Summer Activity #11: Hudson River Cafe – “View v. Food”

NYC's Hudson River Cafe for BrunchHudson River Cafe
Neighborhood: West Harlem
Venue: Restaurant, Lounge
Atmosphere: Trendy, Fashionable
People: Young, Urban, Diverse
Rating: 3

I don’t think there is another place in the world where the people love a good brunch as much as New Yorkers do. People here clamor for brunch, arranging some of their biggest, most social, most important events around 11am to 2pm on a weekend, just so they can enjoy choosing between a burger and pancakes for their first meal of the day.

And while I know that brunch is nothing more than the weekend version of a local diner at noon during the weekday lunch rush, I still enjoy having my pancakes and cocktails from time to time.

So I finally got out to a place on “100 Things to do in NYC” list that I have always been meaning to try during brunch time: Hudson River Café. Hudson River Café (697 West 133rd St, Harlem, NYC) is located a pretty good ways away from the nearest public transportation option at 133rd Street and the Hudson River. However, it’s outdoor seating and views of the water make it worthy of the trip uptown—or in my case, the trip a few blocks and avenues away.

As for the food, it wasn’t “horrible,” but the entree options on the brunch menu certainly were not eye-opening. Their menu had just enough variety that most people could find something on it worthy of eating. My vegetarian girlfriend went with the French toast, of which Hudson River did provide a pretty big helping. However, their French toast was no better than any other decent rendition I have had in the past.

I had the 8 oz. Kobe Beef burger. Unlike the French toast, the burger did not live up to even the most lenient of standards. I would have much rather have paid $25 (the cost of the prix fixe menu) and made 20 cheeseburgers at home. Hudson River Cafe’s burger was bland, tasteless, and didn’t come across as being 8 oz. worth of beef either. It was probably that frozen Kobe beef you can get at Trader Joe’s, and if that’s the case, shame on you Hudson River Café!

The fact that Hudson River Café has an unlimited drink special as a part of its prix fixe brunch did salvage their bad-to-mediocre food service. I went with the classic Mimosa, which had a nice little kick to it. Unfortunately, as we experienced with everything else we required from our waitress, we had to wait quite a while to have our drinks refilled. That may be okay when I’m ordering drink by drink, but when they have an all-you-can-drink special going on, Hudson River Café should know that they can’t be stingy with the champagne and orange juice.

In my opinion, Hudson River is a place you should definitely try out, especially if you’re interested in being around an urban, diverse, upwardly-mobile crowd. Again, the views and setting are great on a summer afternoon, and those things alone make Hudson River Cafe worth the trip uptown. However, if like me, you don’t find the food or service to your liking, I doubt you will need to check this place out more than once. I may give it another shot sometime in the future, but that future is a long, long ways away from the summer of 2011, with many other brunch venues in between.

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