Urban Olive and Vine Is Unfussy Yet Unrelenting in Pursuit of Quality Ingredients and a Friendly Atmosphere

Regulars swear by the salmon croissant (pictured) and turkey cranberry sandwich.

Ask friends to describe Hudson’s Urban Olive and Vine, and you might get a variety of answers. It’s a tea shop. It stocks flavor-infused olive oils. There’s coffee and a bakery and a dog-friendly patio, with bottomless glasses of wine made for lingering. It’s part restaurant, part family kitchen—and all relaxing.

For owner Kay Timm, it’s the embodiment of a dream she had after 33 years selling department-store kitchen goods and tableware, hoping she’d someday open her own business.

There were some doubters, but the possibility of failure never occurred to Timm. After seven years, Urban Olive and Vine has built a loyal fan base and opened a second shop a few doors down in the spring.

The spot at 520 Second St.—the second-oldest building in Hudson—has a European café look. “It reminds people of France. And California. It seems to cross over into a lot of comfort zones for people,” Timm says. She’s curated a selection of wines and beers, gifts, gourmet goods and a lineup of live music—something she whole-heartedly believes in supporting. “It all contributes to an atmosphere that seems to establish an element of comfort,” she says.

The spirited and slightly unorthodox chef Chad Trainor happened into a job at Red Lobster 27 years ago and loved cooking so much he never left the field. He’s the mastermind behind an ever-evolving, simple yet imaginative menu that pushes the limits of the tiny kitchen and staff.

Among the favorites are a meatloaf “cupcake”—baked in a jumbo cupcake pan, in Greek, Mexican, chipotle apricot or other flavors—and from-scratch soups. The tomato basil is a constant, along with a caramelized mushroom-brie that sustains a cult following.

“People come in first thing in the morning and ask if it’s done yet,” Timm says. “Yeah, it’s very bad for you—with loads of butter, cream and melty cheese—but it’s so, so good,” Trainor adds.

Besides those two soups, there isn’t so much a consistent menu as there are categories. Trainor makes over a dozen quiches a week—topping 24 around holidays—with vegetarian, spicy and milder options. He estimates he’s done 200 flavors, a few making the regular rotation. There are always salads, sandwiches, and entrées featuring ahi tuna and beef medallions, the flavors changing with the seasons and Trainor’s mood.

“I’m a ‘slap you in the face’ flavor person—if I say garlic, you’re darn well going to taste garlic. If I say it’s spicy, it is,” Trainor says. Because it’s such a small restaurant—with a kitchen window near the entrance—he can keep tabs on who’s coming in and what people enjoy. He lives three blocks away and has never gone a day in his 4 1/2  years at Urban Olive without seeing someone he knows.

“I don’t care what the book says or what the other chefs do—I only think about the ingredients and the flavors and how you answer when I ask, ‘Did you like eating that?’” Trainor says. “People come here because they want healthy, different, light food. I’m making things you’d make at home—but in a way that most people wouldn’t think of doing them.”

Wes and Linda Caine stopped in at Urban Olive and Vine while looking for a home in Hudson. They had coffee at a high-top table near the deli and came back that afternoon to take advantage of the wine bar. Now the Caines have property in Hudson—something that was originally joked about—and have eased out of their busy Chicago lifestyle. The food, friends and music at Urban have become a constant fixture in their lives here. “I’ve gotten more adventurous with Chad—he comes up with unusual combinations, things you wouldn’t put together,” Wes Caine says. “But he pulls it off beautifully.”

Try the bottomless glass of wine, served until 4 p.m., or to-go picnic baskets, packed with four courses and utensils for a day on your porch or boat.