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!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Windfall Bar and Grill, Cranberry Lake

Eighty miles to Tupper Lake. Another twenty-six to Cranberry Lake. The two-and-a-half-mile stretch on Tooley Pond Road, winding between Cranberry Lake and Silver Lake to the Windfall Bar and Grill was the shortest leg of our travels. It’s all about perspective in the Adirondacks. Rounding a curve just when we’d decided there was no sign of human interference other than the road and a small cemetery, we were somewhat surprised to find the Windfall Bar and Grill occupying a yellow ranch house. Nothing garish or pretentious about its curb appeal, just a simple looking country tavern and restaurant, well maintained and hospitable. The same was found within.
The bar is just inside the front door. Two TVs, a pool table, darts, Quick Draw, and lottery scratch games provide some amusement whether you’re waiting for a table or just having a drink. The pine bar comfortably seats eight to ten with your choice of padded or wooden stools. Two booths and a few tables allow seating away from the bar. Complete with its own upright piano and lighting, a small niche across the room supplies space for musical performers.
Surveying the lineup of draft and bottled beers, Kim spied a new brew, Brooklyn Pennant Ale ’55, among the fine choices. Also on tap are Harpoon IPA, Guinness, and Lake Placid Ubu Ale, an Adirondack staple. She wrinkled her nose at Angry Orchard, a Samuel Adams product that seems to be the current trend. Twenty-five bottled beers offer a mostly domestic variety with no surprises. The wine list includes eight red, six white and a sparkling wine, along with several house wines and a house made sangria, available by the glass or bottle. The Windfall Bar and Grill also offers a house made root beer on tap. During summer months, the Windfall boasts a delicious mojito made with their homegrown mint. The bartender, Glenda, prepared one for Pam who nodded her approval, unwilling to relinquish the straw from her mouth as she sipped from the depths of this tall, tasty drink.
In addition to reader recommendation, it was a Facebook invitation from the Windfall that prompted our trek to Cranberry Lake. We had the opportunity to meet one of the owners, Rosalyn Dragun. Her husband and co-owner, John, was busy in the kitchen. Not too busy, however, to later share some of his layered drink recipes via Rosalyn. Pam continues to be challenged by the layered shot and was hoping for some pointers. Maybe the next time we visit. The Windfall features a number of delicious sounding shots, popular with the crowds of snowmobilers that slide through the door every winter. Among the interesting names are the Duck Fart, Jellyfish, and Chastity Belt.
John and Roz have owned the Windfall Bar and Grill since 2006, though the establishment has been in business since the 1970’s. According to Roz, they’ve taken it from rowdy reputation to an eating destination. Earl and Sharon, frequent patrons, attested to the fabulous food. Earl’s favorite, he claims, is the chicken picatta. A number of burgers, salads, sandwiches and sides are listed on the pub menu, most priced from $4.99 to $9.99. We found the quesadillas to be above average in all respects, and the dijon horseradish salad dressing should be bottled and sold on the premises. The dining menu features the Windfall’s signature chicken picatta, seafood dishes, steak, ribs, and a tempting dessert list to be enjoyed in the cozy but open dining room with views of the landscape and local wildlife.
The Windfall is open year-round from 3 p.m. and is closed on Monday and Tuesday. It’s also closed for a week around Christmas and for two weeks in April in observance of “Mud Season”. Although a favorite winter destination among snowmobilers, the Windfall seems to be holding its own in the summer as well. Karaoke and an occasional acoustic band provide entertainment.  On August 2, the Windfall hosts Jonathan Foster, former northern New Yorker transplanted to California, whose bio describes his music as "alternative country folk rock Americana blues music". During Presidents’ weekend in February, they host a winter weekend party with a chicken barbecue and musical entertainment. Their St. Patrick’s Day party tends to be the last hurrah for snowmobilers.
Visit the Windfall for the food, the warm hospitality, and occasional music. Enjoy the drive among the pines and ponds on this idyllic route down the road less traveled. Reservations are highly recommended, especially on the busiest days. From the expressions of either satisfaction or anticipation on the faces of diners coming and going, it's worth the trip.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rick's Restaurant and Pub, Willsboro

Located in what we call an “Adirondack plaza”, but known as the Willsborough Business Center, Rick's Restaurant and Pub is unique in more than its location. Our definition of an Adirondack plaza, and we have encountered several of these business centers in our travels in the Park, is a building that houses multiple businesses but not all are accessed directly from the curb. The Willsborough Business Center is home to a pharmacy, a bowling alley, a hair salon, several engineering and technology businesses, a bakery and, of course, Rick’s Restaurant and Pub. Enter through the business entrance and it’s one of the doors on the right. There are no windows in the doors, so you may find yourself entering tentatively, hoping you’re in the right place.

