OUR MISSION - WE'RE PUBLISHED! Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 marked the Premier of our new book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks: An Adirondack Bar Guide. The hardcover, 160 page book can be found at bars and bookstores throughout the Adirondack Park or order online at www.happyhourinthehighpeaks.com. You'll find a list of our book signings on the Events page and where to buy the book on our Retailers page. The book contains reviews of 46 of our favorite bars in the Adirondack Park, and 46 drink recipes with an Adirondack twist. As a companion to the book, we have also published a 46er Passport so that you can follow the Happy Hour Trail to become a Happy Hour 46er and make new friends along the way. Summit Tour t-shirts will be for sale at our book signings or available online. Whether you are a native, resident, or visitor, you'll find 46 more reasons to visit the ADIRONDACK PARK!

Monday, January 30, 2012

O.P. Frederick's Restaurant and Tavern, Chestertown

Yet another gem was unearthed while mining the Adirondacks for the 46 best bars and taverns. Located at the backwater of Loon Lake near the intersection of routes 8 and 9 in Chestertown, O.P. Frederick's Restaurant and Tavern is a year-round destination highly worthy of a visit. Much of their clientele are seasonal residents of Loon Lake, snowmobilers, and skiers from Gore Mountain. Many non-seasonal locals enjoy the tavern in the off-peak seasons.

Noting the (working) phone booth as we entered the tavern on a wintry Saturday afternoon, we were greeted by the warmth of the ancient and ornate parlor stove in the corner. Though the portly cast iron stove was grand in scale, the heat was significant yet never overwhelming. The lighting and the music that played in the background were equally subtle.

Preliminary digging at O.P. Frederick’s website promised an assortment of martinis and Pam already knew she was going to try the apple, ordering immediately as Kim reviewed the beer menu. Barely able to contain her anticipation, Pam pondered whether her martini would be a green apple martini or a sweet, apple-pie-like martini. As expected, it was sour green apple in a Jolly Rancher flavor and color. She launched into the verbal design of an apple pie martini as she sipped.

Kim, equally enthused with the beer selection, decided on Brooklyn Brewery’s black chocolate stout, a Russian imperial stout, rich, dark and aromatic, revealing new and subtle flavors with each swig. In addition, Lake Placid Ubu ale and LaBatt Blue are always available on tap, along with a rotating pair of regional beers – two Magic Hat seasonals at the moment - and Blue Moon. Among the 15 bottled beers listed, Kim discovered Franziskaner Weissbier, assorted domestics, and Beck’s dark. Though not the motherlode, the beer choices are appealing and well selected. Drink prices are a little on the high end for the area, and O.P. Frederick’s does not have a Happy Hour.

We introduced ourselves to the friendly and easygoing bartender, Leana, and soon launched into a barrage of fact-finding questions. Leana has been at O.P. Frederick's for eight years. We soon discovered that our paths had crossed years before at the former Colonial Arms in Warrensburg. We briefly reminisced about mutual acquaintances from those early days in our drinking careers as Leana tended to other patrons and the wait staff.

Though the tavern at O.P. Frederick's has an official capacity of 40 persons, the bar itself seats eight. Three pub tables along the wall can accommodate nine more and a wall bar toward the back has seating for four. Two TVs are strategically located for watching whatever big game may be on. A modest deck out back offers picnic table seating in warmer months, overlooking the backwater edge of Loon Lake. Plaid tablecloths adorn the dining tables, with matching valances on the windows. A pair of snowshoes, mounted fish and game trophies and wildlife prints grace the pine walls, but we were more captivated by old black-and-white photographs and the nostalgic 1950's era framed Winchester Rifle posters depicting a winter scene with a rabbit and another of a deer in flight.

O.P. Frederick's is a restaurant and tavern and also offers accommodations at the adjacent Alp Horn Motel featuring five units. The complex has been owned by Robert and Vivian Frederick for the past 20 years, but the location has plenty of history as the Loon Lake Colony before that. We had an opportunity to meet Bob Frederick (wearing cargo shorts on this January day) during our visit and found him to be a very gracious host, proud of his establishment and eager to share history and memorabilia.

