After driving by three times, we decided to stop, out of both curiosity and the need for directions. The handful of cars in the large parking lot didn’t inspire high hopes, but at least they were open. The entrance to the tavern is separate from the restaurant entrance, but we managed to find the correct door and were immediately and cheerfully greeted by Kristen, the bartender. A few small groups of patrons dotted the long, narrow bar; some nodding their greetings. So far so good.
The beautiful antique bar of ornate columns and mirrors immediately catches the eye and looks somewhat out of place in the otherwise ordinary-looking space. Pam asked about it and was directed to read the story, printed and framed on the wall, a few customers chiming in with additional facts. She returned to her seat and gave Kim a brief synopsis, but had to go back and read it again when Kim posed more questions. By that time, she aroused the curiosity of some of the patrons and began her usual banter. They wanted her to notice the twenty-one point mounted deer head recently added to the same wall. “Oooh, that’s a very impressive moose,” she taunted. “It’s a deer,” several of them immediately corrected. “You could pass it off as a moose to some people from the city,” Pam chided. Again, the ice was broken and they proceeded to share the story of the deer with her. We’re sure they will share the story with you when you visit.
The Oak Barrel Tavern bears evidence of several influences, evolved over many decades. The bar and shelving behind it were originally part of the historic Old Nassau Tavern in Princeton, NJ. A restoration project in downtown Princeton called for demolition of the tavern, and a contractual agreement was drawn requiring that the bar be moved 250 miles outside the New York City area. Purchased in the 1930’s, the bar was carefully dismantled and brought to Indian Lake, where it was reassembled at Farrell’s Tavern and remains today. An old photo post card we found on eBay of Farrell’s Tavern shows that little of the interior of the Indian Lake Tavern has changed since the 1940’s.
While at the North Creek Beer Fest last Saturday we met Jeff and Nina who provided us with more background on the Oak Barrel. Jeff is currently working on a book about the history of rafting in the area and told us that the Oak Barrel was “ground zero” for rafting companies and outfitters centered in Indian Lake in the 1980’s, and a favorite meeting place for post-rafting adventurers to relive their experiences “rivering on the Hudson”. A couple of framed rafting photos corroborate the rafting influence. Jeff also made mention of “whipped cream incidents” and “flashing”, though would not elaborate.
Draft beer choices were limited to LaBatt Blue, Michelob Light and Blue Moon (which they were out of at the moment). There were, however, 24 bottled choices on the menu. Because the name immediately caught her attention, Kim chose a Lake Placid 46er Pale Ale. Not a big fan of pale ale, this one was different from most. A warm copper color, creamy and somewhat thick, with an earthy, slightly sweet toffee flavor and faint citrus notes, the 46er is less bitter than other pale ales. A generous wine selection including reds, whites, sparkling and dessert, Pam was happy to find a white zin. The adjoining liquor store offers many more wine choices, which, with a $10.00 cork fee, can be purchased and consumed with dinner.
We weren’t really there to eat, but the menu deserves mention. Appetizers consist of typical bar fare, but at closer inspection, a more extensive and creative selection emerges, all very reasonably priced. Burgers and sandwiches are all priced between $6 and $8. Four pasta choices including the interesting “Absolutely Shrimp and Sausage” range from $12 to $16, along with salads, steak, seafood and chicken entrees and even meatloaf and shepherd’s pie; none over $20.
Since the Indian Lake Restaurant and Tavern was not our target destination, we didn’t get all our usual information, but we’re really glad we found it. The staff and patrons created a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, earning a Happy Hour in the High Peaks “thumbs up”.
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.