Superfans, Unite! A Texas Guide to Hobbits, Pickles & More
Many of us secretly or openly obsess about a TV series, comic book, or some other alternative reality that allows us to escape our humdrum routines. While large commercial ventures like Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter cater to the masses, Texas is a microcosm of quirky cafes, shops, and destinations that are geared to fans of The Lord of the Rings book series or the Harry Potter movies, among other superfan crazes.
Best Maid Pickle Emporium recently opened in Fort Worth’s Near Southside. The iconic pickle brand, with its lovable mascot Smiley, is now a destination for fans of the local business and all things pickled. The space is part retail store and part museum. Long rows of encased shelves hold historic relics and merchandise – some of which are several decades old. The Best Maid Pickle staff did a wonderful job of telling the story of the popular food brand through the decades. The retail space has hard-to-find pickle options (like the oh-so-zesty Bloody Mary Pickles) and even pickle-themed custom jewelry. Make this store your first stop on your superfan road trip and see what the “big dill” is.
Capes, wands, and magic brooms are welcome at Coffee Mugg(le) in Corpus Christi. Medieval banners hang from the roof of the newish coffee shop, and color-coded chairs allow visitors to display your allegiance to the house of Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, or Ravenclaw. Caffeinated drink options include the Raven Coco (cold brew with coconut, cream, and white chocolate), Malfoy (white mocha latte), and El Hedwig Latte (white mocha with caramel, espresso, and cream), among others. Sit back and watch as the barista conjures up a spell-bindingly delicious hot beverage. “Latte Patronum!” There’s even a Golden Snitch Treat, which may be the only time I catch one of those dastardly Quidditch balls.
If your summer road trip includes Houston, plan an evening at Hobbit Café. While the Lord of the Ring movies popularized J. R. R. Tolkien’s popular book series 20 years ago, the Hobbit Café has served customers since 1972. There are several guilt-free food options like the Shire (avocado, fresh tabouli, tomato, alfalfa sprouts, and mayo) and Smaug’s Delight (smoked turkey, avocado, tomato, and melted jack cheese). Indoors, you’ll find vintage posters of characters from The Hobbit alongside more recent props from the popular movie series. Grab a mug of mead and chow down Hobbit-style – if you don’t mind a bug-eyed Gollum staring you down while you feast.
Millions of Americans fell in love with the American epic Western miniseries Lonesome Dove when it first aired in the late 1980s. Reruns of the ground-breaking miniseries remain popular, but fans of Larry McMurtry, the author of Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment, and The Last Picture Show, can enjoy a more tangible connection to the iconic television series that was set in South Texas by visiting McMurtry’s Booked Up bookstore, located in Archer City (about a two-hour drive from Fort Worth). According to a 2009 article in D Magazine, the bookstore, which launched in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C. in 1971, grew from the author’s love of “book ranching.” McMurtry, who died in March of this year, built his early career both as a novelist and book scout. Speaking of his bookstore, McMurtry said, “Few books are rare; we have handled only a handful in 44 years in the trade. But many books are attractive. Customers come to us from wherever the four winds blow.”
Allied bombing runs over Europe are credited with crippling the Nazi war machine and paving the way for the Allied land invasion that freed Western Europe. Many of the ace bombardiers and pilots who led that effort began their training in West Texas. Beginning in 1941, Midland was home to the world’s largest bombardier training facility. West Texas offered mild weather, nondescript terrain, and a temperate climate to train cadets on the basics of formation flying and target practice. More than 1,000,000 practice bombs were dropped over an area the size of New Jersey over the course of the war. The Midland Army Air Field Museum dutifully protects vintage planes and WWII artifacts, educational exhibits (including one that recounts the submarine rescue of George Bush after his plane was shot down), and aircraft ride opportunities for the WWII and air war buffs out there.
As you plan your trips across Texas, don’t forget the superfan in your family. Wherever you go, there’s bound to be a place to delight a hardcore fan’s heart.
Edward Brown is a writing tutor and piano teacher. He is also an award-winning writer for the Fort Worth Weekly and volunteers for numerous Fort Worth nonprofits. He has spent the last two weeks walking and talking with the protesters in Fort Worth.