Beyond the Bar

Culinary concepts can be as viral as those annoying pet videos on YouTube; menus today from Hong Kong to Hoboken all seem to feature ubiquitous items like foamy sauces, pork belly and cod cheeks.

Culinary concepts can be as viral as those annoying pet videos on YouTube; menus today from Hong Kong to Hoboken all seem to feature ubiquitous items like foamy sauces, pork belly and cod cheeks.

Currently, it seems like the fusion taco truck is the hot thing in the food world though just behind it is the omnipresent gastropub. Not quite sure what a gastropub is meant to be? It’s a term that originated in the UK that roughly translates to “bar where you can actually eat the food.” Having weathered life in Dublin on a shoestring, 20-something budget, I can authoritatively tell you that cider and chips only go so far toward one’s dietary needs.

Sometimes, you need real food.

Redondo Beach has its own new gastropub, compliments of chef/owners Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts. Heading south from their successful Marina del Rey outpost, Beechwood, their newest hotspot, Hudson House, is a welcome addition to a section of PCH dominated by drycleaners, nail salons and psychic readers. (Turn left at Madame Bonnie’s palm reading to park behind Hudson House. Really.) Hudson House is precisely the place you wish would open in your neighborhood, preferably within walking distance if you’re a beer connoisseur and want to sample more than a few of the over fifty brews available. Many are microbrews that are difficult to find elsewhere and with names like “Lips of Faith” and “Siamese Twin Ale,” half the fun is doing the ordering. Hudson House also has a better-than-average wine list and with more serious food items available, there are times when a glass of white or red (many available by the half-carafe, hooray!) may suit your snacks better than beer.

Our recent visit happened to coincide with Valentine’s Day, and while we hadn’t actually planned it that way, we decided Hudson House was the perfect, casual spot for two tired parents, one hungry toddler and one patient mother-in-law to celebrate the day. We arrived on the early side, which proved wise as Hudson House quickly filled with a quirky variety of patrons — two slender, attractive female cops sharing a few small plates of food (with Diet Cokes, as they were in uniform), a young surfer couple with sun-streaked hair and sandy toes fresh off the beach and a “first date” duo dressed to the nines were our immediate neighbors. We started with a few items to share, like the Hudson House’s signature roasted nuts with marinated olives and dried cherries and a particularly yummy burrata served with a caponata style mix of warm plum tomatoes, arugula, balsamic and caramelized onions that we eagerly slathered on slices of grilled bread. The bacon-chive biscuits took quite some time to arrive but were well worth the wait, served hot from the oven with a spicy honey butter. For the Petite Gourmande, a huge portion of truffled mac’n’cheese with chèvre was surprisingly palatable; she devoured it so perhaps she is living up to her name as truffle oil seems to suit her three-year-old self just fine.

For main courses, we opted for protein — marinated skirt steak, grilled lamb sugarcane skewers and the Hudson pretzel burger. Before I wax rhapsodic about the burger, which judging from its presence on all of our neighbors’ tables is clearly the draw at Hudson House, a word on the other meat items. The skirt steak was very generously apportioned and quite tender for the $13 price tag but we were baffled by the advertised side of “garlic and truffle fries.” Essentially, they were plain fries that had been embedded on a melted slab of the same truffle-goat cheese blend that had also been used in the mac’n’cheese. It’s thrifty to use the same ingredient twice, but frankly, those fries were bizarre. The lamb skewers were a step up and paired beautifully with a glass of medium-bodied garnacha from Evodia in Spain’s Priorato district. But, oh the burger. Served on a toasted pretzel bun with smoky grilled onion, bacon, wilted arugula and Jarlsberg, it was one of the tastiest entrants into the gastropub burger wars that I have been lucky enough to sample. It seems like the design-your-own-burger fad has been eclipsed by the chef-sanctioned burger; in this case, you should order that burger exactly as the Hudson House folks want you to experience it. Eat it the way they suggest and you’ll be glad you did.

We were saddened to learn that they were out of the homemade ice cream sandwiches, particularly because we’d bribed our little one with promised Valentine’s dessert. We were told there wasn’t so much as a scoop to be had in the house and the only other alternative, a deep-fried Twinkie, wasn’t exactly on my parent-sanctioned treat list. No matter. Mr. Sexton had opened his box of Valentine’s loot, which included plenty of his favorite Jelly Bellies and they proved a perfectly happy ending to our meal. (I think he ate the whole pound bag on the way home!) Hudson House is a fantastic place to share some gourmet snacks and drinks with friends, in a friendly modern atmosphere that proves that the days of the dive bar may be numbered. When you get happy hour specials that feature food this good, those stale peanuts and boring beers just don’t seem so appealing anymore. Can we convince them to open a satellite Hudson House up in my neck of the woods? We could certainly use a neighborhood watering hole just like this.

Hudson House
514 N. Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach
310-798-9183, hudsonhousebar.com
 

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