The town of Essex has a coastal New England charm, from the centuries old brick homes and diagonal street parking, to the waterfront buildings in colors to rival the Atlantic coast. The Essex Inn, grand in comparative scale to the federal and Greek revival style architecture that defines the hamlet, is the centerpiece of Essex. With a full-length front porch, imposing white columns and freshly painted yellow siding, the Essex Inn’s cheerful facade is warm and inviting.
Management of the 200-year-old Essex Inn was undertaken by Gladys and Josh Archer in 2010 after it was meticulously renovated and restored in a year-and-a-half-long process by Rick and Karen Dalton, who initially purchased it to house the College for Every Student (CFES) organization.
The inn has taken on an authentic, historic appearance that feels timeless and original. Wood is artfully employed in countless hues and textures, with rough sawn board walls, a low, exposed beam ceiling, and softly glowing wide plank floors, finished with hand-forged replica nails. Wavy glass windows and a two-sided brick fireplace partition the tavern room from the more formal dining area. Furnishings exhibit a distinct Adirondack flair in the interior design of Delevan’s Tavern. Furnishings contrast smooth polished wood with heavy handcrafted rustic creations of twisted roots, sticks and antlers.
A thick pine slab bar, with seating for just four, overlooks rustic birch bark cabinetry housing the bar inventory. Wait staff, all of whom are bar trained, scurry in and out of the miniscule confines, each preparing drinks for his or her own orders. Table seating in the tavern is reminiscent of a town meeting place where one could argue politics, local and national, expound on the weather in front of the fireplace, or share gossip of local flavor.
Energetically revitalized and renewed with enthusiasm, Gladys and Josh have revived the essence of community and camaraderie within the gracious walls of the tavern as a meeting place for townspeople and visitors alike. From themed gatherings and dinner specials to Tuesday Martini Merdi, fresh and innovative ideas flourish.
Gladys and Josh have been creative in making the Essex Inn the place to be in Essex all year round. Community Happy Hour on Thursdays from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. has become an increasingly popular mainstay for the Essex Inn. Just last week, they featured a Kentucky Derby party touted to be in the finest fashion. They have offered a variety of wine tastings and cooking classes. On Fridays during the summer, the inn will feature music outside in the garden patio area, and in July and August, “afternoon tea”, encouraging a luncheon on the grass, parasols optional.
Though diminutive in size, the bar bulges with creative capacity. A hybrid of two of her favorites, Pam couldn’t resist ordering the Margarita-tini, which was essentially a margarita in a martini glass, but painstakingly prepared with fresh ingredients, muddled with the stubby end of an antler by Alex, our server-of-the-moment.
The Sinnfully Essex is a house specialty made with Chambord, vodka and a splash of cranberry juice, embellished with a sugar rim and brandy-soaked cherry. Specialty drinks are priced at around $9. Kim chose the Ubu ale from the modest but well-selected bottled beer choices that also include Stella Artois, Magic Hat, Guinness, Lake Placid IPA and Redbridge, all priced from $3 to $5. The wine selection is well-rounded with several options and ranges from house wines at $7 a glass; $27 a bottle to an assortment of reds and whites at $8 to $13 glass; $30 to $155 bottle.
The Essex Inn is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. The inn is open to guests daily with seven rooms available. If you’re just having cocktails at the bar, you should have an opportunity to meet all of the staff. Each of them seemed ready and willing to try something new or share their favorite drink recipe. Gladys is a vibrant, energetic host, eager to share her obvious affection and future plans for the Essex Inn. We did not have the opportunity to meet chef and partner Josh, who seems to remain behind the scenes, ensuring that all is well managed in the kitchen.
For an Adirondack experience with a New England feel, visit the Essex Inn on the Adirondack Coast, nestled between Lake Champlain and the Adirondack mountains. Try something new and be sure to wander around inside and out. One visit will not be enough.
Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.