1 of 3
Downtown 140 interior
Everything about Downtown 140 is small, except the values.
2 of 3
Downtown 140 tuna
Ahi tuna appetizer
3 of 3
Downtown 140 dessert
Typical dessert plate
Stones. Wood. Red Velvet. Lots of noise. Small. Wine. Lots of wine. Lots of good wine. Wine bar. Small plates. Value. Downtown 140.
When someone who has collected and tasted wines since 1968 learns that a restaurant in Hudson has been awarded a Wine Spectator Magazine “Award of Excellence”, I had to try the place. So I tried it several times! Along the way, I discovered Downtown 140 had also won Food & Wine Magazine’s “Top 10 Best New Wine Lists” in the US when it opened in 2004. And I discovered that one of the secrets to the success of this restaurant is offering an affordable way to taste a lot of wines, and incorporating the same concept with its new wave food.
Basically, the secret is this: Think small. Downtown 140 is small. I read somewhere that it only seats 64. I never counted, but getting a reservation at any time other than 5pm or 9pm is hard enough that I believe it.
Think small plates. The food starts with tapas style appetizers; very small portions of extremely well crafted and arranged dishes. Some items such as poached shrimp, grilled figs, duck confit spring rolls, and oysters on the half shell are ordered by the piece. The oysters and a selection of cheeses are ordered from their own special menu which changes frequently, and I cannot say enough about the artisan American cheese boards.
There are somewhat larger portions of veal osso bocco raviolis, poached Maine lobster, calamari, or the ahi tuna tower. Vegetarians are presented with a wide array of choices such as organic field greens with strawberries, white asparagus salad, sweet pea and goat cheese angolotti. You get the picture.
And there are entrée size plates…beef, pork, chicken, lamb and fish in unique and impressive recipes. Some of these creations were the work of former chef and co-owner Shawn Monday, best known in this area for bringing the Inn at Turner’s Mill to life as its first executive chef, while partnered with current owners Kurt and Cindy Nygaard. Shawn has recently moved on to open his own place inside the former Vue restaurant in the downtown shopping plaza behind Downtown 140, which is still located on the lower level of a Main Street location. The new additions to the menu come from new Executive Chef Don Triskett, and seem to me to continue in the same direction and traditions as the originals.
But make no mistake…Downtown 140 is more about the wine than the food in my opinion. In several visits, I have sometimes found the food uneven, as in a filet with too many tendons to be prime, or a sweet corn/bacon sauce for scallops in which the salty bacon overpowered the sweet seafood. On the other hand, I have delighted in a roasted chicken and many soups, salads, and smallest plates.
The main attraction here is wine…350+ varieties by the bottle and more than 50 by the glass. The best element in the Downtown 140 dining experience is the opportunity to order value priced 2-ounce “samples” of any of the wines poured by the glass. Since the standard pour is 6 ounces, you can try three offerings for only a few cents more than the price of full glass.
This gave us the opportunity to compare two Rieslings and three different chardonnays, two merlots, two cabernets and two zinfandels on one recent visit, and the total win bill was only $35. I challenge anyone to produce a value like that in any other restaurant I’ve visited around here. Couple that with 3-4 dishes, close with one of their excellent desserts and/or an offering from the dessert wine bar, and this is the quintessential way of dining for those, like me, who love to explore and try all things.
The menu and wine offerings change frequently, to some extend with the seasons as you might expect. I suggest visiting the web site for the latest dishes and the wine list: