Pier 500 Restaurant in Hudson

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

There is little about Pier 500 Restaurant that will encourage the food-driven diner: It’s one of  those cavernous, arcade game-bedecked, TGI Friday’s-looking suburban monstrosities, albeit one with an open kitchen situated in a prime spot right on the shore of the St. Croix River in Hudson, WI.

But the menu offers a bit of encouragement; although it’s a collection of fairly standard burger, sandwich, and suburb-friendly appetizer options, many of the items have twists that indicate a creative drive and an interest in serving real food.

The lemonade is a good place to start. Shot-from-a-gun lemonade can be sickly sweet or damn near water; Pier 500’s had a surprisingly nice sense of balance and real citric flavor to it, plus a sugar-rimmed glass.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Walleye cigars ($8) were a real surprise. Although they looked like (and, hell, let’s be honest, really were) fancified fish sticks, the interior of each was tender and flaky, and the dipping sauces that accompanied them — a creamy dijon and a house-made tartar with a nice herbal hit to it — were excellent complements. A bottle of malt vinegar on the side was a smart nod to fish-and-chips, as the cigars were really a two-in-one version of that English pub classic.

A cheddar burger was a disappointment. The overly fat patty had little flavor, and the “baked to our specifications” bun still felt distinctly food-service in quality. (As a saving grace, it’s worth noting that the pickles are house made and quite excellent.)

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

By contrast, the Hawaiian Chicken Sandwich ($10) was well-conceived and skillfully executed — the soy-marinated chicken was tender and relatively flavorful and the ring of grilled pineapple that sat atop it had just a bit of caramelized char, a strong complement to the meat. Monterey Jack cheese added relatively little, but also knew well enough to step out of the way and let the pineapple and chicken do the talking.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

One of the menu’s dessert options was a large, spring-appropriate rhubarb crisp ($7). The rhubarb still had fight to it, and the oatmeal crisp was sweet but not overly so. So far: Fairly nice, but unexceptional. The scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, however, was sock-knocking good — truly rich and creamy with a hit of actual vanilla flavor, and a perfect pairing to the rest of the dish.

Pier 500 is — the Hudson Star Observer’s opinion notwithstanding — unlikely to ever become a dining destination for Minneapolitans and St. Paulites who have access to the bounty of their native restaurant scene. That said, the place has some real passion and executes competently — if you happen to be strolling the waterfront, you’re guaranteed a decent lunch.

Pier 500 Restaurant

American in Hudson, WI
500 1st St.
Hudson, WI 54016
715.386.5504
OWNER: Andy Kron
HOURS:
Mon-Thu 11am-4pm (lunch), 4-10pm (appetizers until 11pm)
Fri-Sat 11am-4pm (lunch), 4-11pm (appetizers until midnight)
Sun 9am-2pm (brunch), 2pm-9pm (appetizers until 10pm)
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes / No
BAR: Full
ENTREE RANGE: $10-23

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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3 Comments

  1. We love Pier 500, it’s a regular stop en route to our Wisconsin cabin. I agree with your assessment of the burger, Jim; oddly, it used to be better. The walleye sandwich is good, and their bloody marys are excellent–nice amount of garnish, not over the top, generous pour, beer chaser (ask for a strong beer or they’ll bring light!). You’re right, too, that it’s not a destination dining spot, but a swell place to stop if you’re taking a drive over Badgerland way. It’s generally much better and more thoughtfully prepared food than it needs to be.

    Brett

  2. I had an excellent meal at Pier 500 a few weeks ago. The seafood pasta special was awesome. There is a lot more on the menu I wanted yo try. I will be back.

  3. Joanne 06/17/2012 Reply

    Your hash browns are excellent. Any chance you’d share your recipe? Just had an excellent breakfast with you!

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