms and melted jack cheeses; Smaug’s Delight with smoked turkey topped with avocado, tomato, and cheese; and the Shire, a vegetarian sandwich of avocado, fresh tabouli, tomato, alfalfa sprouts and mayonnaise. There are 12 sandwiches, total, in both slim and classic sizes. Side dish choices include shredded carrots, chips, black beans, rice or, for an extra $2.29, bigger side items like the sweet potato fries.
Warning: Unless you can eat like a hobbit, go for the slim-sized sandwich to leave room for the sweet potato fries. Attention to freshness and simplicity is what makes the sandwiches really stand out. (Pro tip for meat lovers: add bacon to the Smaug’s Delight.) Sandwiches range between $9 and $12.
In a city with so many Tex-Mex options, you might not think to order a plate of sizzling fajitas from the South of the Border section of the menu, but Hobbit Cafe does a surprisingly great job with the dish. The meat is seasoned with jerk spices, which gives it just a little bit of kick. The fajitas come with freshly prepared, proportional sides of black beans, rice, roasted peppers and onions, shredded cheese and pico de gallo.
The same goes for the burgers, such as the lightly spiced, freshly ground lamb burger served with fresh spinach, red onions and topped with about a half dozen lightly pickled cucumber slices. If you want to add a little something extra, try a side of the dill dressing that is usually served with the salmon burger. There are over fifteen burgers on the menu ranging in price from around $9 to $12 each.
To accompany the healthy yet hearty fare, Hobbit Cafe offers an extensive selection of beverages, including a big beer collection. There’s about of 15 brews on tap, 121 beers by the bottle and rotating specials known as the “on deck” selections.
With such a large selection to choose from, the staff is usually very good about letting patrons sample anything already open or on tap to make sure they like it. Beer fans are also going to appreciate that Hobbit Cafe also keeps their list up to date on Taphunter.
In addition to such an ample brew list, Hobbit Cafe also offers a selection of rotating meads (which can be ordered by the glass or the bottle) and non-alcoholic smoothies made with fresh fruit, honey and ice.
Hobbit Cafe is at 2243 Richmond and open Mondays through Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fridays from 11:00 am to 10:30 p.m. Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and on Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Lunch and dinner is served daily and brunch is on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.