The Deer’s Head Inn, according to the sign in front, was established in 1806, though its current location is not the original. Fire, reconstruction, relocation and renaming have all taken place in the past two hundred years.
What remains is a charming inn, owned by JoAnne and Matthew Baldwin since 2006, bursting with history. We entered through the front door, into the intimate tavern, and were at once greeted with a sense of comfort, familiarity and warmth. We took a seat at the tiny bar, tucked neatly into a snug little nook in the back of the small room.
Our initial impression on entering the pub area of the Deer’s Head Inn was that it was more a destination than a neighborhood restaurant, and it may well be, but the patrons all seemed to know one another, exchanging greetings and news as they came and went. The courthouse and municipal building across the street may be the main attraction luring visitors (willing or not) into E’Town. The Adirondack Northway routed travelers away long ago and the GPS has since taken most of those who may have inadvertently meandered through. Maps are simply lines in a cold, two-dimensional space. The GPS does its job, efficiently calculating time and distance; but it is the populace that gives a mere pinpoint its third dimension. People fill a space and give it history, personality, warmth and life. Does your GPS know that two presidents stayed here, as did John Brown’s widow? Will it show you their signatures in the inn’s guest registers? Locate Ben Stetson’s Prohibition stash?
Though a sign over the bar boasts “Martini Lounge”, Cosmopolitans are a house specialty at the Deer’s Head as the array of more than a dozen flavored vodkas attests. Pam decided on a Maple Manhattan, with Maker’s Mark whisky and local maple syrup. The beer lineup contains a few interesting choices including St. Pauli Girl, Amstel Light, Newcastle Brown Ale, Lake Placid Ubu Ale, Stella Artois, Kaliber (non alcohol from Guinness), and Wild Blue (a blueberry lager produced by Anheuser-Busch) and several domestic brands. Two regional craft brews (currently Magic Hat Howl and VT Switchback) are always available on tap.
The Deer’s Head Inn is open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and serves lunch until 2:30; dinner from 5 p.m. until 8 or 9 p.m. Hours vary so be sure to check times on their website. They offer an extensive wine list, with prices by the glass from $5.00 to $8.00 or they can be purchased by the bottle.
The Inn consists of three dining rooms, each with its own characteristics, and although the bar only seats six, there seemed to be ample room for standing. The bar top has old postcards of Elizabethtown attractions safely held in time under layers of “glaze”. From the bar, an old oak phone booth, with original Bell Telephone insignia and beveled glass, can be seen in the hallway. Our bartender, Joyce, laughingly advised that the booth is reserved as her “office”.
Though perhaps more often a service bar for the restaurant, the pub at Deer’s Head Inn is an intimate place for quiet conversation, reflecting on the past, or escaping the crowds of Lake Placid. Joyce seems to enjoy having company at the bar, adding interest beyond serving drinks to diners she might never see. You’ll be welcome whether just stopping in for a drink or whetting your appetite before a good meal. Next time you’re heading to Lake Placid, be sure to set your GPS “via” point to Elizabethtown along the way.
The sun’s daytime shift had already ended when we arrived, so we were not able to photograph the Deer’s Head Inn’s exterior. Not wanting to intrude on the privacy of the patrons in the busy tavern, we abstained inside as well. Photos were obtained at the Deer’s Head Inn’s website.
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.