Build Me Up Buttercup: Hudson's Lobster Roll Pop-Up is the Pandemic Indulgence We All Needed | Restaurants | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

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Build Me Up Buttercup: Hudson's Lobster Roll Pop-Up is the Pandemic Indulgence We All Needed


Last Updated: 10/12/2020 9:52 pm
  • Sabrina Eberhard

Ahhh, dreams deferred. The motto of 2020. But when life gives you sour cherry pits, make amaretto. Or so goes the philosophy of Kat Dunn, a veteran mixologist, with a CV that includes tending bar at former Greenwich village haunt The Lion and several Fatty Crew restaurants before moving upstate to design the cocktail program for Zak Pelaccio’s Fish & Game and Backbar, as well as Rivertown Lodge.

She had planned to open her “fast, casual cocktail bar” Padrona in a former factory building in Hudson’s Prison Alley this summer, but...COVID. She had a 34-foot hardwood bar planned with teal barstools, cocktails, wine by the class, beers on tap, and a small menu of cheese, charcuterie, and gourmet anchovies in the tin. “To be honest, in Hudson it’s hard to get good kitchen help,” she says. “So for this, I just wanted to focus on my strength and not try to boil the ocean.”

The rendering for Padrona, now expected Summer 2021. - RENDERING BY SPACESMITH, COURTESY OF KAT DUNN
  • Rendering by Spacesmith, courtesy of Kat Dunn
  • The rendering for Padrona, now expected Summer 2021.

Renderings and recipe testing went on hold with lockdown, the whole dream frozen. But when Rachel Sanzone, owner of Bonfiglio Bread and the late Lick, reached out to her to offer to rent her kitchen equipment for a collaborative pop-up, Dunn’s wheels started turning. “The world sucks. 2020 sucks. Everyone is miserable,” Dunn says. “So I thought, if we can provide just the most quintessential guilty summer pleasures to put a smile on your face for a couple minutes that’s what we’ll do.” Even the name, buttercup, recalls silly childhood flights of fancy, holding the yellow flower up to your chin to see if you like butter.

“My grandfather was a lobsterman on Cape Cod,” Dunn says. “The joke when I was a kid was, “Daaad, can’t we just have hamburgers like everyone else?’ So we started with lobster rolls.” Other guilty pleasures include: Feltman’s of Coney Island all-beef hot dogs—$7 a piece or two for $12 for a basic dog or half a dozen elaborated options between $9-$10; soft-serve ice cream, and, of course, cocktails (including a Pimm’s pop!).

Now as we transition into fall, the signature lobster rolls are fading out to be replaced by a warm "crabster" cake served with tartar sauce and pickled veg on a bun ($12) and a deviled shrimp roll ($18) served with hot sauce aioli, B&G peppers, togarashi, and chives, with a side of slaw and chips. Dunn's also ladling out cool-weather classics like black bean chili ($9) and a chicken and shrimp gumbo ($13) over rice.

Dunn just got her liquor license two weeks ago, so she’s finally serving up cocktails in what she calls “adult Capri Sun” to-go pouches. As with Padrona, the Buttercup drink list is deliberately “not precious,” though nearly every drink features some local produce, preserve, or liqueur Dunn has made herself this summer—like the house “amaretto,” a liqueur made with pits from local sour cherries, peaches, and apricots. The RBG cocktail, on the menu through election day, features Rye, Bourbon, and Ginger, with local concord grapes (because “Biggie sang about Welch’s grape juice in ‘Juicy’”). One dollar of every $13 drink sale will go to ActBlue's Get Mitch or Die Trying, which is working to oust McConnell and to upend the Repubican-led the senate.

  • Courtesy of Buttercup

Winter is Coming

Kat Dunn in a Buttercup mask. - SABRINA EBERHARD
  • Sabrina Eberhard
  • Kat Dunn in a Buttercup mask.

When Buttercup opened in July, they were exclusively offering takeout. As the infection rates dropped, they allowed people to eat on their patio. On weekends, the plein-air dining area is a buzzing with couples, posses, and familes. (You may remember the location from its former incarnation as Musica.) Dunn is planning to keep the pop-up going through the end of the year.

Come November 1, they’ll switch their primary focus to delivery and take-out, though they’ll remain open to diners on weekends with heat lamps on the patio. Dunn is imagining an Aspen vibe. “You go out still dressed in a ski coat and have a delicious cocktail,” she says. “People think we’re going to go under lockdown again this winter, whether self-imposed or government mandated. So before that, in November and December, they’ll still go out to meet some friends, knowing they’re staying outside, wearing a hat and gloves and drinking warm cocktails.”

If all goes well, this winter will see ad hoc catering gigs (lobster cocktail party anyone?) and the build-out of Padrona. "If you can’t pivot, you’re done right now," Dunn says. "Best case scenario, I will have Buttercup and Padrona next year."

The mural on the wall outside Buttercup. - SABRINA EBERHARD
  • Sabrina Eberhard
  • The mural on the wall outside Buttercup.

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