Hill Country restaurant offers eclectic dishes and atmosphere for Lake Travis residents
In 1985, Westlake restaurateur Jeffrey Blank said he had a dream to cook the "wild and unusual" flavors of the Texas Hill Country in a unique and savory way. Nearly 30 years later, Blank's restaurant, Hudson's on the Bend, still offers a selection of eclectic local dishes, fresh herbs and smoky flavors.
"It was his dream to have a locally inspired restaurant using the kind of foods you find in the Hill Country, the quail and venison for example, and that's how it all started," Executive Chef Kelly Casey said. "And now we take that a little bit further and try to get people to try new things that you don't find at a normal restaurant."
The eatery offers elk and venison, duck and pheasant, ostrich and caviar, rabbit and buffalo, and a host of steaks and fish. There is also rattlesnake, which Casey said "tastes similar to alligator but with a subtle, almost fishy taste to it."
Fresh garden herbs are a part of the recipes, and a pecan wood smokehouse is intended to add a smoky flavor to meat, which is finished on the grill.
The restaurant offers a variety of wines from Europe, Australia, California and Texas. Specialty wine dinners are offered once every few months, and special holiday menus are used from time to time, including a six-course tasting menu for Valentine's Day.
Blank said providing a unique dining experience is also important. Hudson's is rustic but at the same time offers a white tablecloth and comfortable atmosphere.
Part of the experience is also educational. Once a month Blank hosts cooking classes at his home near the restaurant. The dinner-and-a-show format shows hunters how to cook what they kill, Casey said. Guests then head to the restaurant for meals paired with wine and beer.
"It's all about the experience. It's white tablecloth but it's casual, and it's eclectic," Casey said. "We have big portions and bold Southwestern flavors, so you don't leave here hungry."
Growing with the city
With a wide range of meat and game, it would be easy to assume Hudson's on the Bend is akin to a secluded farmhouse. That is not the case—at least not anymore.
The restaurant has sat on the same patch of land on North RR 620 for 28 years, owner Jeffrey Blank said.
He said he has watched the area gradually grow from a rural road to a bustling suburb.
"We used to be a leisurely drive out in the country—a good time to visit with friends," Blank said. "Now with the growth it is a longer and busier drive. We are no longer in the country, and it does make us busier."
Hill Country tasting menu
Executive Chef Kelly Casey prepared a locally inspired tasting menu supporting Texas products with six courses paired with a Texas beer or wine ($90 with beer or $130 with wine). The restaurant also offers a three-course chef tasting menu.
- Real Ale Devil's Backbone Belgian style tripel (Blanco) and Brazos Valley horseradish pecan cheddar soup (Waco)
- San Saba pecan-crusted Lone Star goat cheese over Amador Farm's greens with Texas Hill Country balsamic vinegar and olive oil (Dripping Springs)
- Chicken-fried quail (Bandera) with Katz coffee red-eye gravy (Houston) over Homestead Gristmill grits (Waco)
- Kefir pear sorbet (Mexia)
- Grilled 44 Farms New York strip steak (Cameron) over Poteet mashed potatoes and braised cabbage (Hondo) with Shiner Bock Blanc beer
- Taylor Farm pumpkin (Muleshoe) flan
Blank's favorite entree is the Hudson's Mixed Grill ($53, 1/2 serving for $32).
The dish is a combination of hardwood grill-axis venison and rabbit tenders, pecan-smoked Bandera quail, spicy game sausage, and achiote-marinated buffalo with a range of spices and a trio of Hudson's signature sauces.
Hudson's on the Bend, 3509 N. RR 620, Austin, 512-266-1369, www.hudsonsonthebend.com