The dinner menu includes appetizers (smoked trout and duck burritos among them) from $5.99 to $9.95. Entrees from seafood and steaks to sandwiches and pasta range from $6.95 for a basic burger to $24.95 for surf and turf. Dinner and drink specials such as early bird and $5.00 burgers are featured throughout the week, and coupons can be retrieved and printed from their website. Show your Gore Mountain ski pass and get 10% off your meal. The tavern and restaurant open at 4 p.m. with dinner served until 9 p.m. The bar closes between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. depending on the season. O.P. Frederick's is closed on Mondays all year. They are known to close up for a few weeks or the whole month of December and again in April.

O.P. Frederick’s is a warm, congenial place with affable and welcoming patrons. Whether prospecting for food, drink, or both, you’ll find a vein of hometown friendliness, good food and a variety of liquid refreshment.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Deer's Head Inn, Elizabethtown

The Deer’s Head Inn, according to the sign in front, was established in 1806, though its current location is not the original. Fire, reconstruction, relocation and renaming have all taken place in the past two hundred years. What remains is a charming inn, owned by JoAnne and Matthew Baldwin since 2006, bursting with history. We entered through the front door, into the intimate tavern, and were at once greeted with a sense of comfort, familiarity and warmth. We took a seat at the tiny bar, tucked neatly into a snug little nook in the back of the small room.

Our initial impression on entering the pub area of the Deer's Head Inn was that it was more a destination than a neighborhood restaurant, and it may well be, but the patrons all seemed to know one another, exchanging greetings and news as they came and went. The courthouse and municipal building across the street may be the main attraction luring visitors (willing or not) into E’Town. The Adirondack Northway routed travelers away long ago and the GPS has since taken most of those who may have inadvertently meandered through. Maps are simply lines in a cold, two-dimensional space. The GPS does its job, efficiently calculating time and distance; but it is the populace that gives a mere pinpoint its third dimension. People fill a space and give it history, personality, warmth and life. Does your GPS know that two presidents stayed here, as did John Brown's widow? Will it show you their signatures in the inn’s guest registers? Locate Ben Stetson's Prohibition stash?

Though a sign over the bar boasts "Martini Lounge", Cosmopolitans are a house specialty at the Deer’s Head as the array of more than a dozen flavored vodkas attests. Pam decided on a Maple Manhattan, with Maker's Mark whisky and local maple syrup. The beer lineup contains a few interesting choices including St. Pauli Girl, Amstel Light, Newcastle Brown Ale, Lake Placid Ubu Ale, Stella Artois, Kaliber (non alcohol from Guinness), and Wild Blue (a blueberry lager produced by Anheuser-Busch) and several domestic brands. Two regional craft brews (currently Magic Hat Howl and VT Switchback) are always available on tap.

The Deer's Head Inn is open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and serves lunch until 2:30; dinner from 5 p.m. until 8 or 9 p.m. Hours vary so be sure to check times on their website. They offer an extensive wine list, with prices by the glass from $5.00 to $8.00 or they can be purchased by the bottle. The Inn consists of three dining rooms, each with its own characteristics, and although the bar only seats six, there seemed to be ample room for standing. The bar top has old postcards of Elizabethtown attractions safely held in time under layers of "glaze". From the bar, an old oak phone booth, with original Bell Telephone insignia and beveled glass, can be seen in the hallway. Our bartender, Joyce, laughingly advised that the booth is reserved as her "office".

Though perhaps more often a service bar for the restaurant, the pub at Deer's Head Inn is an intimate place for quiet conversation, reflecting on the past, or escaping the crowds of Lake Placid. Joyce seems to enjoy having company at the bar, adding interest beyond serving drinks to diners she might never see. You'll be welcome whether just stopping in for a drink or whetting your appetite before a good meal. Next time you're heading to Lake Placid, be sure to set your GPS "via" point to Elizabethtown along the way.

