Doing what the locals do

Courtney Hoppe at the Backstreet Bar & Grill in Hudson.

New Hampshire natives have one unified answer to the question "where should I eat in Hudson?" and that's Dynamite Sushi. Known for their super-fresh fish, quaint strip-mall location and creative preparations, my date and I went in expecting good sushi but were pleased to also find some Korean dishes. Don't get me wrong: I love sushi but I also love to order up my own version of surf and turf. In this case that meant a mess of salmon, tuna and yellowtail maki, some steamed beef and vegetable dumplings, a bi bam bap and an order of edamame. I was impressed that the bi bam bap was served in the traditional hot stone bowl, but sad that the egg on top was overcooked. It was ultimately inconsequential, however, as we made a wise choice in sitting at the sushi bar with our backs to the rest of the diners. We sipped mediocre wine and slipped easily into a romantic food-filled bubble.

Although too full for dessert, we left craving a quality cocktail. Enter SoHo Asian Restaurant & Bar, which is about a 30-second drive down Lowell Road. The distance is walkable but I wouldn't advise it, particularly on a 20-something-degree evening. Propped at the SoHo bar were a mish-mashed crew of boisterous and hysterical regulars, somewhat paying attention to the Bruins game but more just enjoying their Saturday night out. To make up for lost cocktail time, we ordered a Scorpion bowl and eavesdropped on the townies that almost seemed to be performing for us.

As we made new friends they advised us on our next stop. Their input confirmed my loose game plan: to head over to the Backstreet Bar & Grill. We arrived around 10 p.m. and the place was busy yet not packed, allowing us to find a couple seats at the bar. We spotted an empty pool table and asked the bartender to make change for us so we could play, to which she informed us that pool here is always free. We hopped on the table and had a thrilling first game where I maintained a massive lead and nearly nailed an unplanned trick shot, then my date swooped in and irritatingly sunk five balls in a row. Something to know about me: I play pool similar to how I bowl. I stop caring after the first game. To keep things interesting, we invented our own game where we'd call a ball and the other player would get to take a shot at it first. If they sunk it, they got to keep shooting without calling until they missed a shot, then our version of "normal" play resumed. The next thing we knew, the foursome next to us were playing our made-up game but gave it a name that is not suitable to print.

Then suddenly, everything changed when I realized that the DJ wasn't just spinning '80s pop tunes and disco. It was also KARAOKE NIGHT. Not only were we playing FREE POOL, dancing with the regulars to "Stayin' Alive" and enjoying inexpensive beverages, I also had the opportunity to share my version of the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" with the crowd, which seemed to be an extension of the barflies we had met over at the SoHo. In the bathroom, I got chatting with one of my dance partners, Kim, who shared that she had met her late husband at this very bar a zillion years ago and she still finds herself coming here. She said that the Backstreet is where the locals go to just be themselves. Kim nailed it. If I lived closer to Hudson, I'd have a stool at the Backstreet with my name on it.

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