1. It’s not always easy to find.
“Hello, do you guys have that new Hobbit menu? …Yeah. No, the Hobbit menu. Like, the Lord of the Rings menu with all the Hobbity food? …Are you serving it right now? Okay, good.”
This was the half a phone conversation I overhead as I sat across from Matt Lieb, my comedy life partner, as he called a Denny’s to confirm that they would indeed be serving their new Hobbit-themed menu. The promotion was part of #MiddleEarthsDiner, the apostrophe-mocking campaign about which I’d received a press release a few weeks prior. The press release promised “a bold new menu featuring seven authentic dishes inspired by ‘The Hobbit’ films and a bounty of exclusive movie content available only in-restaurant!“
I’m still not sure whether this partnership was meant to capitalize on all the rabid Hobbit fans looking for somewhere to eat, to funnel late-night Denny’s diners into The Hobbit (which opens Christmas Day), or just to squeeze a few bucks out of all the assholes like us who thought it be a silly idea to eat Hobbit food, but it hardly matters. Being the internet’s number one destination for movie-themed food, I knew we owed it to ourselves and our readers to investigate.
We were actually already sitting in a Denny’s booth while Matt was on his phone with Denny’s. We’d showed up to the location in Fisherman’s Wharf, which is inside a Holiday Inn, which I’d already called to confirm was serving the Hobbit menu. But when we got there, we discovered that the woman on the phone had meant “yes, we have the menu,” but not “yes, we are serving the food on that menu.” I didn’t blame her. It was a strange conversation for both of us, and she didn’t speak great English. When I first asked about the Hobbit menu, she said, “Oh yes, the two four six eight menu? We have that.” Then I said “No no, the Hobbit menu. You know, with the Hobbit-themed food?” She said yes to that way too quickly, especially for someone who didn’t know what it was five seconds ago. I figured it was about fifty-fifty that it was legit.
Matt called the other Denny’s, in downtown San Francisco, and once they’d answered our Hobbit-menu question six times in a row like they were dealing with some crippling OCD case, we piled in the cab and headed over†.
2. You have to request it by name.
Our server was a nice blonde girl, and I felt ashamed. We had to ask for the special Hobbit menu. That’s a lesson, don’t think you can just go into a Denny’s and the Hobbit food is going to be right there inside the regular menu, be prepared to have to ask for it and for them to have to dig it out of a drawer somewhere. In all the hubbub, I totally forgot to ask if I could eat it barefoot. Probably for the best. If I was a Denny’s waitress and someone asked me that, I’d probably hock a looch in their lembas bread.
3. It’s not necessarily that “Hobbity.”
We opened up our two-page Hobbit spread, and for the most part the food didn’t really seem that Hobbity.
For instance, you’ve got this “breakfast feast,” and it’s really just a regular breakfast combo with some honey on the French toast. The rest of the menu also featured lots of pumpkin and sweet potato stuff, because, as the press release noted, these are “Holiday Flavors Inspired by the Hobbit Trilogy,” and as we all know, “holiday flavors” = pumpkin shit. Is there some pumpkin stockpile somewhere I don’t know about? How is that people care desperately about pumpkin stuff for two months a year and then abruptly stop thinking about it for the other 10?
4. It’s very sugary.
“Smaug’s Fire Burger” and the “Hobbit Hole Breakfast” seemed the most theme appropriate, as well as the most appetizing, so we ordered those, along with some drinks and sweets. It was almost 4 pm at this point and I hadn’t eaten anything that day and I was really starting to crave some Hobbit food. I tried to temper my expectations, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Denny’s, it’s that the chasm between the picture and the food it depicts is bigger than the Grand Canyon. But if you’re hungry enough, you’ll still convince yourself it’s going to be delicious every damn time. If that pot roast comes out looking even half as good as the picture, I’m going to cum!
I started with the “Bowman’s Brew Pumpkin Coffee,” which is named for… uh… anyone with a bow, I guess? Couldn’t it be “Legolas’s Cupcake Coffee Cream Pie” or “Sam Gamgee’s Diabetes Brew” or something? It’s weird that they barely use any names from the movie. It’s like if they had a Dark Knight-themed menu and all the items were “Henchman’s Hog Fries” or “Gotham Grape Soda.” Little vague, no?
As you can see, it’s just pumpkin-flavored coffee with whipped cream and caramel on top, in case you need a sugar high to go with your caffeine high. Here’s a video of me drinking it, but I warn you, I am thoroughly disgusting.
While I wanted nothing more than to burn this video, I included it as penance for every time I’ve complained (and there have been LOTS) about how revolting it is to watch Adam Richman from Man Vs. Food eat or listen to Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods chew with his mouth open. Guys, I owe you an apology. In fairness, you try drinking a cup of piping hot coffee with four inches of whipped cream sticking off the top. Also, I’m fairly new to facial hair. After this, I immediately resolved to remain behind the camera.
The coffee… well, it tasted like pumpkin coffee with a lot of whipped cream on top, sort of like caffeinated hummingbird feed. Soon after this I could feel my heart racing and noticed I was sweating profusely. I was pitting out from sleeves to mid-rib.
5. Not all Hobbit food is created equal.
Next up, the Hobbit Hole Breakfast, which featured “Two eggs fried right into the center of grilled Cheddar bun halves. Served with two slices of bacon and crispy hash browns with melted shredded Cheddar cheese and bacon.”
I’ll admit, the description gave me a raging belly boner. Cheese and bacon on top of hash browns? Now you’re speaking my language. I could write a sociology thesis on the downfall of society as paralleled by the rise of home fries and the comparative decline of hash browns in our nation’s diners.