The sun’s daytime shift had already ended when we arrived, so we were not able to photograph the Deer’s Head Inn’s exterior. Not wanting to intrude on the privacy of the patrons in the busy tavern, we abstained inside as well. Photos were obtained at the Deer’s Head Inn’s website.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cobble Hill Inn, Elizabethtown

It was good to be back on the road after the holidays, off to visit the Cobble Hill Inn in Elizabethtown. A sunny, mild afternoon, by January standards, and a picturesque drive along the way, brought us to Elizabethtown. Distant mountains stood in the drab landscape, their faces blushing pink in the setting sun, oblivious to our passing.

Cashin's Cobble Hill Inn was easy to find as we headed north on Route 9. Plenty of parking suggested that they might host some parties throughout the year. We discovered soon that, yes, they do have parties, pig roasts and musical entertainment in the large yard in back during the milder seasons. A long deck along the side of the building held chairs, benches, a table and probably even more seating in the summer. A large awning, though closed up for the winter, provides shelter from rain and sun when venturing outside.

The bar was fairly full but we found a few seats at the end, optimal for observation. The first few minutes of entry into an unfamiliar bar require a lot of processing, especially when the bartender is quick and attentive. We surveyed the large chalkboard drink menu hanging over the bar, listing liquors, beers and pricing. It was a unique display itemizing various liquor types and brands, with "call" liquors at $3.00 "all day every day", brands up to $7.00 for single shots and boasting, "All prices include mixers". Since many of Pam's specialty drinks include multiple shots, she opted for a simple Captain Morgan and Coke at a modest $4.00. Though drink prices hint that every hour is Happy Hour, the Cobble Hill Inn offers Happy Hour drink specials every day from 5 to 7 p.m. With 12 draft choices from commercial domestics to regional craft brews, and an emphasis on clean draft lines, the "signature" drinks at Cobble Hill Inn are on tap and range from $2.50 to $7.00.

While we sipped our beverages we observed the atmosphere, both visual and audial. The NY Giants curtains adorning all windows in cafe style, along with NY Yankees memorabilia throughout, suggested that the owners and patrons supported these NY teams. Trophies and photos highlight the accomplishments of the inn's Monday night dart league. Photographs along the upper walls indicated years of community team support as well. Mixed in here and there, Irish memorabilia completed the picture of the Cashin family passions. A sign by the door offering "Ride Home $5.00" on Fridays and Saturdays conveyed a responsibility and a sense that the Cobble Hill Inn might be the place to go in Elizabethtown on the weekend. Most of the patrons appeared to know one another - hellos and goodbyes were exchanged when anyone came or went. Though we weren't there for a long time, we even got goodbyes when we left.

The Cobble Hill Inn is a bar, restaurant and motel, owned by the Cashin family for the last 21 years, and by the bartender, Christina (Chrissy) Cashin, for the past six years. The motel has four efficiencies and a total of seven rooms and, like the bar and restaurant, is open seven days a week, 365 days a year. The bar is open from 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday, noon on Sunday and closes as late as 2 a.m. when business requires.

Gaming amusements include foosball and pool in a separate room and darts in the bar area. The bar seats ten and includes another four tables with seating for 16 more patrons. A few barstools along the wall could allow a little more seating at the bar. Wifi is available to read your favorite blog, check out photos on Cobble Hill Inn's Facebook page, or to keep in touch with loved ones. You can watch the Giants or Yankees on one of the two TVs in the tavern area.

Chris, Chrissy's partner, was just putting the finishing touches on the newly leveled and re-covered pool table in the adjoining room. An ancient phone booth stands in a corner. A few more dining tables and a cozy sitting area by the fireplace give the space a homey, recreation room feel. Noticing an old upright piano on a far wall, Kim asked Chris if anyone actually plays it. Himself a musician who plays the piano and upright bass, Chris elaborated on the occasional entertainment at the Cobble Hill Inn and upcoming events. The Valentine's Day jazz wine dinner promises to be well attended, with a four or five course dinner paired with wine for each course.

