By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — They are not the kind of restaurants you’d expect in a small river town just across the border in Wisconsin, but a lifelong Hudson guy has created a mini-food empire anchored by a Caribbean spot.

This week, Jason DeRusha checks out the incredibly popular San Pedro Cafe, where the fire in the kitchen matches the heat on the plate.

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Pete Foster isn’t the most likely evangelist for Caribbean food. He’s lived in Hudson almost his whole life.

“To me Caribbean cuisine is a lot of seafood, a lot of spice,” Foster said. “I was 28 when we bought this building.”

The year was 2000; Foster had already become a co-owner of Barkers Grill, the place he started in restaurants as a college kid. He was a bartender, served, cooked and did the dishes.

That’s when he set his eyes on a historic building on 2nd Street, and mulled a concept that had everyone wondering. Caribbean … in Wisconsin?

“All my bankers asked me that too,” he said. “A lot of them said good luck.”

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But he got the loan, bringing the food from the island of San Pedro to the Midwestern riverside.

“I had faith in the community of Hudson that they would support,” he said.

The heat of the Jerk chicken doesn’t scare away his very loyal customer base. Nor does the serrano peppers on the Shrimp St. Croix pasta. The Caribbean nachos have become iconic. The view of the tropical fish, and that Lemon-habanero aioli, somehow makes nachos work here.

San Pedro is the centerpiece of Pete’s three restaurants — Barker’s elevates bar food with killer burgers and craft beer, and Pedro’s Del Este is a Cuban/Spanish tapas-style small plate spot. All of the restaurants draw customers from far beyond Hudson.

“I consider Hudson part of the Twin Cities — 25 minutes from downtown Minneapolis, 15 from downtown St. Paul.”

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Since San Pedro opened in 2000, Hudson’s population has expanded by more than 50 percent, to nearly 14,000. So the combination of great food, great cocktails and great people make it no surprise that Foster’s restaurants keep on growing.

Jason DeRusha