When Amkee Ervin and Erick Anderson decided to leave Savannah and open The Traveling Hobo Cafe, the original plan was to do it in Athens.
When they drove through Watkinsville the same day they found their house, the plan changed.
“When we found our place in Bishop, we were driving through Watkinsville and it was adorable,” explained Ervin. “We saw a place to rent on Main Street and it seemed perfect. We saw it and just knew it was going to be the store. Everyone was so nice. Bangs Salon and Kiki’s Bakeshop were just really encouraging.
“Our original thought was to open a place in Athens, but the more we talked to people around here, the more they were telling us they could use a place like this here. Sure enough, when we opened the doors, everybody was really receptive.”
The Traveling Hobo Cafe opened with a ribbon cutting on September 25 with a menu specializing in a variety of hamburgers and including options ranging from salads and sandwiches to a half pound hot dog and fish and chips. Ervin gave an overview of some of her favorite menu items.
“I wish people would try the Loco Moco,” said Ervin. “It is a burger on white rice with a fried egg and brown gravy. It is so good. It is a Hawaiian dish. You can’t go wrong with any of our burgers with Kiki’s buns. We also have a shrimp po’ boy. That’s probably our next biggest seller.
“Burgers start at $5.50 and come with a side. It’s really affordable. We have a couple of other items like a lamb burger and a bison burger. They are still pretty reasonable for lamb and bison and are both really good. Everything is under $10. We hand-batter everything here. The shrimp, onion rings, and mushrooms are all hand-battered.”
As the name and diverse menu suggest, the owners have drawn inspiration from a love of travel.
“Erick and I have both traveled all our lives. I used to move every six months. I lived out of a backpack for 20 years, working at national parks and resort areas and doing seasonal restaurant work in Hawaii, Honduras and the Virgin Islands.
“When we were thinking of names and ideas, we wanted to incorporate travel because that is something we are both passionate about. Not just for work, but also for pleasure. We were kicking around names like ‘Wandering Hobo’ and ‘Traveling Hobo’ and ‘Traveling Hobo’ just seemed to fit our ideas.”
The burger emphasis grew out of the experience the two had owning a bar and restaurant in Savannah, but Ervin and Anderson wanted to expand the menu with a full restaurant.
“People would rave about our hamburgers in Savannah, so we wanted to keep that as the main focus,” Ervin explained. “But at the same time, we wanted to make a broad enough menu that someone could have lunch here five days a week and have something completely different each day. One day they can have a salad, another day they can have fish and chips, another day a burger and another a club sandwich.
“We have about two years of experience with this burger, but we’ve also incorporated Kiki’s Bakeshop, so we have more of an artisan bun now. We’re supporting the local business next door and are really proud to have her product.”
The new plan to locate in Watkinsville, diversify the menu and incorporate local food sources seems to be going well as Ervin indicated the response has been very positive.
“We have had a really good reception,” said Ervin. “It has been really amazing and everybody has been so welcoming. We have some people that have been back one day after their first visit this week. We weren’t expecting how busy it has been. I’m a little terrified by it, but at the same time, it has been amazing. We are very excited.”
The Traveling Hobo Cafe is located at 20 Greensboro Highway in Watkinsville. It is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m.