First Taste

First Taste: The Hudson Eatery & Bar Isn't Just Another Gentrified Tempe Restaurant

Lauren Cusimano
Brand new joint with an already established vibe.
When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead, a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).

Restaurant: The Hudson Eatery & Bar
Location: 1601 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe
Eats/drinks: Quality comfort food and bourbon
Open: About five months
Price: $$
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Downtown Tempe is changing rapidly, thanks to corporate tenants moving onto Mill Avenue, two years of streetcar construction, and high-rises packing in more residents than could have been imagined on these construction-ridden streets just a decade ago.

It's had major implications for the area's food and drink scene, too. Which is why it's nice to see, amid all that chaos, an actual neighborhood joint open and find its niche with Tempe locals, students, visitors, and transplants. We're talking about the Hudson Eatery & Bar, which opened in November at 1601 East Apache Boulevard.

Housed in a 1965-built former real estate office, The Hudson (named for the Hudson Manor neighborhood it sits near the entrance to) looks like it’s been nestled up against Liquor Express for years. (One of the owners used to own the liquor store.) It's got a nice bike rack against a muraled wall, soft bistro lighting, and a full bar lit up behind the cashier.

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The Philly cheesesteak with a side of those incredible fries.
Lauren Cusimano
On the menu: wings, hot sandwiches, bowls of yellow rice and protein, and an impressive bourbon selection.

You order food at the bar. They give you a little flagpole number card and you take it and your drink back to your table (either inside, on the patio, or at the partition counter that is both).

We ordered the Philly cheesesteak, pretzel sticks with cheese sauce, dry rub wings, a Mushroom Swiss Boom Boom Burger, the No More Mr. Rice Guy bowl, and the Hudson House Salad with steak and a hot sauce dressing.

Takeaways: Those orders sound like typical bar food, and they were, but there was something special going on in each dish. The salad had Mediterranean-style pico. The dry rub was perfect and loaded on the wings. The cheesesteak came with copious amounts of cheese. The fries are not too thin, but not a steak fry — these are slender, lengthy boys encased in a nicely crunchy shell. Every piping-hot fry’s surface was heavily textured and simply seasoned with just the right amount of salt and pepper (or so it seemed). These are very good fries.

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The dry rub wings.
Lauren Cusimano
Less good: The actual chicken wings, sans rub, were a little tough. But hey, there’s a chicken wing shortage right now, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. The cheese sauce accompanying the pretzel sticks was good but thin — really thin. You had to hold the pretzel in the sauce like a cookie soaking up milk. The Swiss and mushroom burger also had lettuce and tomato, which was a distraction. We would recommend asking for the burger sans LT. And the dining room was a little too bright, clashing with the soft, twinkling lights on the patio.

Now to drinks.

Clap emoji for stocking a few local bevvies. On draft was The Joy Bus WOW Wheat Ale Wheat Beer from Four Peaks Brewing Company, Wren House Brewing Company’s Spellbinder, Cider Corps P.O.G., I Remember My First Beer sour from the up-and-coming Roses By The Stairs, and more.

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The No More Mr. Rice Guy bowl.
Lauren Cusimano
And as for bourbon and whiskey, The Hudson shoots for quality over quantity.

Choices include favorites like John J. Bowman, Blanton's, and Old Fitzgerald, as well as lesser-known yet equally satisfying options like Doc Swinson's, Oan & Eden, and the Tucson-made Del Bac.

For fun, Mondays at The Hudson is Mystery Whiskey Night. Bartenders select a different bottle each week and keep it secret. Customers buy a pour and get to sippin'. The first person to guess which displayed bottle is in the glass pays just a penny for the 1.5-ounce pour.

Personally speaking, I'm unable to feasible return to most new places I visit. There’s a lot of food to cover in this town. But I hope to add The Hudson to my local rotation, for the fries, bike rack, and atmosphere alone.