Restaurants / Openings

Houston’s Own Hudson House Finally Opens In River Oaks, and the World’s Coldest Martinis Have Plenty of Company

A New See-and-Be-Seen Place?

BY // 11.02.23
photography Becca Wright

It’s been two years in the making, but this week finally marks the long-awaited opening of Hudson House in River Oaks, the Dallas-based restaurant import. Hudson House’s operators, Vandelay Hospitality Group, describe it as a coastal-inspired restaurant specializing in oysters flown in daily from the waters off the East Coast, mingled with straightforward American food.

Step inside the 4,600-square-foot space, poised next door to Brasserie 19 in the River Oaks Shopping Center on West Gray, and it feels like a stylish mash-up where Ralph Lauren’s tasteful blue-and-white chinoiserie decor meets the Hillstone (the former Houston’s restaurant) esthetic. It’s a description made by Vandelay’s CEO/owner, Hunter Pond, when I spoke with him while standing in the unfinished space a couple of months ago. True to his description, the interior of Houston’s Hudson House is decorated with rich wood-paneled walls; giant blue-and-white Chinese ginger jars filled with sprays of greenery and white blooms; a fun, curated selection of art; and cozy banquettes upholstered in a snappy nautical navy-blue hue.

As noted, Hudson House is touted as an upscale American grill that serves “timeless American fare” with a menu that’s identical at lunch and dinner.

“The cheeseburger [$24] is what kind of exploded the concept,” Pond says. “We utilize a special bakery for the white-seeded brioche bun. But it’s a combination of the softness of the bun, the meat-to-cheese-to-bread ratio, and our Hudson sauce made with a few signature spices that make it great.”

Hudson House burger and martini (Photo by Becca Wright)
One of the signatures of the Hudson House menu is the cheeseburger built on two beef patties. By its side, one of their signature chilly martinis. (Photo by Becca Wright)

In addition, there is a raw bar with an oyster-shucking station, pressed tuna sushi made with No. 1 ahi tartare ($21), spicy salmon — spiced care of serrano peppers and gochujang aioli — with crispy rice ($24), and an extravagant seafood bouquet composed of eight shrimp (cocktails) and 18 oysters ($115). Appetizers include a whipped avocado dip with house-made potato chips ($14), popcorn chicken (served classic or spicy $19), a shrimp cocktail made with four jumbo prawns ($24), and a vegetarian option: cauliflower dynamite tossed in a zesty aioli sauce ($17).

The Hudson House entrée menu groans with four large entrée salads, fish tacos made with blackened white fish ($25), a lobster roll assembled with a quarter pound of fresh Atlantic lobster ($36),  and a French dip sandwich layered with shaved prime rib and aged gruyère with horseradish cream ($37).

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Playing up the coastal seafood theme are entrees such as a soy-glazed, maple-planked salmon ($42) and pan-seared lump crab cakes ($48).

Hudson House Houston (Photo by Becca Wright)
It’s been two years in the making, and this week marks the long-awaited opening of Hudson House in River Oaks. (Photo by Becca Wright)

Happy hour (3 to 6 pm weekdays at the bar) brings Hudson House’s signature chilly martinis, billed — and even trademarked — as “the world’s coldest martini.” You can get yours with gin, vodka, or otherwise.

“We sell a lot of martinis — all martinis,” Ponds says. “That’s our specialty. And they are all going to be the world’s coldest. First, we chill the glass, shake them extra long. We even replace your chilled glass with another chilled glass, if you’re halfway thru your martini.”

What sets Vandelay’s restaurants apart, in Pond’s estimation, is service.

“In the Dallas market, we’re pretty well known for our service,” he says. “It’s a very custom situation. A lot of our senior leaders come from Hillstone, but we are a very different organization from Hillstone — although a lot of their training ethos has been carried forward into what we do. It’s methodical and unique. It sounds contrived, but that’s how I would describe it.”

Hudson House River Oaks is located in the River Oaks Shopping Center at 1964 West Gray Street. It’s open from 11 am to 9 pm Monday through Wednesday, 11 am to 1o pm Thursday and Friday, 10 am to 10 pm Saturday, and 10 am to 9 pm Sunday. Brunch is served 10 am to 3 pm Saturday and Sunday.

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