Melba Mae’s was one of the few places we visited in the wee hours of the night (9 p.m.). Although the hand painted Melba Mae’s Riverview Inn sign is a bit difficult to read, the lighted message board in front touting the weekend’s band lineup is a beacon to passersby traveling along North Shore Road near the Conklingville Dam in Hadley.
Our visit to Melba Mae’s was prompted by recommendation from people we’d met at some of the Luzerne area bars we reviewed, as well as the fact that Kim’s husband is a member of the Ralph Kylloe Band, Melba Mae’s entertainment that night. The parking lot adjacent to the inn was full, but plenty of parking was available along North Shore Road. We wondered whether that was a good idea in the wintertime.
We entered through a side door, greeted by pleasant cooking smells, quiet chatter and a friendly and cheerful bartender. Kim looked over the beer lineup while Pam checked out the cocktail specials. Plenty of draft and bottled beers are offered. A Davidson’s brown ale, named Aurora Borealis, caught Kim’s eye. She hadn’t heard of that one. Manette, the bartender, explained that it was Davidson’s generic brown ale, and the establishment is allowed to create its own name, this one after the owner’s daughter. Pam settled on a vanilla white Russian. When we asked Manette about the white Mexican, she explained that it was the result of an accidental switch of tequila for vodka. The customer liked it, so they decided to keep it.
Family and community seem to be predominant themes at Melba Mae’s. Greeting cards, drawings, old email jokes, and handwritten menus on day-glow paper are posted all over the wall behind the bar. Melba Mae’s sponsors several community benefits and events throughout the year, hosting holiday parties and dinners; the St. Patrick’s Day party, featuring free corned beef and beer specials, is the biggest celebration of the year. During the summer months, Melba Mae’s is a popular charity bike run stop. Luzerne music camp counselors gather to let off steam and rafters make it an annual tradition.
Melba Mae’s is the kind of joint where you don’t feel like you have to take your shoes off at the door. It feels “lived in”, with low ceilings and hardwood floors. The walls are a combination of sheetrock, pine and blackboard. The L-shaped butcher block laminate bar comfortably seats 16 and several tables provide seating for 20 more along a windowed wall. A small patio provides an outdoor area to enjoy the view or escape the noise. An unusual feature is a separate smoking room, which, surprisingly, doesn’t leak tobacco smells into the main bar area.
Setting them apart from most establishments, the kitchen is open during all operating hours. If the bar’s open, the kitchen’s open. The menu consists of the usual bar fare – burgers, wings (accompanied by their homemade bleu cheese dressing), fried seafood, “Bands ‘n’ Beans” award-winning chili, sandwiches and salads.
Melba Mae’s has been owned by the current owners, Linda and Don for the past 19 years and is open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday noon to midnight. Tuesday is Open Mike night, with live entertainment on Friday and Saturday. If you go, leave your credit and debit cards at home. Melba Mae’s is a cash only bar, though they anticipate adding an ATM in the near future.
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.