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Iconic Eateries: Hudson’s Hamburgers continues to thrive in Coeur d’Alene under simple operations

An Elvis clock, a sign that reads ‘EAT MORE PIE,’ and an ATM sit in the cash-only – yet truly iconic – Hudson’s Hamburgers in Coeur d’Alene.

Opened in 1907 by Harley Hudson, Hudson’s Hamburgers was called “The Missouri Kitchen” until 1963.

The business never left the family, being run today by Steve Hudson.

It was originally passed down to Todd and Steve Hudson, but Todd died in 2017 at age 53 due to stomach cancer, according to an article in The Spokesman-Review.

The restaurant has about seven employees, a couple working seasonally on break from college. On an average day, there are three people staffing the burger joint.

The manager and cook for Hudson’s Burgers, and son-in-law to Steve Hudson, Jeremy Babcock has been working at Hudson’s Hamburgers for the past five years.

Originally roped in because of family, Babcock loves the community and friendships he has made at Hudson’s.

“It’s a tradition,” he said. “It’s been the same for 116 years, and we’re keeping it going.”

Babcock enjoys the small-town feeling at Hudson’s. With only a few employees, the business can bring a family feel.

Another employee, Dalton Cone, has worked at Hudson’s for about two years. Cone is currently enrolled at Montana State University, so he works seasonally.

He grew up eating Hudson’s Hamburgers and even dreamed of working there since he was 14.

“I always saw all the people that worked here having fun (and) just hanging out, having a good time,” Cone said. “And so it didn’t really feel like it would be work.”

He has been eating their burgers since he was 11. On his days off, Cone enjoys coming into Hudson’s to chat with co-workers or have a burger.

He is grateful for his experience at Hudson’s and all the people he has met from it. Cone is also very grateful for the Hudson family and what they do for the community.

“The Hudson family, it really cares about the people who come in here,” he said. “I mean, when it’s your livelihood for however long, I feel like you really start to connect.”

The Hudson family business has thrived on the same basics created originally by Harley Hudson.

The menu has stayed simple. However the building has changed quite a bit.

The restaurant originally started in a tent, with only burgers, eggs and ham on the menu. Ketchup was not an option. Neither was cheese, which would cause Henry Hudson to “have a fit” because cheese was not meant for burgers. By 1977, cheese was still not a choice on the menu.

Anyone requesting french fries, mayonnaise or a milkshake will be met with disappointment, which is how it has been done since 1907.

Today, the menu reflects the popularity of cheese, but it has largely remained the same:

  • Hamburger for $3.50.
  • Cheeseburger for $3.80.
  • Double hamburger for $6.70.
  • Double cheeseburger for $7.00.
  • Ham and egg sandwich for $3.40.
  • Ham sandwich for $2.30.
  • Egg sandwich for $2.30.
  • Pie for $3.00.

A basic burger in 1986 cost $1.10, or extra with pickles and onions.

There is ketchup, spicy sauce and even hotter sauce on the counter to top your burger. Optional toppings are the aforementioned pickles and onions.

Hudson’s orders its pies from Cyrus O’Leary’s.

The secret sauce is a recipe only Steve Hudson knows. It has been a family tradition since the opening of the Missouri Kitchen, only known by past generational owners.

This classic restaurant doesn’t need more to wow customers coming in for a quick bite. Through the decades, many generations knew that profit could be made in sides, but they learned to perfect the food they were already making.

Harley Hudson upgraded from a tent to a building on Sherman Avenue in 1908. The building relocated twice more, once in 1963 and again in 1983 to its current location, 207 E. Sherman Ave. Ove time, the Hudsons added a grand total of two new stools to their business.

Despite few changes, Hudson’s Hamburgers has never been anything short of a success. Most of the fortune first made was credited to furloughed sailors from Farragut Naval Training Station, local teenagers and electric railroad passengers for the constant consumption of the simple burger.

The Hudson generations believe if they found success, there is no real reason to change anything.

In 1989, Hudson’s Hamburgers was featured in USA Today, alongside two other burger joints, in “a nationwide search to find the perfect burger.”

Roger Thorgerson, 86, has been going to Hudson’s Hamburgers since 1964. Thorgerson shows up around 9 a.m. every Wednesday for a hamburger with pickles and onions, coffee, and strawberry rhubarb pie.

While eating, Thorgerson usually enjoys talking to employees and catches up with them on their personal lives.

“All the people that have worked here have been very fine people,” he said. “(They’re) very nice. They’ve been good people.”

Thorgerson believes the reason Hudson’s Hamburgers has thrived for so long is because things have always stayed the same.

“It’s a tradition,” he said. “They’ve been written up in magazines all over the country. They’ve been considered the fifth-best hamburgers in America. It’s a simple operation. They haven’t changed in there since their existence. It would be homey as apple pie.”

In the past, Thorgerson would enjoy his usual Wednesday burger with his friend, Donald Sausser, but Sausser died this summer. Thorgerson still plans to continue the tradition in remembrance of his friend.

He could not imagine what Coeur d’Alene would be like if Hudson’s Hamburgers was not there.

“There’d be a hole in the heart of the city, because they are magicians at what they do.”

Samantha Fuller's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.