Few would disagree that Hudson’s downtown has become a bona fide culinary destination. Twin Cities dwellers can come for the river, hit a few shops or an event and stick around for dinner. But with 20 independent restaurants in the historic district nowadays, it’s common for even the longest resident to exclaim, “That one’s new!”
This new start-up—begun by 17-year, die-hard Hudsonites Brian and Katie Elwood—gives locals and out-of-towners a chance to experience six culinary hot spots without the stress of having to plan or order a thing. Hudson Food Walk offers seasonal, three-hour walking tours that stop at Hudson’s favorite restaurants, with historical background, foodie-centric commentary, and all the bites and beverages one could want along the way.
Katie Elwood recalls the day the idea was born, on a similar tour in North Minneapolis for Brian’s birthday. “It was a fun way to get out of our comfort zone and try new foods,” she says. “We’ve raised three kids in Hudson and know what a gem it is. And it just keeps getting better! There’s the river, awesome history and great food. It’s really the perfect destination for a food tour.”
The pair acted on their love for their community and entrepreneurial spirit, proposing the idea to local restaurants, which jumped at the chance to be involved. In the inaugural 2017 season, the pair started with an ambitious schedule of regular tours, ran many of the slots they offered, and even had to extend the season to accommodate the surprising number of people who wanted to visit after the fall colors had begun to change. “This is really a year-round destination,” Elwood says.
This year, Hudson Food Walks will operate Saturday and Sunday afternoons, June through September, led by local guides who are long-term Hudson residents and have a passion for sharing the town with others. Elwood mentions that a hallmark of the tour is the town history and lore that’s infused into each walk. For instance, guides will stop and point out remnants of the infamous fire of 1866, which devastated downtown and left only one building intact. That building was made of brick and stone, and inspired a mandate for future buildings downtown. “That’s really what’s preserved the town and architecture,” adds Elwood, obviously thrilled at the character and history that give downtown so much charm.
The response to Hudson Food Walk in the first year has been remarkable, with locals coming out in droves to get a new perspective on their hometown. There have also been many on daytrips from the Twin Cities. They’ve come from western and northern Wisconsin, Madison and even England. While there is a standard route and restaurant lineup, tours are tailored a bit to the crowd and the expertise of the tour guide.
The menu stays the same—showcasing the best of each restaurant, with back-story—but has been tweaked for guests with serious dietary restrictions. One woman with celiac disease took the tour, and the team worked with restaurateurs to find comparable gluten-free offerings for her. “Our partners are really amazing; they accommodated her so well, and she thanked us personally after the tour for the extra consideration,” Elwood says.
Along the Route
A Hudson Food Walk includes casual and upscale spots that give a global sampling of what Hudson has to offer.
San Pedro Café
Stop in at San Pedro’s for island-inspired dishes any month of the year. It’s heavy on the seafood, liberal with the salsas, and stars wood-fired pizza alongside imaginative cocktails.
Pier 500 is classic, from-scratch American cuisine served up with a jaw-dropping view of the St. Croix.
This authentic restaurant serves traditional favorites from the old country and was recently voted fifth in the nation for German food.
Knoke’s Chocolates and Nuts
Taste a few of this institution’s handcrafted chocolates for yourself. It’s a delightful way to top off the day!
Barker’s Bar & Grill
A Hudson favorite since 1988, Barker’s elevates traditional pub fare with its bistro-style menu and boasts an impressive selection of 16 micro and specialty beers on tap.
Pedro’s del Este
Pedro’s del Este boasts a Latin character with a modern design appeal. The restaurant features small plates with Spanish, Cuban and Latin influenced cuisine, desserts, and craft cocktails.
Giving Back, Deliciously
A portion of each ticket sale is donated to The John Coughlin Food and Resource Center. Since 2008, it’s distributed more than 1 million pounds of food to area pantries and shelters. Elwood says, “We love being able to give back, and this makes a lot of sense for a start-up that’s food-focused.”
EDITOR'S PICK: FOODIES ON FOOT
If you’re looking for a similar experience on the Minnesota side of the river, check out Foodies on Foot in Stillwater, which offers year-round private and specialty tours showcasing the history and delicious eats of one of Minnesota’s oldest towns. A $70 “Savor the Flavor of Stillwater” experience happens Fridays and Saturdays—Saturdays only in winter—from 1:30 to 5 p.m.