Craving smoked brisket or pulled pork? Well, Bronxites no longer need to travel far, as Mott Haven is now home to the only smokehouse in the borough.
Hudson Smokehouse, located at 37 Bruckner Blvd., opened its doors on March 7, 2020, about a week or so before the pandemic wreaked havoc on NYC. Owner Kenneth McPartlan, who has been in the restaurant industry for nearly 30 years, did not shutter the business, but instead strapped on his boots and got to work.
Closing was not an option.
According to McPartlan, things were not easy, but they persevered and have since made their mark on the South Bronx.
“We’ve only been up a year and a half,” he told the Bronx Times. “We’re already one of the best smokehouse brisket places in the city.”
McPartlan, 48, of Long Island, has been in the industry his entire life. His great grandfather, Alford Kluin, opened Glenroy Lunch & Tavern near Yankee Stadium in 1932, which was later passed down to his grandfather, father and then him.
Since the age of 7, the bar has been his second home. He spent many weekends there washing dishes and watching his dad, John McPartlan, work. But in 1991, his father got sick and Kenneth McPartlan knew he would soon be in charge.
“I had three or four years to get under my belt,” he said. “I’d make mistakes and go home and he’d say this is what you did wrong. I learned a lot in those years.”
His dad passed away in 1995 and since then McPartlan has worked his tail off every day.
“If you don’t want to put the time, effort and energy in you’re not going to succeed,” he said.
The initial concept for the smokehouse began in 2015 when a chef friend of his who frequents the bar, approached him with the idea. Knowing there were no smokehouses in the Bronx, McPartlan was on board. McPartlan said Third Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard was the perfect spot, as the area was being redeveloped with high rises and other restaurants.
“We wanted to get in before it was too late and too expensive,” he said. “We just didn’t want to go to Brooklyn where everybody is.”
The agreement was McPartlan would operate the business and his friend would cook. However, the partnership eventually fell apart.
But McPartlan didn’t get frustrated. In 2018, he took over an old bar at 37 Bruckner Blvd., and after construction, opened at the worst possible time in March 2020. Hudson Smokehouse closed its kitchen for two weeks, but afterwards remained open and offered takeout and delivery using Postmates and Grubhub. What really kept him in business was a partnership formed with World Central Kitchen, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters. The nonprofit asked him if he would be willing to donate food to the hospitals and first responders. McPartlan said yes, but only if his bar — Glenroy Lunch & Tavern — could participate as well. They obliged.
That allowed McPartlan to keep his employees and both businesses afloat. So, from April 2020 to Halloween of 2020 he broke even by making 350 meals a day, six days a week at each of his locations. McPartlan saw how the pandemic ravaged restaurants in the Bronx, but knew he would not let that happen to the smokehouse. However, some nights kept him on edge when Mott Haven looked more like a ghost town than anything.
“You never quit,” he said. “I knew we would get through it.”
And they did; they survived and are now thriving. Hudson is even part of the Open Streets program, where every weekend the street is closed off and people can eat outside and enjoy live music.
Today, the word has spread about the smokehouse and its delicious meats. Ironically, McPartlan said the turkey has become almost as popular as the brisket. “The brisket and the ribs are second to none,” he said.
Reach Jason Cohen at email@example.com or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.