We heard muffled voices in barroom debate as we entered the Newcomb House. As the bartender hustled our way with her cheerful smile and greeting, we took a seat at the end of the bar, a spot we find best suits our need to observe, and settled into the beverage selection tête-à-tête.
As we admired the unique bar top, the six or seven men occupying the far end, one next to the other, stole curious glances at us. We did the same. They seemed paired off – talker, listener, talker, listener. With seating for up to 14, the bar was comfortably occupied. Christian, the bartender, seemed to know each of them, but it was difficult to discern whether they all knew each other.
The Newcomb House barroom is sufficiently sized with room for a pool table, a built-in bar on a far wall, darts, scattered tables, a juke box and a little alcove for entertainment, with open floor space for dancing or just general milling about. In the subdued natural light from various windows and indoor lighting and fan fixtures, we quickly noticed how clean the Newcomb House is. The paneled ceiling and the butcher-block bar top’s alternating strips of stained hardwood fairly glow and the linoleum-tiled floor is spotless and shiny.
Owned by Mike Garrand, The Newcomb House has been in operation for 21 years. Christian tells us that Mike is an avid outdoor cook and enjoys putting on pig roasts and cookouts for such events as Customer Appreciation Day, a Teddy Roosevelt commemoration, and for various fundraisers to benefit Toys for Kids. A year-round destination, the Newcomb House is well known as a poker run stop for motorcycle and snowmobile clubs. As a popular spot for bikers, campers, hunters and snowmobilers, our visit in April was probably the only lull in activity they get all year. Given the fact that the Newcomb House only closes on Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, it’s admirable that they are able to keep it clean somewhere between closing hours anytime after 10 p.m. and re-opening between 11:00 a.m. and noon daily. In Newcomb, with a permanent population of around 500, and a few hundred privately owned camps, it’s also the only game in town.
They offer no Happy Hour or other drink specials, but their prices are befitting Happy Hour all day long. Well drinks and domestic bottled beers are in the $2.50 (Genny Light, the house favorite) to $4.00 range. Draft beer is not an option, and the liquor selection is no-nonsense. We didn’t see any Grey Goose or flavored vodkas, though there is a varied array of schnapps flavors.
Like the liquor lineup, the food menu is simple. Pub fare consisting of pizza, hot dogs, sandwiches and appetizers are available at very affordable prices. At 6 p.m. on Thursdays, patrons can enjoy a full home-cooked dinner for just $7.00. Just looking for a snack? Pickled delectables from the Adirondack Pickle Lady bathe in brine in huge jars behind the bar.
Park policy, the hiking permit debate, and Winchester rifles were among topics steadily bantered between patrons. Kim, not one to mind her own business, interjected her agreement to a comment. If you’re going to butt in, it’s always best to be agreeable – at least at first. Soon we were down at the other end of the bar, talking about our mission, handing out our cards, and trying to convince the skeptical clientele we were not up to evil doings.
The Newcomb House is one of those nondescript hometown taverns you’ve driven past a hundred times, maybe wondering if you should stop in. To the inexperienced, a strange bar can be intimidating. To a couple of seasoned veterans like us, it’s all in a day’s work. If you’ve passed by the Newcomb House once or on numerous occasions and wondered if you should stop in, Happy Hour in the High Peaks encourages you to do so.
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.