Warren St., Hudson, 828-0555. Serving lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2,
dinner Mon-Sat 5-10. AE, MC, V.
price range: $5.50 (chicken burger) to $18 (16 oz.
cluster of men at the street- door end of the bar conversed
with Wunderbar owner Imre Vilaghy as he paused in his duties—duties
that might include mixing drinks, carrying food or clearing
tables—and shortly thereafter he stopped by my table to make
sure we were happy with our meal. We were. Enough so that
I returned the following evening.
swear that it was the same cluster of men at the street-door
end of the bar that night, but the group had a similar sense
of belonging right there. “We have people who come back every
day,” says Vilaghy. “Especially older people who live alone.
They tell me that it’s cheaper to eat here than it is to cook
because the Wunderbar prices are lower than you’d expect in
Hudson these days. As Warren Street has erupted into a trendy
haven for upscale antique shops, so too have pricey restaurants
joined the fray. By Vilaghy’s count, 15 have opened nearby
during the four years since he opened Wunderbar, a few of
which already have gone under.
is a place apart. It reflects his own varied past, beginning
with an apprenticeship in hotel kitchens in his native Austria,
then to Hamburg (as the Beatles rocked just up the street).
Various jobs took him into Great Britain and South Africa;
he arrived in Columbia County in 1978 and set up a bakery—Our
Daily Bread, which he ran for a (non-baker’s) dozen years.
ago he ran the Oasis Café on Warren Street, and there envisioned
a restaurant that would offer inexpensive comfort food and
encourage the kind of social intercourse the Oasis inspired.
he bought the former Lawrence Tavern, he was able to avoid
a mortgage, and thus pare his overhead. He lives upstairs.
And the restaurant below, appointed in dark wood with copper-colored
ductwork, invites its patrons to linger.
daily lunch specials rotate back each week: Monday offers
a grilled chicken breast sandwich, Tuesday is meatloaf, and
on the following days it’s linguine with sausage, a 6-ounce
steak, and fish and chips, respectively.
you’ll sit where you like if a table is available, and the
service is easygoing and efficient. During a late-night visit,
my friend Joe made a meal out of an appetizer plate: sausage
with mustard and toast ($5.50), which gave him two types of
wurst, split and grilled, and some appropriately spicy mustard.
You can assemble them into sandwiches or, as he preferred,
roam from one flavor to the next, crunching ticks of toast
shrimp ($6.50) is another meal-sized starter, with a good-sized
spread of the jumbo variety begging to be dipped in the accompanying
horseradish sauce. And there’s onion soup ($4), the classic
Gallic brew with crouton and melted Gruyère, its flavor full
and hardy with a hearty beef stock backing its appeal.
array of salads—house or Caesar—can be selected in two sizes
($1.50 or $4) and enhanced with grilled shrimp ($10) or grilled
chicken ($9). Or try the Wunderbar salad, a mesclun with apples,
raisins, nuts and more ($9).
the entrée list I find most fascinating. Developed by Vilaghy
to summon memories of his Austrian childhood, it features
pork and beef prepared in traditional ways. “A cuisine is
developed in an area where people are poor,” he explains,
“and have to work with not-so-expensive ingredients.” Thus
you’ll find pot roast, as classic as it gets, served with
an equally classic helping of mashed potatoes ($10), lightly
sauced and paired with roasted root vegetables, a toothsome
vegetables are also part of the traditional sauce with the
house specialty, beef Wunderbar ($12), sliced braised beef
with a sauce derived from those veggies and a side of big
none of my visits did I sample the pasta or seafood, although
there’s a salmon dish on the menu for $14, and fresh fish
always figures on the specials list. That’s because I was
too busy urging my companions through such items as the grilled
smoked pork chop with creamed spinach ($14) or, my current
favorite, pork Wiener schnitzel ($14), served with a salad.
that dish traditionally made with veal? “Of course,” says
Vilaghy, “but that’s not what you’ll be served in the countryside.
Veal is too expensive for this dish—so pork has also become
works spectacularly well. A thin slice, pounded into a large
cutlet, breaded and sautéed and served with a light lemon
sauce—it’s a glorious melding of flavors and crunch.
an excellent half-pound sirloin burger? It’s $6.50, but spend
the extra buck and a quarter to get deeply sautéed onions
too, invite scrutiny. The $4.50 crème brulée is classic, its
hard sugar crust yielding to a rich egg pudding below; bread
pudding ($3.75) gets a vanilla sauce topping into which I’ll
slip a shot of rum next time I order it.
my customers to be reminded of dinner at grandmother’s house,”
says Vilaghy, and he certainly has succeeded.