The Cobble Hill Inn is a clean, friendly bar with attentive and gracious staff. Patrons were polite and friendly, obviously comfortable sharing their favorite pub. The owners are proud of the family business and show community support by hosting a toy drive and other fundraisers throughout the year. Any time of year, whether nearby for skiing, golfing, leaf peeping or motorcycling, you must drop in and make some new friends. The Cobble Hill Inn is the social life for the mostly local crowd. Maybe if you mention Happy Hour in the High Peaks, you'll meet some of the same people we met that day in January.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Belvedere, Saranac Lake

We discovered this unfinished review while compiling stats for the annual report and wondered how it had gone unfinished for so long. We visited the Belvedere in August (hence the kayaks) as part of a day trip to Saranac Lake - our fourth bar that day. Our holiday hiatus will be over next week, when we'll be back on track with a new venue under our belts.

The Belvedere is a restaurant with a bar, but has the potential to be a bar with a restaurant at any given moment. Patrons are apt to come in for a meal, but stop at the bar for a drink first and stay for more than one before dinner. The bartender might have to take the blame for that. His genuine, comfortable manner made us want to stick around longer than we expected.

The bar offers a modern array of choices while maintaining the old classics. One might be inclined by the atmosphere to select something more nostalgic and simple like a martini, a rye and ginger, or the lost-but-not-forgotten whisky sour. Spying the flavored vodkas, a twinkle appeared in Pam's eye as she spotted the grape vodka. She never seems to have any idea what to drink as Kim makes her predictable survey of the sparse selection brews on tap. Not stricken with a bout of creativity, Pam helpfully instructed Bob the bartender, a 20-year veteran of the Belvedere, on the proper proportions of a grape crush, a Barking Spider specialty and Pam's go-to beverage when unimaginative. Draft beers available at the time of our visit were Long Trail Ale, Blue Moon and Molson Canadian. An additional 18 or so bottled beers include most of the popular domestics along with the more interesting Peroni and Duvel. Several sparkling, white and red wines are available by the glass for between $4.50 and $6.00 a glass; $14.00 to $16.00 for a half carafe.

To get to the ladies restroom, one must pass through the dining room. Even if you weren't visiting The Belvedere for a meal, the smells that greet you, seafood on this particular evening, will be very hard to resist. We could picture wives returning to their husbands at the bar, pleading with them to move on to the restaurant, the men reluctantly following, beer pints in hand. The Belvedere's Italian/Continental menu features a wide variety of pasta, seafood and carnivorous offerings, priced between $13.00 and $22.00, but the bar prices are somewhat lower than what we're used to, and that's really why we're there.

Depending on where you gaze, the Belvedere has the appearance of being frozen in time, somewhere between 1950s and the 1970s. A classic '50s refrigerator squats behind the horseshoe-shaped, formica-topped bar. Oak cabinetry and pine-paneled walls add warmth between the slate floor and low suspended ceiling. A pool table occupies the center of the room and three booths provide seating away from the bar. There is a separate area outside for smokers, distinctly set apart from the entrance, allowing a comfortable smoke to be enjoyed with your drink at the risk of offending no one. Deck seating is available, though parties of more than six will not be accommodated on the deck. No exceptions. There is comfort in the Belvedere's non-modern motif that states "if it's not broken, don't fix it". More comfort can be taken in the fact that, as a patron, you are not paying extra for the upgrades.

Established in 1933 and family-owned for three generations, the Belvedere has survived at least two fires and holds the second-longest continuous liquor license in Franklin County. We're not sure who holds the number one spot, but intend to find out! Located in a residential area just outside Saranac Lake's business district in a two-story frame house, the Belvedere is a friendly home-town bar where all are welcome. Drink prices are reasonable, the bartender is personable and the patrons are friendly. The Belvedere is open at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday for dinner and serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Call to confirm hours of operation. Just leave your credit cards at home - the Belvedere accepts cash only.