In Tempe, Apache Boulevard’s past was largely defined by motor hotels and mobile homes. Today, it is becoming a corridor full of multi-story apartment complexes. Despite the gradual transformation of the thoroughfare itself, the neighborhoods found just a block to the north or south have seen less change with much of their mid-century housing stock intact along walkable side streets named for trees. One of those areas is Hudson Manor, a neighborhood where a bar and restaurant celebrates its immediate surroundings by calling itself simply the Hudson.
The Hudson Eatery & Bar, its full name, is found at the northern boundary of the Hudson Manor neighborhood, on the south side of Apache at Elm Street. The location is slightly closer to the McClintock/Apache light rail station, but the platform at Apache/Dorsey offers a better walking or bicycling route to the establishment. Dorsey Lane is also the terminus of the Tempe Streetcar, which offers another way to travel to the Hudson via rail. Abundant bike racks are found outside the restaurant in a small parking lot shared with the Liquor Express store next door.
The liquor store is not only the Hudson’s neighbor, but also shares some of its heritage with the restaurant; the Hudson’s current owner was previously a partner there. The store’s influence is felt in the Hudson’s emphasis on craft beer and spirits, particularly bourbon. A mural on the side of the store creates a colorful presence that welcomes visitors as they walk into the restaurant. Inside, two display screens are found near the counter. One showcases the Hudson’s food menu while the other highlights a rotating selection of beer and cider, much of it of local origin.
A separate printed menu describes some original cocktails, again with a leaning towards bourbon. The Hudson is small with only a few tables inside a dining room adorned with images of Tempe history. More seating is found on two patios, one facing Apache and the other along Elm. All ordering is done at the small bar with food then brought to the table as it is prepared. This compact and casual layout makes the Hudson feel like a neighborhood spot rather than a big sports bar, despite the presence of a wall-mounted television screen in the dining room.
The Hudson’s approach to bar food blends burgers and bowls. In other words, roughly half the menu is devoted to hot sandwiches with the other half dominated by dishes served over rice or pasta. As expected, there are some pub grub classics to be shared, either before entrees or as an alternative to them. Those choices include a trio of soft pretzels with a cheese sauce or a basket of eight chicken wings with a choice of a gentle dry rub, a mild sauce, or a fiery habanero coating. There are also two pizzas, described as “weird dough flatbread” on the menu.
The dough doesn’t seem all that weird, but the result is a thin-crust elliptical pizza that can satiate one person if eaten alone or easily be shared if combined with other dishes. The BBQ chicken version showcases the kitchen’s thoughtful approach with its toppings of fresh chives and minced onion in addition to the expected grilled poultry and tangy sauce. The other option, a pepperoni flatbread, falls within more familiar territory with its classic pizza topping. In both cases, provolone as the pizza cheese adds a bit of sharpness to the dish’s flavor profile.
The burgers and sandwiches here are all served on a brioche bun a choice of sides: fries, onion rings, or side salad with chopped tomatoes and cucumbers that the menu describes as Mediteream pico de gallo. The basic burger is the Boom Boom burger with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a sauce of the same name. Other burgers add mushrooms and Swiss cheese, bacon, or pastrami. A Sun Devil hot chicken sandwich delivers the spice promised in its description, and roast beef and Philly-style sandwiches also do a capable job of filling the buns.
The other side of the Hudson is the meals in bowls. An entree known as Return of the Mac is essentially a serving of curly pasta with cheese sauce, chicken, and bacon. An effective vegan alternative is the tahini pasta in which sesame paste replaces cheese as a viscous coating for the noodles. No More Mr. Rice Guy is a bowl that begins with the named grain and tops it with the Mediterranean pico, ranch dressing, and hot sauce. Keep Calm and Curry On incorporates a Japanese-style curry sauce full of potatoes and carrots. Both offer the option to add meat.
The Hudson offers just two desserts. One is a sweet version of the same pretzels served as an appetizer, only dusted with cinnamon sugar and paired with caramel sauce for dipping. The other is a creme brulee, a somewhat unexpected but welcome find in this unpretentious neighborhood spot. The focused menu is sometimes augmented with specials like occasional instances of taco Tuesdays, a burger battle in which staff choose their original combinations of toppings and compete to see which is ordered most, and seasonal desserts like pumpkin pie.
The beverage program is primarily designed for fans of either beer or whiskey; wine is a more minimal presence here with just one white and one red available. Non-alcoholic selections include sodas and ice tea. Despite the bar and the liquor store next door, the Hudson retains a family-friendly feeling that fits its neighborhood location and its proximity to nearby Hudson Park. Apache Boulevard continues to change with development around light rail and the streetcar, but the Hudson is a reminder of an enduring neighborhood just a few blocks away.
1601 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe AZ 85281