Rick’s is like a country diner with a bar, a concept long past due. The door opens into the restaurant, but the bar, easily discernible toward the back, accommodates about eight people. Another counter seats at least four on each side, and a few pub tables on the wall between the bar and restaurant serve those who just can’t decide which room they want to be in. No matter where you choose to sit, the tidy charm of the pine log and cool green interior immediately make you feel at home. A mural covers an entire wall – a pastoral scene depicting deer in a wooded countryside. Rustic style light fixtures provide an Adirondack embellishment, while black-eyed Susans cool their toes and peek over the lip of a vase on the bar.

We found the owner, Rick Sayward, behind the bar serving beer, wine, and a hearty dose of quips and smiles. Amiable and garrulous, Rick’s cheerful presence and his obvious pleasure and pride in his pub are the main attraction. His comfort with patrons, new and old, makes each visitor feel like an invited guest.

Rick and his wife Sarah have lived in Willsboro most of their lives. When he retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1986, his dream was to one day open a hot dog stand. He did just that in 2004. In 2007, Rick’s Restaurant & Pub moved to its current location on Route 22 with an expanded menu, an Adirondack country interior, and a nod to local history with historic photographs of the local pulp mill embedded in the bar. Rick’s family has been in Willsboro for many generations and his great, great, great grandfather owned the first mill built there.

Though Rick’s doesn’t serve liquor, they offer flavored malts in bottles and even a selection of pre-packaged Seagram’s frozen cocktails including margarita, pina colada, daiquiri and sangria, with a modest selection of good draft beers and at least 15 bottled. In true noncompetitive Adirondack plaza form, the bowling alley serves liquor, but not food. Rick’s serves food, but not liquor, so patrons are free to meander from one to the other, and can stop off and use the shared restrooms in between.

Happy Hour is observed from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily and all day on Sunday, featuring a 16 oz. draft for $1.95. Particular loyalty is paid to veterans of the armed services, who are eligible to apply for Rick’s veteran’s appreciation card and enjoy special pricing on all food and drinks, all the time. A believer in giving back to those who serve, Rick’s keeps a donation jar on the bar for the Combat Vets Association, and is the major sponsor of an annual golf tournament benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project, to be held this year on July 28 at the Willsboro Golf Course.

Open seven days a week in the summer, and closed on Monday in the winter, Rick’s is open from 11:30 a.m. They close for Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas. Rick’s Restaurant and Pub serves a menu of American cuisine, pub fare, fresh cut steaks, seafood, and sandwiches of fresh turkey, roast beef and ham. True to his hot dog stand roots, Rick proudly serves two homemade Michigan sauces for his hot dogs. Top off your meal with one of Sarah’s homemade pies and desserts.

Entertainment at Rick’s includes two TVs, Quick Draw, and the occasional hosting of the Vermont Comedy Club every few months throughout the year, sometimes as a dinner-and-a-show special. An open mic night Rick bills as “Redneck Comedy” is quite popular in Willsboro, giving the locals an opportunity to take jabs at one another, all in good fun, though we suspect you may have to be a local yourself in order to understand some of the inside jokes.

Feeling much like a neighborhood corner bar, Rick’s Restaurant and Pub is a quiet little piece of home, offering good food and drink at very reasonable prices. With a hometown disposition and a community spirit, its country charm, with the help of the character behind the bar, welcomes and invites you to stick around for a bit.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Johnny's Smokehouse and Sports Bar, Willsboro

