I was back in my home town, driving up Quaker Avenue with one of my closest friends, Barry, on a typically crisp and sunny West Texas winter morning. We were heading to a familiar destinationa place where we would have a bit of breakfast and catch up on the weeks that had passed since we had last been in town at the same time. Having both lived in Lubbock for more than twenty years and having experienced first-hand the dearth of good breakfast places, Barry and I were undeniably excited to know that Hoot’s Bagels had survived our absence. We pulled up in the parking lot, hopped out of his car, and were immediately greetedno, welcomedby the aroma of freshly baked bagels. "Good to see some things never change," Barry said, grinning.
For the uninitiated, Hoot’s Bagels needs an introduction. This, friends, is no ordinary bagel shop. And it’s where any tour of Lubbock ought to begin. Hoot’s, located in the Kingsgate Center South at Eighty-second and Quaker, was founded almost six years ago by the Hoot familyPhil, Marian, and their daughter, Currie. "So what’ll it be guys?" Phil asks. And what’ll it be indeed. You see, here’s where the wonder begins. Never have you seen bagels like theseor the variety. Sure you’ve had cinnamon raisin and sesame seed and maybe even a cranberry walnut. But I’ll be willing to bet you’ve never had a spinach-dill rye bagel, a.k.a. the Popeye Rye, or a habañero jack, or an apricot cherry oat, for that matter. Hoot’s bakes 26 different varieties of bagels every morningincluding the famous Snickerdoodle (with veritable mounds of warm, caramelized cinnamon sugar). Barry orders a warm cheddar cheese bagel with a schmear of sweet hot green chiles, and I opt for a sesame seed with butter and a dab of raspberry-jalapeño jelly.
Having finished our breakfast, Barry and I bid farewell with a plan to meet for dinner. I was left with the remainder of the morning and decided to wander around the shopping center in which the bakery is located. Lubbock is hardly known for its shopping opportunities, but Kingsgate Center offers a nice variety of chain stores, including Banana Republic, Harold’s, and Ann Taylor, in addition to locally owned favorites such as Campus Design, which stocks a wide variety of Red Raider apparel and souvenirs; Avanté, a luxury and specialty-item shop; and Gourmet Pantry, a kitchen and housewares store. Across the street is Kingsgate Center North, home to several restaurants, as well as the Charles Adams Gallery. It is always nice to stop in and visit the gallery. Dave, a pudgy weimaraner with an affinity for peanut brittle, is sure to greet you as you browse original works by local and Texas artists such as Ken Dixon, Lynwood Krenick, and the internationally known Luis Jimenez.
There are many great ways to spend an afternoon in Lubbock, including the wonderful antiques shops along Thirty-fourth Street, between University Avenue and Avenue Q. But I revisited the National Ranching Heritage Center, just north of the Texas Tech University campus. This is a sixteen-acre indoor-outdoor museum and historical park devoted to the preservation of more than 35 original ranch buildings and homes from the late 1700’s to the early 1900’s. After taking some time to explore the center, go next door to the Museum of Texas Tech University, where there is something for everyonethe Diamond M fine art collection, the Moody Planetarium, and the Natural Science Research Laboratory. Another enjoyable diversion is located in the southern area of Lubbock, along Loop 289, between University and Indiana avenues. The Science Spectrum is home to one of the two OmniMax theaters in the state. If you have never seen an OmniMax movie, you’re in for a treat. (OmniMax is similar to Imax but better, in my opinion, because the domed screen seems to wrap around you and envelop you in the action.) Check for show times, but there are usually two or three different films that rotate through an hourly schedule. And after you get out of the movie, spend a little time in the Science Spectrum itself, an imaginative, wonderful place full of more than two hundred interactive and live-animal exhibits. Certainly no visit to Lubbock is complete without a detour to the recently opened Buddy Holly Center, located immediately west of Interstate 27 and Nineteenth Street. The center is a real Texas treasure; the permanent collection is home to everything Buddy Holly, from his trademark glasses to the guitar on which he composed Peggy Sue.
After my morning of shopping and afternoon of history and culture, I was famished. I phoned Barry and a few other friends and we decided to get together for a cocktail and some appetizers before dinner. To me, the best place to do this is the Grapevine. Located one block east of University on Nineteenth Street, the Grapevine is truly the city’s best dining experience. Chef Don Price serves up regional favorites that rival fine dining in any major Texas city. The menu is quite diverse, from a spicy Santa Fe chicken sandwich served open-faced to melt-in-your-mouth seafood crêpes. The bacon-wrapped shrimp are always a winning appetizer and J’S Cocktail Lounge, the adjacent martini bar, serves top-quality drinks. If you’re in the mood for more stick-to-your-ribs fare, you just can’t beat the Hub City Brewery. Lubbock’s first and only microbrewery and restaurant is famous for its wheat ale, Wild Bill’s Yellow Wheat, and the great oak-wood-burning-oven pizzas and sandwiches. The brewery is located in Lubbock’s historic Depot District, once the location of the Lubbock train depot and now home to the Buddy Holly Center. Hub City’s prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is perfect for anything from a date to a family get-together. And when you’re through, you might as well stay in the Depot District. It’s no Sixth Street or Deep Ellum, and there’s not much to do during the day, but a spectacular evening can be had hopping between live music at Einstein’s or Clousseau’s, clubbing at Liquid 2000, two-stepping at the Blue Light, or just taking in some sports at Bleacher’s. Barry and I opted for a more low-key evening, settling on Cricket’s Grill and Draft House, at Broadway and University, about half a block down from Texas Tech’s main entrance. Cricket’s is a great place to hang out, have 1 of the 75 beers on tap, and just relax. Still having one more day in town, I looked at Barry and asked, "So what do you want to do tomorrow?"