Bruno’s In Hudson: A Cafe Market Becomes A Community Hub
By Jamie Larson
It’s hard to quantify the unmistakable appeal of Bruno’s in Hudson, a small café and grocery tucked into a discreet downtown storefront at 227 Warren Street. Like the people we love most, it’s a combination of a million little things that make Bruno’s so special.
First and foremost, the food is spectacular. Run by sisters Shannon and Wendy Kenneally, Bruno’s offers a menu that’s deceptively simple, hiding a stacked lineup of expertly executed sandwiches, soups and sides. There’s also the specials board, often a full menu on its own, including the café’s best-selling bánh mì, a Vietnamese sandwich (which, if removed from the board, would quickly cause a riot), Cuban sandwiches, hotdogs and sliders to falafel and burritos. Everything is made with the best local ingredients and put together with care and a knowledgeable and sophisticated understanding of developed flavor.
“We’re just making what we like to eat,” says Shannon, who does the lion’s share of the cooking and once worked at Swoon Kitchen Bar. “I learned to cook from watching our grandmother.”
Bruno’s opened quietly in June of 2011, on the same day Café Le Perche opened with fanfare right across the street. While Le Perche has seen more tourist traffic than the locally loved Bruno’s, Wendy says, they have recently been discovered.
“For a long time, Saturdays were our slowest day,” Wendy says, “but someone got the word out because we’re seeing a lot of new people.”
Bruno’s is also a small but well-curated grocery store, supplying high-quality produce, local meats and cheeses and dry goods. Like the menu, the shelves are stocked with the stuff the Kenneallys like. Thankfully, they happen to have good taste.
“We always wanted to do a café market but we were on a budget,” says Wendy at left [in photo below], who bought the building with Shannon; the two have been expanding the business a little bit every year. “Eventually we’ll take over the whole first floor but we grow at our own pace. That’s life.”
More than a café and grocery, Bruno’s has become a funny little community hub on lower Warren Street. Regulars will hang out in the shop for hours shooting the breeze, talking about anything and everything. You’re welcome to join in — there’s no exclusivity here. Bruno’s isn’t flashy but you can’t help but feel like you’ve been invited into an eccentric friend’s kitchen here. There’s local art on the walls, memorabilia on sale to support the Hudson Sloop Club (the sisters’ favorite cause) as well as a prominently placed cutout of Wendy’s beloved Morrissey, who’s become the place’s rock and roll deity.
“Aside from the entertainment, the food is beyond compare,” says regular and friend Peter Wurster. “But the entertainment, the conversation, the personalities — it’s the best. It really is a community. I love it.”
Bruno’s, named for the Kenneally family’s rescue dog, also serves Hudson’s four-legged community and has become a must-stop on dog-walking loops. “He rejects snacks everywhere else but here,” says local blogger Carole Osterink of her handsome new dog, Joey. Why? “It’s bacon.”
“We’ve actually been yelled at by other businesses to stop giving out bacon,” Wendy says, laughing. “They won’t take treats anywhere else after they’ve been here.”
It is all too rare in our frantic unyielding lives to find a place as warm and inviting and genuinely fun as Bruno’s. “I’m not sure why it’s so comfortable in here,” Wendy muses. “We come from a big family, so we’re used to being around a lot of people. And we’re doing exactly what we want to do.”
When we find ourselves, like Morrissey, shouting out, “I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does,” Bruno’s, a humble café, reminds us that sometimes a simple tonic of genuine, friendly, unvarnished hospitality is just what we need to feel reconnected with those around us. And a really good bánh mì. We are human and we need that bánh mì.
227 Warren Street