The Big Moose Inn and Restaurant, located directly on Big Moose Lake in Eagle Bay was the first stop on our Old Forge Summer Tour, more aptly defined as the Old Forge Pub Crawl. Ours was one of just a few cars in the parking lot, but it was early afternoon and we had a long day ahead of us.
The dramatic view of the grand covered porch, dotted with rocking chairs and expanding outward to a vast open deck overlooking the lake, inspires a feeling reminiscent of summer vacations of years past. Several small docks on Big Moose Lake capture attention, drawing the eye along an expanse of lawn to the lake and small beach. Quiet and secluded, The Big Moose Inn has an air of sophistication and Adirondack lore, evoking a sentimental yearning for simpler times. Its timelessness captures the imagination. A novelist could come here to spend a week and leave with a finished manuscript.
Work to be done, we grudgingly entered the tavern, leaving an early summer afternoon behind. The tavern, cool and dark with walls of wood and brick, complemented the exterior charm. We half expected to see Ernest Hemingway entertaining friends in one of the booths, or John Irving alone at the bar, having strayed from his New England comfort zone.
Spot lights shone gently on the dark plank bar which seated about 14, with ample room for standing patrons too. Each of three booths on the opposite wall were illuminated overhead with Tiffany lamps; a cozy room with brick fireplace was tucked away beyond, and provided more private seating.
As Pam’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, Kim immediately pointed out the business cards adorning the ceiling. Skewered with straws, swizzle sticks and cocktail picks, the ceiling was almost completely obscured by thousands of business cards. Hard to describe because of their multitude, some of the cards were obviously yellowed with age. Though barely visible, the ceiling was tile. Mark, the most recent owner, later advised that they came with the inn; that some had been there for thirty years. He felt compelled to leave them for their nostalgic significance, despite criticism from state authorities. Can’t blame him, we would leave them too.
We took a seat at the bar and were immediately greeted by Melinda, the bartender. Upon inquiry regarding drinks unique to the establishment, Melinda offered Pam a Big Moose Manhattan, proudly laced with Adirondack maple syrup. The maple syrup sank to the bottom and Pam showed no shame occasionally enjoying it through the swizzle stick. Just good to see her sipping since this was only our first stop. A variety of flavored vodkas are available, indicating a better than average selection of drinks. Several wine, draft and bottled beer choices are also offered.
Melinda was courteous, friendly and knowledgeable about the history of the Big Moose Inn, offering a book on the history of Big Moose Lake to help support our questions. She was busy tending to both the bar and the deck patrons, but still took time to alert the proprietor of our presence.
Owner Mark Mayer came out to introduce himself. Obviously quite proud of the Big Moose Inn, Mark spent several minutes sharing history, trivia, hauntings, and his family’s acquisition of the inn. Perhaps the most famous Adirondack ghost, stories of Grace Brown attracted TV’s Unsolved Mysteries several years ago.
Offering 16 rooms, the inn is open year round and entertains summer vacationers and winter snowmobilers. The Big Moose Tavern is open from noon to midnight and Happy Hour drink specials are available from 4 to 6 p.m. They do offer music on occasion, featuring solo artists. Summer and winter hours vary, but claim winter is the best time to visit. We had trouble with this proclamation, given the beautiful view of the lake, the sandy beach and massive porch and deck. The tavern is only open four days, including weekends, after the summer season.
Reluctantly, we left the Big Moose Inn in search of our next destination. One down. Seven to go. In an effort to catch up, we plan to review some of the Old Forge area bars first on the Adirondack Almanack and others on our blog. Lake Placid reviews of The Cottage, Lisa G’s and Dancing Bears have all been completed and posted.
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.