I’ve been keeping Hudson Hill in my back pocket for a while now as a happy hour option; it was almost too easy and too hard at the same time. Located in the heart of Cap Hill, the combo cocktail bar and coffee shop offers a happy hour that runs until 7 p.m., making it a shoo-in for after-work cocktails, even if you leave work a little late. However, its accessible locale and extensive hours can also make it difficult to snag a table most nights of the week — until recently. Given the times, I wondered, could it be my chance to catch some socially distanced libations at the lauded hipster hangout?
The first time I visited Hudson Hill, it reminded me of the bougie cafe I frequented while working in the Greenpoint neighborhood in Brooklyn several years ago. It had that Cape Cod beachy vibe with whitewashed beadboard counters and, most important, $11 jambon beurre (ham and butter) sandwiches. Simple as those sandwiches were, I could rarely pass by the place without finding myself with one in hand, untying the twine around that crusty French baguette. Hudson Hill has that same vibe, beckoning you into the airy space as you squeeze down the narrow sidewalks along East 13th Avenue.
Inside, exposed brick and ductwork add industrial chic to the refined blond-wood bar and blue and white tiling. Since Hudson Hill opens daily at 8 a.m., offering espresso drinks and breakfast snacks, many Cap Hill residents have found the place a refuge for working outside of home. When I arrived, I was surprised to find this to still be the case for a few. As with every public place in Colorado right now, masks are required upon entry; the seating area is cordoned off to allow the insanely dapper server to seat guests at safe distances rather than letting you choose your own spot. Hudson Hill's newest addition, a back parking lot turned into a patio space, makes that distancing even easier. I opted for outdoors, where I was directed to one of a few open picnic tables.
One thing about places that offer a daily cocktail special in addition to their usual happy hour drinks is that you never know what you’re going to get. This has the potential to be as exciting (a cocktalian has been dying to try out his new concoction) as it can be disappointing (no one’s even thought about the daily special until you order one). Luckily, Hudson Hill’s tiny square of happy hour offerings really isn’t that limited: Well drinks for $5, a lager and an IPA for $4, wine options for $6, and any of their three “classic cocktail” options for $7 provide an array of backups should you not be delighted by the day’s specialty. That said, when the dapper man mentioned a mezcal, hibiscus and lime something-or-other, I knew it would be right up my smoky-agave-loving alley. True to the place’s focus on craft, the execution was on point, resulting in a refreshing and bright drink — a perfect way to make summery cocktails more interesting.
Thirst quenched, I began thinking about food. While the short list of snacks is not part of the happy hour special, they're not expensive, ranging from $3 to $6, including some of my favorite Nueske’s smoked-bacon pâté. I wanted it badly, but the fancy grilled cheese ($11) proved more intriguing; I felt like seeing what the bar could do with a funky cheese like the orange-tinged, blue-veined Shropshire. My roommate arrived and ordered a glass of rosé with a strawberry-bubble gum nose, and I chose a traditional Negroni for my second round; Hudson Hill serves the drink on the bitter end, as a Negroni should be.
And finally, the pièce de résistance arrived: a grilled cheese sandwich with the baguette turned inside out, so that the fluffy interior makes contact with the press. Melted and crisped Parmesan made for delicious crunchy bits on the outside, while the Shropshire had been virtually absorbed into the inner crusty portion of the baguette. A shmear of mustard became the yin to some cherry jam’s yang, and I wished that I didn’t have to share. We both made a cheesy, mustardy, jammy mess as we devoured our respective halves.
Since Hudson Hill doesn't currently discount the grilled cheese for its happy hour, I really needed the bar to knock it out of the park. Thankfully, that was the case. With the new open-air patio, now is the perfect time to take advantage of this usually bustling hilltop hangout. Next time I may even treat myself to next-level snacking by dipping that ridiculous sandwich in some Nueske’s pâté, bookended by thorough hand-washings, of course.
Hudson Hill is located at 619 East 13th Avenue and is open from 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Wednesday, until 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, and until 4 p.m. on Sunday. Call 303-832-0776 or visit the bar's website for details.