You might remember last year when we did a reflective piece on the merits of Ocean City versus the Dewey/Bethany/Rehoboth strip, viewing the two areas through the lens of the one and only, Leslie Knope. We’ll briefly recap: in the wonderful world of Parks & Recreation, there’s Pawnee and there’s Eagleton. Pawnee is the red-headed step-child of Eagleton, living in the shadow of Eagleton’s pristine parks, higher tax bracket, posh boutiques, and five-star dining. Suffice it to say, one could argue (and we have) that our beloved Ocean City is in fact, the parallel universe to Leslie Knope’s Pawnee. Now don’t get me wrong, I love this sordid little town from which I sprung, but take a walk on the boardwalk on a Saturday night and you’ll see my point. That’s not to say that Ocean City doesn’t have it’s own selling points, from our cozy dive bars to our favorite fish taco and cheesesteak joints. In fact, Ocean City proper even maintains a few fine dining establishments, one of which we decided to visit this week.
The Hobbit is one of those long-time Ocean City favorites that has managed to remain relevant across several generations. It’s a testament to a restaurant when the same establishment that your parents frequented at your age has not only become your favorite hangout, but is still your parents preferred dining destination. The age-range works here, and despite the white table cloths and the tall (very tall) manager looming at the front door dressed smartly in a shirt and tie, the atmosphere is decidedly relaxed. Confession: when the old Hobbit was razed to the ground a few years ago to make way for yet another condo monstrosity with a smaller Hobbit to be tucked away on the first floor, I was skeptical. Very skeptical. The new restaurant was stunning of course, but it looked more like a restaurant you would find in a major metropolitan area (or in Eagleton). I remained skeptical. Despite the facelift, the spirit of the old Hobbit lived on. In fact, it evolved into something spectacular. The same familiar faces returned to enjoy The Hobbit 2.0 with an influx of new regulars joining the fray. A new generation of Hobbitiers have effectively ushered in a new era, managing to convert even an old curmudgeon like me.
Anytime you walk into a bar and are greeted with a warm welcome from the bartender you know you’re in the right place. So much so that we opted to skip the table service and sit at the bar. The bar at The Hobbit is set aside from the dining room and maintains a relaxed vibe that somehow makes you immediately feel at home. Cocktail menu in hand, I was ready to get down to business. Martinis and Spring Waters were ordered. If you are thinking, ‘what the hell is Tina doing drinking a spring water??’ don’t worry, I’m not with child, the Spring Water at The Hobbit is actually a new cocktail…and one that packs a serious punch. Vodka? Check. It was time to get down to business with the food menu. A considerable amount of debate went into our menu selection. Clams casino or calamari?? Pork shank or the lobster mac n’ cheese?? A gluttonous shrimp toast or a health-conscious salad?? Another Spring Water?? The answer became quite clear…YES to all of the above.
It gets a little hazy at this point for several reasons. For starters, sunset hit, dazzling me into an awed stupor. I should mention that a significant portion of The Hobbit is made up of expansive windows that provide a downright stunning view of the bay. Just about every restaurant in Ocean City boasts bay views, but The Hobbit knocks it out of the park. As for the sunsets, you really do need to experience it for yourself. Of course Spring Waters were another contributing factor, but what really put me over the proverbial edge was the food coma that I soon found myself in. You know the feeling, it’s paramount to post-coital bliss (you know it’s a good meal when I’m comparing it to sex). Clams casino, the shrimp toast (which arrives with three sauces, one made inhouse that I could have bottled up and taken with me), arugula salad, pan-roasted salmon, pork shank with homemade linguine, and lobster mac n’ cheese…if your mouth isn’t watering I don’t want to be your friend. I would say it would be difficult to pick a favorite, but that’s only if the lobster mac n’ cheese hadn’t entered the lineup. It was the favorite amongst the group and was most likely what sent me into a deep food coma from which I was unable to return that evening.
Dessert? Not possible, but I suspect the sweets lineup is divine as well. I was so full that even a dessert martini was beyond my comprehension. As we rolled ourselves to the car (discreetly unbuttoning my top button) the date night officially came to an end. One last glimpse at the view reminded me what it is that I love about this town. It’s restaurants like The Hobbit, that effectively raise the bar in dining while staying firmly rooted in its local roots by creating a relaxed environment where one can throw down on an expensive bottle of wine or throw back a Natty Light without faltering. Suit and tie or a t-shirt, high heels or flip flops, there’s a spot for everyone at the bar at The Hobbit.
And now for the fun part, where we torture you with photos of the culinary spread. You’re welcome.