Patty melt and tatter tots at Waddy’s in Hudson. (Photo: Secret Fork)
The on-going grind of the COVID-19 pandemic is at best an inconvenience and, at worse, yet another divisive political issue. As previously observed, the need for certain people to be extremely careful due to personal health conditions or employment has put a most definite hitch in the giddyup when it comes to making spur-of-the-moment dining decisions.
On the other hand, and in a decided effort to try to look on the bright side of things, this pandemic has managed to put the “trip” back in road trip. As much as I am nearly ready to start exchanging extremely useful and necessary body parts for escapes to far-off destinations, getting there by air sounds risky and experience tells me the luster of a good old-fashioned Griswold Family trip in the family truckster wears thin at about the second state line. Plus, there is the dilemma of what awaits in terms of food, shelter, and fun things to do when you arrive. Major travel is going to have to wait. But until then, I am finding all sorts of joy gassing up the vehicle and making short trips down the local back roads to re-discover the little gems in our own back yard.
One of those little gems is Waddy’s in the town of Hudson. It’s a short, scenic drive with a big payoff.
Hudson is a small town located in the southeast corner of Lincoln County. You’ve probably noticed the Alcester-Hudson exit off I-29 just north of Beresford. But, if you decide to make the jaunt down, do yourself a favor and avoid I-29. Instead, drive over to the easterly reaches of Sioux Falls and head south on Highway 11. Yes, that’s a two-lane road and you have to keep an eye out for farm equipment, mail carriers, and lolly-gaggers, but the scenery is well worth it.
The bloody Mary at Waddy’s in Hudson. (Photo: Secret Fork)
You’ll have to jog east just a bit on US 18 and then turn south on 11 again before you actually reach Canton. From there, you go south through the rolling hills until you reach County Road 152. You’ll know you’re in the right spot because that intersection is called Norway Center, which isn’t much more than the remnants of an old community hall. Head east and before you reach the Big Sioux River, a/k/a the Iowa state line, you’ll wind your way into Hudson.
Waddy’s is easy to find. It is where all the cars are parked (and motorcycles when the weather is good.) If you’re expecting a stereotypical small town dive bar — dark, aroma of eau d’stale beer, a food selection consisting of a rack of Old Dutch chips or pickled eggs, and three old bachelor farmers sitting in overalls nursing cans of Old Milwaukee- prepare to be surprised. OK, you might see someone donning a pair of overalls, but otherwise, Waddy’s is big, bright, and very inviting. With the exception of the outdoor area that would be a great spot for live music on a nice summer evening, you might think you’re in a sports-bar sort of place in a strip mall in Sioux Falls.
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The calling card at Waddy’s is The Chief’s Bloody Mary, touted as “the best damn bloody ever.” Now there’s a proposition well worth a thorough investigation. A responsible and appropriately moderated investigation if you’re driving home, but thorough nonetheless. I love a good Bloody and I’ve had my fair share of them over the years. I really admire any place that does their own mix, even though there are some very serviceable commercial Bloody Mary mixes out there. I want a zingy drink, popping with flavor, not too heavy on the vodka (but enough to make its presence known), and some restraint with the garnishes. It’s a drink, not an entrée, or a buffet in a glass.
So, is this “the best damn bloody ever?” Pretty close! It was evident to me that someone has spent a lot of time refining this recipe. The flavor balance was dead on. If you prefer a Bloody Mary that offers a little sweetness, a little saltiness, some tang, a hint of heat, and is extremely smooth, the Chief’s Bloody Mary is right on the bullseye. It’s well worth the trip. And, if you happen to be the designated driver for this road trip, don’t fret, the friendly staff at Waddy’s will be sure to ask you if you need a half-gallon jug or three of plain mix, or pre-mixed Bloodies, to take home to enjoy.
Waddy’s also has a pretty traditional bar food sort of menu with weekend specials like prime rib. We were a little early for a slab of that, but as long as we were feeling so investigative, we opted for the patty melt, naturally. I figured this was a solid choice because Waddy’s correctly listed their patty melt under sandwiches, not burgers, which as we all know is technically correct. Add in the fact the Hudson Locker is right up the street (fresh beef) and the availability of tater tots as a side. How can one go wrong?
Well, we didn’t. Waddy’s patty melt hit all the correct bells and whistles. Fresh, flat topped beef patty, melty Swiss and American cheese combo, nicely grilled onions, and marbled rye bread. We advanced it into the semi-final round of the Secret Fork Search for the Perfect Patty Melt.
And, here’s a pro road trip tip: Do not drive back to Sioux Falls the same way you came down. Instead, follow the paved streets through Hudson and go north. On that route you can drive through the even smaller town of Fairview and cross the Big Sioux straight north into Iowa and follow the river back to Canton. Or, I suppose you could veer over toward Newton Hills State Park and walk off those tater tots.
A leisurely drive to Hudson for a bite and a libation at Waddy’s is a great little road trip. It’ll give you a chance to experience a little more of our great state than you’ll ever find while cruising the interstates.
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