DEVON BURNHAM


I arrive in Hudson on a Wednesday, the 6th of August I believe. The train ride up is lovely: golden sunlight fading over the Hudson river as the train chugs along. The bar car is closed, which is disappointing, but I hear that Amtrak actually loses money when they keep the bar car open. Seems like somebody should take a look at that business model, otherwise it's going to wind up being a talking point for Scott Walker. I don't think he needs more talking points, does he?

This is my third trip to Hudson, but now I'm going to live here. I'm traveling light: rolly suitcase, backpack, one blue Ikea shopping bag full of whatever didn't fit into the other luggage. My getaway from the City was a little haphazard. The day of departure, I was rescheduling my train, realizing that even though I had been “packing” for a week, I had essentially “packed” nothing. My final stop was at my local to say bye to the bartenders and knock back a quick beer.

The first night in Hudson is like high school reunion. Lots of old familiar faces from Fatty Crab, Fatty 'Cue: the ancient days of the early-to-mid 2000s. Names, of course, have been changed to protect the innocent, but after a good night of boozing, I traipse on back to my temporary trundle bed on the floor of… let's just call him Esteban. Thursday morning I wake up at what I feel like is a reasonable 10:00 and head over to the as yet unopened place called Back Bar. (The name of Back Bar has not been changed to protect its innocence, because it has no innocence, and it's not a person, and because I'm writing this to plug Back Bar.) I can already tell I'm behind schedule. Kegs are being wheeled in. Liquor deliveries are stacked around the bar. There's a bunch of people I don't know. That could be a cook. I think that's an owner. On and on.

I've opened four bars with Zak Pelaccio: Chickenbone, 5Ninth, Fatty Crab, and Fatty 'Cue, plus a small handful of others over the years. Every time I go into one of these projects, I think “This time, I'm gonna have my shit together.” And every time, I get to about the day before opening and realize that we haven't bought vodka. There aren't straws. We didn't actually lease a bar. If there's one thing I'm not, it's an organizational mastermind. Or organized at all. If there is one thing that I might be okay at, though, it's working in chaos. Some bartenders love to have a system: everything in its right place, all details accounted for. I respect that. I can even plug myself into their systems. But I've never been able to really hit my stride without a good bit of chaos. I prefer it, I guess. Call it the fog of bartending.

So while my initial reaction to the scene in front of me is a knot of panic in my stomach, it also feels familiar and comforting. We're up and running now. The crowd has been very good, and I'm settling into the town. People ask me, “How do you like Hudson?” So far, I can mostly say that it looks like the inside of a bar. But where else would a bartender be?

Back Bar's kitchen is open late until 1:00 AM. Closed on Mondays.
 

Come by and say hello.