“Lucky for us, my daughter and I cook, and [MaryEllen’s] good at the front of the house, so just the three of us did it over the pandemic,” Forrest said. “It was an interesting time—we’ve learned how to open and close and reopen about three times during the pandemic.”
Now that the restaurant has made it through the statewide shutdowns, even celebrating its first anniversary in October, MaryEllen said she looks forward to giving the end-of-year season another go.
“We experienced [festival season] in December, and everyone [was] like, ‘You’re going to be busier in March,’ and then the pandemic hit,” she said. “We broke a record, just in the wrong direction. But we don’t give up easy.”
Prior to opening Market Street Cafe in Tomball, Forrest established The Hobbit Hole restaurant in Houston in the early ‘70s. After selling the restaurant—now known as The Hobbit Cafe—to his brother, Forrest said he and his family decided to open a new restaurant in Tomball.
“We were interested in farmers markets and read about the Tomball Farmers Market,” Forrest said. “We were out here for that one Saturday and happened to see this location and just kind of fell in love with it.”
MaryEllen said she feels at home in Tomball’s small-town atmosphere, which she finds similar to her hometown of Carthage, New York.
“Tomball is very cozy, comfortable, and it [has] small-town values,” MaryEllen said. “[Tomball has] expanded enough to not be a ghost town, [and] they’ve kept it feeling family friendly and people friendly. ... We’re very blessed to be here.”
Additionally, MaryEllen said she enjoys being a part of the Market Street business community with business owners often getting together to discuss how to attract more visitors.
“The whole block ... comes together to say, ‘How can we grow? ... How can we attract people to this area?’ With the food, with the brewery, with the shopping and the farmers market, of course, it attracts a lot [of people],” she said.
With state and local mandates in place, Forrest said the restaurant lost clientele because the restaurant was not able to offer dine-in options. Now, however, MaryEllen said regulars are returning and new customers are starting to visit.
According to Forrest, customers can expect new menu items, such as chicken fried steak and fried catfish, in response to local demand, and its patio bar will reopen soon.
“I feel like [customers] feel like this is their home away from home and that they’re getting real food,” MaryEllen said.
Market Street Cafe
302 Market St., Tomball
Hours: Mon.-Wed. 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Thu.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.