Just when we thought we had seen the best the Adirondacks has to offer, heeeere’s Johnny’s! If it were as simple as walking in with a ten-item checklist, Johnny’s Smokehouse and Sports Bar in Willsboro would be an easy ten. It isn’t, but they do have it all, inside and out.
In its infancy, Johnny's was established by Trisha Sheehan in July, 2011 and seems well on its way to maturity. The combination of exciting and creative menu options, a wide selection of beverages, and an appealing atmosphere contribute to an overall enjoyable experience.
1)  Plenty of parking.  The parking area is large enough to handle the capacity of the bar, restaurant and patio. Although a small parking lot can make a bar look busy with just a few cars, a large parking area shows optimism and expectation.
2)  Atmosphere.  From the exterior, freshly painted stucco, appealing arched windows and entry trimmed in taupe, and a tidy entrance with hours posted. Interior gleaming in clear resin coated tables with Johnny’s logo embedded in each. Warm, cheerful hues of persimmon trimmed in a soft grey. Four large flat screen TVs strategically placed. Computer generated bulletins hang here and there, brightly colored, informative and attractive. The pub tables are amply spaced with options for two to six and room for standing as well. The bar, in alternating stripes of cherry and maple and accented with embedded casino chips, accommodates eight to ten on padded wooden stools.
3)  Entertainment.  In sports bar terms, each TV can be counted as entertainment. For those rare occasions when nothing is on, electronic darts, a jukebox and Quick Draw serve to entertain. Johnny’s features a DJ every Friday. A back wall of recovered barn board is a contrasting rustic accent and serves as a partition between bar and restaurant. Barn doors on wrought iron hinges swing open to expand the bar for occasional live music.
4)  Drink.  Five beers on tap and 30 beers, coolers, and malt beverages in bottles. Assorted wines, mixed drinks, frozen drinks, flavored vodkas. To prepare them all, a bartender named Paul. Kim selected a Vermont Switchback while Pam found a new tasty treat, the Loopy Sour, with Loopy vodka, cranberry juice and a splash of lime. Paul’s propensity for mixology is showcased with $5.00 specialties including martinis, a Grape Cosmo, Cherry Cheesecake and the Surfers’ Sunrise.
5)  Food.  Oh the food you can eat! It’s a smokehouse of meat! Offered beyond are salads, pizzas, calzones, too. Fried pickles, mac and cheese bites, burgers raised locally, homemade salad dressings, garden vegetables grown on site. For the seafood lover, crab cakes and fish and chips delight. On top of it all, they make delivery with a call. Johnny’s keeps its two smokers busy making their own smoked meats on site. The smokehouse sampler was forthcoming, which we slathered with Johnny’s homemade sauces.
6)  Hospitality.  Mr. Congeniality. Easily mistaken for the owner, Paul is one of those bartenders who knows his drinks, knows his surroundings and takes pride in what he’s doing and where he is. Won’t say it’s a rarity, but it’s refreshing. Nothing know-it-all like, but knowledgeable. When we first arrived at Johnny’s, Paul shared some of the Loopy Vodka recipes with Pam from a Three Olives recipe card. When they both wrinkled their noses at the milk based vodka recipe, a professional respect was born. Paul makes his own simple syrups, his most popular a ginger peppercorn with ginger from the house garden. He tried to give Pam his recipe, but to her it sounded too much like cooking, and her mind wandered at the mention of “heating”. Later Paul shared a margarita secret ingredient that Pam took note of, no cooking involved.  Don’t think she’ll share it until it has been tested in the lab, though.
7)  Friendly patrons.  Most patrons were enrapt in soccer or baseball games, and we were busy getting information, but we did have an opportunity to meet some newcomers. We met a couple who spend their summers in the area and also have taken on the challenge of climbing all of the Adirondack High Peaks. They shared a few suggestions on places for us to review. Fortunately, there was only one we haven’t visited, and now it’s on our list. Johnny’s has its share of diverse patrons, including locals, tourists and seasonal residents.
8)  Outdoor seating.  The patio in front of Johnny’s is ready to seat up to 24 with six tables for four.  Umbrellas are available for shade when the sun is at its highest, but a nice breeze seems to naturally flow by too. The tables are comfortably spaced for wait staff traffic and even some privacy from other patrons.
9)  Hours.  Happy Hour is offered Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. offering domestic drafts for $1.00, Shock Top and Sam Seasonal for $2.00 and well drinks for $3.00.  Three Olives martinis are available all day for $5.00.  Even the appetizers are 50% off at the bar during Happy Hour. During the summer season, Johnny’s is open 7 days a week. The restaurant is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. or later on Saturday and from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Bar hours are inclusive and extended beyond as needed.  During the winter season, Johnny’s is closed on Tuesdays, but you’ll find them open on the holidays.
10)  Versatility.  Not just a restaurant. Not just a sports bar. A place to go alone or meet some friends, have a drink, eat or not. Appealing to most.
Meet, greet, eat. Repeat.