I don’t really know why, but I did not go to the first six years I lived here. Of course, I knew where it was. I had driven by it countless times. I frequently saw a full parking lot, so it must be good, I thought. Recently, a friend was visiting from St. Louis and wanted to go out for barbeque. Now is the time, I thought. I know where to go. Now I know–it only takes one visit to make you a fan.
Established on December 20, 1971, Hudson Hickory House was opened by Buford Hudson. Today, it is run by Buford and his son, Scot. Father, son or both will always be there, no matter the day or time. On a weekday afternoon, Scot Hudson sat down and told me about his family’s restaurant over the quiet din of chatting employees and customers and the sound of chopping coming from the kitchen.
So what’s so special about Hudson’s? It’s home-made, hand-made and the Hudsons are sticklers for every little detail. “It’s not pulled off the shoulder until you order it,” Hudson said. “We bring it in from the pit where it’s been on a rack over an open fire of hickory wood; logs, not coals.” The pork shoulder starts on a slow fire in the morning, taking 10 to 12 hours to cook. Each week, Hudson’s goes through 6,000 pounds of pork.
For something else special, try a hamburger. It’s freshly ground in the kitchen. Or maybe you’ve fall in love with the blue cheese dressing. It is made fresh daily. “My father came up with the recipe years ago. It’s an acquired taste,” Hudson said. “I see people dipping French fries into it.” People stop by Hudson’s to get a pint of blue cheese dressing to go, it’s that good.
But it’s not just good food that keeps people coming back. “We treat people right,” Hudson said. “Daddy always said ‘if you don’t give them a reason leave, they’ll come back.’ If he (Buford) wouldn’t eat it, it won’t go out the door. We want you to be happy. If you’re not, we’ll make it up to you.”
Some employees have worked there 20 or 30 years. “It’s not our own family, but they are family,” Hudson reflected. “Generations have worked here.” Lee Burney has been a waitress for one and a half years. She said, “I love the people. I can be myself. I’m just a good old country girl.” Burney continued, “It’s laid-back and family-oriented. If we’ve got an open table, we’ll get you a seat.” She looked like she enjoyed her job, with a friendly demeanor politely pushing fried pies for dessert. Fried pies? Well, they may not be the healthiest items on the menu but after it arrives at your table, heated up with a pat of butter on top, you’ll be won over after the first bite.
After the train derailment in January, traffic was diverted off Broad Street. It was difficult to get around, but new business was actually created. Norfolk Southern set up an account at Hudson’s to feed the railroad workers. During normal times, the train may even stop and pick up barbeque to go. “We get those orders ready to go real fast,” Hudson proudly said. I’d venture to say it’s a safe place to be after dark or any time of the day. The is their neighbor.
I wanted to ask Scot about last Thanksgiving. I had heard their turkeys almost didn’t make it to their tables. “We lost 36 turkeys when our chimney caught fire the night before Thanksgiving,” he lamented. “At 2 a.m. we called a friend who works at . He had a pallet of thawed turkeys.” By Thanksgiving morning, all the turkeys were replaced, cooked and ready to go. “It was a long night but we made it,” Buford recalled.
This restaurant is not famous to only locals. CNN.com visited last November and Food Network has plans to check out Hudson’s in late March. How did they find out about this local gem? I don’t know. No advertising is done; it’s all word of mouth. Satisfied mouths, no doubt. If you haven’t been there, go. Don’t wait six years like I did. You know where it is. How many times have you gotten these directions from a local–‘go to Hudson’s and take a left’?
“Are you ready for that pie? Or have you wimped out,” Lee asked as Scot left my table. Next time, I’ll leave room for a fried pie. I promise.