If the highlight was the cheesy-bacon hash browns, the lowlight was the sausage, which in the picture (above) looks to be the size of a healthy dong, but in reality, was about the size of my pinky and looked like someone had stuffed some spiced pig lips inside a Black and Mild. Which makes it sound much tastier than it was. Meanwhile, I’d have to call the eggs-in-a-cheddar bun a failure, not so much in execution, but certainly on a conceptual level. There’s a reason eggs Benedict comes on an English muffin. One English muffin with one egg on top is an optimal egg-to-bread ratio. The Cheddar bun was the size of a hamburger bun, which was an easy comparison to make when it was sitting right next to Smaug’s Fire Burger, which clearly had the same bun. I applaud the resourcefulness of using modular, interchangeable buns for multiple menu items, but a hamburger bun is far too big for one egg. Especially when you multiply the dryness factor by pairing it with an egg that’s cooked all the way through with no oozing yolk. And there’s no hollandaise sauce to moisten it up. Instead, you just get… ta da! More bread! For something so fatty, it was kind of a big dry mess.
Next up, Smaug’s Fire Burger. In the picture, this came slathered (SLATHERED!) in a yellow-orange “X-Sauce,” but as you can see in the photo below, that was nowhere to be found on the actual burger. That may have been a blessing. I don’t know what “X-sauce” actually means. It sounds like a condiment I should be using on a jetski. Note to Denny’s: The more your menu descriptions describe actual meat and produce, the better.
That said, the actual burger was pretty tasty. It had big onion, tomato, and pickle slices that all tasted pretty fresh, and the peppery patty, fried jalapeños, and pepper jack cheese gave it a mild spice. Could’ve used more fried jalapeños if you ask me, but I say that about everything. Still, at $13.50, I could’ve gotten a gourmet fancy pants burger down the street for the same price. I guess you’re paying for it to be available at 4 am, which is fair. As far as the fries go, I can tell they’re going for that ridged potato chip look, but let’s be honest, ridged potato chips are for assholes. Trying to make a ridged French fry just makes it look like you squirted it out of some play-doh attachment. Don’t over think the fries, man.
6. Did I mention it’s very sugary? Jesus Christ.
The pumpkin pie milk shake, impressively, looked exactly like the picture. Maybe even better. The bits of pumpkin pie crust did however come as a bit of a surprise. I did not expect to find anything chewy or chunky inside my milk shake. Maybe warn me at least? I’d like to say that it was a nice surprise that they use real pie crust in the milk shake, but it just raised new questions, really. My initial guess, having some familiarity behind the milk shake curtain from working at Starbucks*, would’ve been that the liquid part came in a mix and they just put that over ice and blended it up. But the metal overflow cup makes me think they used real ice cream and milk (or maybe that’s just why they give it to you with the metal cup). Still, let’s be real, they’re not putting pieces of pie in that shake. My guess is that there’s a bag of crust pieces somewhere that they sprinkle in, either during the blending process or afterwards. Anyway, it was pretty good! Did I mention it had 112 grams of sugar?? It was at this point in the meal that Matt Lieb had to get up to poop.
Which brings us to…
7. Expect to poop mid-meal, if not immediately after.
8. “Radagast’s Red-Velvet Pancake Pups” may not be the food America needs, but it’s the food America deserves.
Let me explain Radagast’s Red-Velvet Pancake Pups: It’s red velvet pancake batter, dotted with white chocolate chips, molded into croquettes and deep fried. They’re served in orders of six or ten and come with two (2) dipping sauces: 1. white frosting and 2. maple syrup.
The person who came up with this concoction is a diabolical genius on the level of Oppenheimer or Kalashnikov, giving humanity just enough rope to hang themselves. The beauty of it is that the croquettes, which, to review, are made of deep fried chocolate-spiced, white-chocolate chip dotted pancake batter and taste sort of like red velvet funnel cake, are actually kind of dry. Thus, to moisten them, you end up dipping them in white frosting and maple syrup, the two sweetest substances known to man.
I’m surprised anyone can eat this without getting the jake leg. Also, of all the characters in the Hobbit canon they could’ve named this after, who did they choose? Why, the one who shows up in The Hobbit with bird shit running down the side of his face, of course. THEY NAMED FOOD AFTER A GUY WITH SHIT ON HIS FACE.
Am I supposed to think of that white bird shit stain as I eat my white-chip dotted pancake balls dipped in white frosting? This is such a beautifully elaborate troll. The symbolic juxtaposition edit is like something out of Election. “Dear America, you’re going to eat bird shit and like it. Love, Denny’s.”
(Watch for the ominous cameo at the 30-second mark)
†By the way, is there a job where you have to deal with more bullshit for less money than working at Denny’s? Aside from being the default hang out for drama club kids sucking down 99-cent coffee for six hours and late night drunks making the same super original moons over my hammy jokes, now they have to try to remember corporate synergy strategies and deal with dickheads iPhone filming their Hobbit food talking about how gross it is? These people should be be given a monument. In terms of thankless heroism, Denny’s waitresses > firemen. Yeah, I said it.
*This was right about the time they introduced the Frappucino Light. People would always come in and ask “What’s in the Frappucino Light?” Like I’m supposed to know? It comes in a big plastic bladder inside a box, I squirt it on some ice and transfer it from the blender to your cup. We entertained ourselves by coming up with new answers every time. “What’s in the Frappucino Light?” “Uh, space-age polymers?” “What’s in the Frappucino Light?” “The tears of the unborn.” Did I mention I eventually got fired?