Enter the gastropub

Elevated pub grub and cocktails at Hudson’s

The open-faced meatloaf sandwich at Hudson’s.

The open-faced meatloaf sandwich at Hudson’s.

Photo by Meredith J. Cooper

Hudson’s Gastropub
2760 Esplanade, Ste. 100
Hours: Open for lunch and dinner Tues.-Sat., dinner Sun.-Mon.

Hudson’s Gastropub has a lot going for it. First and perhaps foremost, it’s owned by Christian Steinbach, whose downtown, upscale Christian Michaels Ristorante and more casual California Pasta Productions make up a strong track record for success. The experience shows at Hudson’s, most prominently in the décor and quality of food and drinks.

I first made my way to the north Chico restaurant shortly after it opened last year. The weather was nice, so some friends and I sat outside. The patio, in fact, is one of the place’s selling points—the only downside being its in a strip mall parking lot. Inside, the space is divided between bar with tall tables and restaurant with booths and short tables. On busy nights, it can get a bit noisy—but this isn’t supposed to be Christian Michaels II; this is a gastropub. For the uninitiated, that’s something between fine dining and a sports bar.

For instance, Hudson’s has a full burger menu, which is much more than just plain cheeseburgers. Think half a pound of beef topped with short rib meat or pulled pork and garlic aioli. With a choice of gluten-free bun. And expect to fork over about $15 for one and a side of fries. Likewise, the mac and cheese—which I ordered my first time there—is no Velveeta and shells. It’s fontina, parmesan, mozzarella, asiago and smoked cheddar, plus toppings ($3 extra) like short rib with crispy fried onions (my choice) or buffalo chicken and blue cheese.

For my second visit, a few weeks ago, I chose a seat at the bar. It was a Wednesday evening and the place was fairly empty. And, a direct quote from my notes: “The music is too loud to be so bad.” Foreigner had just followed the Bee Gee’s. No bueno—not for a place that wants to be hip.

I perused the cocktail menu and, though I usually stick to wine, it seemed to be a point of pride. So I ordered the Georgia Peach—Absolut Peach, peach bitters, house-made sweet and sour and fresh peaches. Well, it was advertised with fresh peaches but I got a lemon wedge instead. Ah well—peaches aren’t yet in season anyway. And it was still delicious. (A heads up is always nice, though.)

For starters, off the “bites” menu, I ordered the crispy mini ahi tacos—Hawaiian-style tuna poke with avocado cream, seaweed salad, ginger cabbage slaw, onions, peppers and Sriracha aoili (three for $10.95). The delightfully crispy shells were complemented by a variety of flavors and textures, from the zesty crunch of the ginger slaw to the subtly sweet chewiness of the seaweed salad.

As an entree, I bypassed the burger and pizza pie menus, though they both looked intriguing, and went for a sando instead. The open-faced meatloaf ($14.95) sounded wonderfully comforting—house-ground beef wrapped in bacon and topped with sautéed onions, roasted red bell peppers, melted provolone and mushroom gravy, all on toasted French bread.

It was every bit as amazing as it sounds. My only complaint, if you could call it that, was that the serving was humongous! There was seriously no humanly possible way for me to eat that entire “sando” in one sitting. Even if I hadn’t already indulged in those tacos. Although I assure you, none of it went to waste.

Overall, Hudson’s is a perfect date spot or place to meet friends. The prices are reasonable for the high quality of food and the limited menu is creative and homey while maintaining a high level of sophistication. The décor is nice and the atmosphere is comfortable—but I’m really hoping the ’70s-’80s soundtrack was a fluke. This ain’t a dive bar; this is a gastropub.