Wednesday, February 29, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour: East Cove, Lake George

Either this is just getting too easy, or the East Cove in Lake George is a great place to go on a Tuesday afternoon in February. You know what? The East Cove is a great place to go on a Tuesday afternoon in February! Pam had been away for two consecutive weekends, creating absences in our tavern attendance. Our Adirondack Almanack deadline looming, Pam skipped out of work ten minutes early so that we could meet at East Cove, review the bar, and still have time to write our review for the Almanack by Wednesday afternoon.

Driving along Beach Road, Kim noted the setting late afternoon sun as it cast its golden glow on distant mountain peaks surrounding Lake George. Low shadows crept across the water’s edge, rendering the choppy waves a deep Prussian blue. Pam was waiting in the East Cove parking lot, observing the signs related to Early Bird specials and Happy Hour. Happy Hour offers 1/2 priced drinks from 4:30 until 6:00 p.m. Dinner isn’t served until 5:00 p.m., but you can get into the bar at 4:30. Something not found in too many other establishments, the East Cove offers a late-night Happy Hour Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m. Open every day during the summer season, the East Cove is closed on Mondays during the off-season.

Only moments after we arrived, Pam was already getting reacquainted with old friends, formerly of her Garrison days. We chatted easily with the handful of affable patrons as owner Pete Smith organized menus on the bar, occasionally peering over his glasses to answer questions and offer comments. Kim ventured to the end of the bar where she could examine the half-dozen taps, finding three local brews from the Adirondack Pub and Brewery, Blue Moon, Yuengling and Sam Adams seasonal. A very well-stocked bar offers a liquor selection which includes numerous flavored rums and vodkas. The wine list is extensive as well. Pam, not sure what she wanted, asked bartender Shannon if the East Cove features any unique drinks. Though the white chocolate espresso martini is the signature drink at East Cove, Shannon suggested a tangerine cosmo and Pam quickly acquiesced: Finlandia tangerine vodka, Cointreau and cranberry juice, served in a martini glass and garnished with an orange slice.

Shannon led Kim on the grand tour, the two pausing for reference photos in the adjacent sitting room and private upper dining room. The East Cove’s rustic interior of log cabin walls, with its fishing and nautical theme, is alluring and cozy. Scenic and historic postcards, lithographs and watercolor prints by Loren Blackburn showcase a pictorial history of Lake George Village. Framed photographs offer a glimpse into more than a century of Lake George’s past, including a photo of the Colonel’s Table, the East Cove’s former identity, the facade little changed since it was built in 1947. A shelf in the corner of the dining room holds a display of local pottery. Overhead, a ship’s wheel chandelier hangs suspended from richly-stained log beams, casting soft light on the dining tables below. Sunlight pours in through the large window in the bar area. The L-shaped bar is punctuated with ten aged and unusual barstools, their wooden backs shaped like curly brackets. An adjoining room houses soft brown stuffed sofa and chairs facing a TV for the East Cove’s Sunday football and NASCAR fans, and another dining room is located upstairs.

Next thing we knew, George suggested a shot, and Pam launched into inventing the “drink of the day”. They settled on Stoli apple, Cointreau and cranberry juice, and dubbed it the East Cove Slammer. Invigorated with nostalgia, Pam suggested a game of Liar’s Poker and lined Kim up with a “coach” to help her in understanding the nuances of lying. Poker-face Pam ended up winning, but Kim is better educated now. And poorer.

Owned for the past 43 years by Pete and Debbie Smith, the East Cove has changed very little since the late ’70s, when we would stop in for breakfast at 4 a.m., but has obviously been very well maintained. Dinner is the main attraction here, luring local and seasonal residents and visitors. Early eaters can enjoy special pricing ($11.99 to $14.99 including soup and salad) from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. The East Cove also caters and hosts banquets with a number of menu plans. The dinner menu, moderately-priced for the area, is most noted for its seafood and includes steaks, chicken and pasta dishes, a vast selection of desserts, and a kids’ menu.

The East Cove is another of the pleasant surprises we’ve discovered nearly in our own back yard. Patrons are welcoming and sociable, and Shannon’s easy-going, warm personality and sense of humor undoubtedly contribute to the comfortable atmosphere. When she asked if we were looking for help, as people often do, we were tempted to take her aboard. The pay is lousy, but the benefits are well worth the effort. And places like the East Cove really do make work easy for us.

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.

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In 2013, sisters Kim and Pam Ladd self-published Happy Hour in the High Peaks: An Adirondack Bar Guide and a companion Happy Hour Trail Passport. As they continue to market and distribute their current book, they are back on the trail doing research for their next project – a guide to breweries, wineries and distilleries in and around the Adirondack Park.

In 2014 they created their own drinking event, a bartender competition they call “BARRED!”, which they expect will become an annual event held in the early spring in collaboration with Basil & Wick’s in North Creek.

With the lofty goal of becoming the Adirondack "Drinking Authority," Kim and Pam report on drinking-related topics and events inside the Blue Line here at the Almanack and at their own blog. You can also visit their website, follow them on Facebook, and Twitter.

The pair have spent most of their lives in Warren County. Pam has a degree in Computer Science, but her passion is mixology. She and her family live in Warrensburg. Kim is a freelance photographer with a degree in Advertising Design and lives in Thurman with her husband.





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