Search & Distill: The Skinny on the New Hudson—Both of Them

Collins' Pub and Smarty Pants have both spun off quality establishments of the same name.

The collective unconscious spits out some odd coincidences sometimes, whether it's fashion on the runway, competing Hulk flicks, or the latest baby names. This year, it gave Seattle two bars named Hudson, both the second children of teams behind a pair of well-known establishments. Each opened quietly and has attracted regulars—but has had a slow time of it in those older siblings' shadows.Maple Leaf's Hudson Public House (8014 15th Ave. N.E.) is related to Pioneer Square's Collins Pub, which has one of the best beer selections downtown and has attracted quite a following as a result. Hudson Public House carries that ideal to the north end, and it clearly looks related to the elder Collins. Both bars have a slightly more upscale version of pub furnishings, exposed brick, lots of wood, custom detailing surrounding the taps, and very little obnoxious beer paraphernalia screwing with the decor.The menus at both pubs walk the same line, with the food at Collins leaning toward traditional bar food and Hudson tilting toward gastropub. The latter's vibrant mint-laced halibut prepared over a garbanzo salad hit it out of the park; however, I cringed at my fries with orange zest, herbs, and bacon—one of those gastro-mashups that could use an editor. Definitely get the fries naked with a burger that's every bit as good as Collins'.Hudson's beer selection is similarly tip-top; at any given moment you can experience local favorites from Port Townsend and Bellingham's Boundary Bay, as well as breweries like Eugene, Ore.'s Ninkasi and North Coast out of Fort Bragg, N.C. The bar's sleepy neighborhood presents the biggest challenge. Hudson is typically staffed for slow nights, so when it's actually busy, it can feel understaffed. And against more established neighborhood favorites Mr. Villa, La Casa del Mojito, and Cooper's, Hudson has loyalties to win. The ingredients are all here; it just needs to find its people and its stride.The other Hudson (5000 E. Marginal Way S.), located on the outskirts of Georgetown, fills a niche in what may seem a no-man's-land to those passing through, but which harbors hundreds of hungry working people during the week. Decidedly the more blue-collar Hudson, the space, lined with giant windows, has its own sort of industrial chic. A black U-shaped bar dominates, with seating for about 40 tightly packed around its edges. It goes from zero to 60 in minutes when the lunch bell or quitting whistle sounds, and dining casualties are inevitable when everyone sits down at once. The food at older sister Smarty Pants (located in the heart of Georgetown, on Airport Way) can be uneven, too, and the service slow—but you know her and you love her, so you let it slide. Hudson you barely know, and if you already love it, it's likely more by association.Hudson South's menu is Southern-inspired, with po'boys and blackened catfish for lunch and dinner, shrimp and grits for breakfast. A giant scramble and Cajun-spiked hash browns with toast would satisfy any longshoreman who wandered in, but sometimes you're confronted with only one server, who's also manning the espresso bar. ("Staff for success" is a cliché for a reason.) The bar is simple, just like Smarty's, and you can't beat $1 High Life drafts at happy hour. But the kitchen can get overwhelmed; hence, your mini-burgers or skewers can come out completely overcooked.Each of these younger siblings will come into its own—too many people want to like them. What makes Collins Pub and Smarty Pants so popular is consistency; with that, and time, both Hudsons can become precious to their own following, in their own neighborhoods.msavarino@seattleweekly.com

 
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