“I dig the ability to wake up in the morning and walk around the woods outside my house with a cup of coffee and my dog, away from urban sounds,” explained Chef Zakary Pelaccio when asked why he and his familial culinary posse migrated from New York City to Hudson. Seething with brothels and gambling dens during the first half of the 20th century and cocaine in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but these days—and particularly over the last three years—this former colonial whaling port is reeling in A-list chefs with its bucolic beauty and artisanal pluck.
The aforementioned Pelaccio’s James Beard-nominated Fish & Game is upstate’s fanciest eatery, though with surprisingly approachable fare. Housed in a 19th century blacksmith’s shop, cool (if slightly hipster) music and the scent of locally sourced hickory and cherrywood fill the open kitchen, dining room and bar as the bearded sommelier makes his rounds to all the tables. Half the menu is dedicated to Northeast seafood, though it evolves weekly depending on the meat and veg coming in from Columbia County’s farmers. Try the oven-roasted oysters with fermented chili vinaigrette or pair Franz Strohmeier’s Chardonnay-Pinot Blanc blend from Styria, Austria with roasted cauliflower punctuated with hazelnuts, basil, and concord grapes that burst in your mouth. The restaurant’s recent decision to go à la carte was met with predictable enthusiasm.
Upper Warren Street’s Crimson Sparrow has an ambitious tasting menu, a fabulous bar and a well-curated sake list. Start your night with Dewazakura Tobiroku, a sparkling Nigori sake that undergoes secondary fermentation in bottle, just like Champagne, paired with the fairytale eggplant with rice vinegar from the bar menu. The Sparrow’s prix-fixe Sunday Supper has become quite popular for its surprising twists on American food, and you can choose either a wine or sake pairing.
A Saturday brunch involving eggs on the Le Perche patio or fireside in their loungey dining room is recommended. This café/bakery/bar’s baguettes are the best on Warren Street, which is as it should be—they’re baked in a 17-ton Munoz oven that was imported in pieces from France, with a recipe from the rural reaches of Normandy. Wash down your late brunch with Château La Rame’s crisp Bordeaux Blanc.
Continue walking away from the direction of the Hudson River and you’ll reach the casual side of Warren Street. Exuding retro charm, Grazin’ has a shiny metal façade dating back to 1946, a functioning jukebox, swivel stools and red leather booths. But that’s where Grazin’s archetypal diner qualities come to a halt. This family-owned spot grows its own juicy, hormone-free, grass-fed burgers at Grazin’ Angus Acres farm down the road. Enjoy the perfectly seared burger topped with Hawthorne Valley Farm cheddar, chased with the decadent root beer float featuring house-made soda. You’ll even find vino and local brews (try the Farmer’s Daughter Pale Ale from nearby Chatham Brewery).
Spotty Dog Books & Ale was the town’s firehouse from 1889 to 2002, but now it’s where locals day drink. Grab a glass of Sancerre or a local craft beer (like CH Evans Pump Station Pale Ale) to sip as you peruse the carefully curated titles at this independent bookshop, literary café and bar. Spotty Dog hosts beer & wine tastings with local experts like Craig Gravina, author of Upper Hudson Valley Beer.
Fancy an Absinthe? Kevin Moran—P.M. Wine Bar’s proprietor and lone bartender—infuses intrigue and charming vintage detail into this watering hole. Using an antique balancier to slowly dilute Pernod Absinthe, he offers guests a bit of whimsy while they snack on a buffet of complimentary hummus and crudités.
Downtown on Front Street, Hudson’s newest 12-room guesthouse Wm. Farmer and Sons just opened a barroom and restaurant in September, yet the people who walk in seem to already be acquainted. The space looks like a Restoration Hardware catalog—matte bronze lighting solutions and tufted beige couches abound. Install yourself at the slate marble bar for a Finger Lakes Riesling or Pinot Noir.