ABOVE: MARK BARBONI AND MICHAEL BALTRA AT HUDSON CLEARWATER. PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER GABELLO
Tucked away in the heart of the West Village, a nondescript green door opens into an often-bustling redbrick courtyard dotted with tables and roofed by strings of bulbs emitting a soft glow. Next to ivy-lined walls, couples sit side-by-side as friends laugh and share intimate meals. Hudson Clearwater exudes the precise feeling the four restaurateurs wished to establish. “We were all intent on developing a restaurant that felt like a home—a place where we could invite friends over for dinner to enjoy great food and drink in a warm, relaxed dining room and outdoor garden,” the owners said.
Through the union of twins Mark and John Barboni, and childhood friends Chris Brandon and Matt Hechter, the vision of a homey restaurant became reality. Rather than adding to chaotic Manhattan advertising, the four relied on word of mouth to organically spread the news of their restaurant’s opening—but word of a good place travels quickly. Within six months, the small-staffed restaurant found itself struggling to meet demands. However, the Barbonis, Brandon, and Hechter can hardly look back at this as a negative experience, as they hired more staff and the restaurant not only found solid ground to stand on, but also room for expansion.
Last January, Hudson Clearwater opened a pop-up restaurant in Paris and received high remarks from the incredibly selective Parisian community. “Paris was this incredible whirlwind—like a passionately intense one-night stand that lasted 10 days,” John Barboni remembers.
Once every few months, the four proprietors host private and charming Sunday dinners to thank their original supporters and close friends. “These people who supported us from the beginning helped shape what Hudson Clearwater is today and define its personality,” they said. “An intimate dinner and show always make for a nice end to the week.” Guests often include downtown New York creative types, including notable fashion designers, musicians, film producers and writers. And adding to the already relaxing atmosphere, the gatherings also feature live music performed by friends as well as staff members.
Within its cozy interior bar and dining space as well as the open courtyard, Hudson Clearwater serves new and regular guests, as its hours and menus continue to expand. “Amid the flurry of social media chatter, relentless advertising, and the bombardment of information that defines our current culture, it was important for us to create a space that offered reprieve from the noise,” the four friends said. And despite the restaurant’s growth, they agree on the future: “Our hope is to keep as much of the original spirit of the restaurant present while we begin to explore what lies ahead.”
HUDSON CLEARWATER IS LOCATED AT 447 HUDSON STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10014. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE RESTAURANT’S WEBSITE.