When Matt Kay shuttered his Cedar Street Grill in Dobbs Ferry on Jan. 1, 2018, the last thing he planned on doing was going back into the restaurant business. But that’s exactly what happened the following year, when he heard that Hudson Social, the casual restaurant at the Dobbs Ferry Metro-North Railroad station, was for sale.
There was some history. Coffee and a bagel was once pretty much all you could get by way of refreshment at this original, Victorian brick station house, but back in 2009, when Kay’s mother, Catherine, was deputy mayor of Dobbs Ferry, she saw the potential of the building and the village put out bids to open a full-service restaurant on the site.
Furthermore, Kay — a respected chef who has worked at several prestigious restaurants in the Hudson Valley — had always loved the place. So, when he heard that the restaurant, which was already called Hudson Social, was for sale, any resolve about not returning to the business went out the window. With new business partner, Dobbs Ferry resident Ron Dirosso — he dove right in.
You can see why he was smitten. Scenically situated between the station tracks and the station park and with a view of the Hudson River, it’s a station house straight out of “Thomas the Tank Engine.”
Inside, the wood and brick interior is brightened by six semicircular windows, looking out over the station tracks and the park, with the river in the distance. Outside, there’s a choice of where to sit — at a regular table for two or four, at a high-top table, at circular picnic-style tables or on a stool at the outside bar. Chairs around a firepit provide additional outdoor space.
So far, so thoroughly inviting then, but what about the food? Matt Kay calls the restaurant an American bistro and I think he — and the food — are spot-on. For starters, a spinach, tomato, roasted mushroom and Swiss cheese quesadilla — a tortilla of incredible lightness — rubs shoulders with tangy flash-fried shrimp and sea-salt pretzel bites. Crispy Brussels sprouts with bacon, toasted almonds and crown maple syrup — familiar to customers of Cedar Street Grill — resurface here at Hudson Social, having lost none of their moreish allure. A white globe of fabulously luscious Burrata comes with miraculously flavorful heirloom tomatoes, anointed with nothing more than two drops of the best olive oil, a revelation. Kay calls the cooking here simple, saying the ingredients speak for themselves, and he is right, but in this kind of simplicity there is an implied sophistication, too.
Did I mention the kale Caesar (the pun on “Hail, Caesar!” of which I never tire) or the arugula and goat cheese salad? I should have. They are both excellent.
Main courses run the gamut, from chicken Milanese to surf and turf, to a gorgeous-looking tranche of Atlantic salmon, while sublime desserts — including a rich chocolate mousse cake and locally made Penny Lick ice cream — are so indulgent they can make you forget you are on municipal, railroad-owned property.
You’re reminded of this by the intermittent rush of a passing train, which indeed only adds to the atmosphere of this utterly charming restaurant, an eatery that punches well above its weight.
And a weekend brunch menu sees the regular menu supplemented with brunchy offerings like French or avocado toast, a Black Forest ham and egg cheese brioche and a vegetable frittata.
As for what to drink, cocktails are carefully made (my mojito could have held its own in old Havana) and, along with the light local ales, locally fermented Doc’s Hard cider is a great summer drink. While I’d like perhaps to have seen more domestic wine on the short wine list, I appreciated the modestly priced Proseccos and the great price-to-quality ratio of both the white and red Robert Mondavi Private Selections.
Service comes from a relaxed but well-drilled team, with many of the staff retained from the restaurant’s former ownership — our own server, Juan, offering amusing asides and going about his tasks with efficiency and lashings of cheerfulness.
Morning coffee and pastries make Hudson Social a great spot for breakfast, too, while weekly jazz on a Thursday raises the bar for this terrific local restaurant.
That guy at the high-top table near the bar, hammering away on his MacBook? That, in case you’re wondering, is Matt Kay — a local restaurateur who has every reason to feel pleased with himself.
For more, visit hudsonsocial.com.