Wednesday, June 6, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour: Lake House Grille, Wells

First impression: whimsy with a side of humor. We noticed first the patio in front of the Lake House Grille in Wells. Partitioned from the sidewalk by a fence of varying height – lower in front to allow observation of passing cars and pedestrians; higher on the driveway side, the taller fence has windows built in.

Might sound odd, but it’s actually very quaint; sheltering but not isolating. Within the enclosure, three metal tables with umbrellas to protect from fickle weather and several Adirondack chairs (the only Adirondack style on the premises, with one other minute detail which we will get to later) for dining, relaxing or listening to the music from within. Signs in the entrance offer fair warning that the Lake House Grille accepts cash only, but that an ATM is on premises. Other posts advertise upcoming music events.

Pam, her eyes darting nervously, sees no sign of liquor options behind the bar. The bartender, Mike (a.k.a. Guy Incognito), confirms our observation that beer and wine are the only choices, and that suits us both. It certainly relieves Pam of her chronic indecision. Kim, on the other hand, who is by now practically drooling over the beer menu, has to make up her mind.

The Lake House Grille’s wine list starts with the Black Box line of, you guessed it, boxed wines, dispensed through a wine cask mounted on the wall. Now wait. Before wrinkling your nose in snobbish distaste, and in its defense, Black Box wines have garnered gold medals in nationwide competitions, and, since air can’t get in, it stays fresher longer. Pam found her Corbet Canyon White Zinfandel quite agreeable. Three California wines are listed at $17 to $20 for a full bottle, and six are available in half bottles for $12 to $16. Admittedly, our wine experience is low end, so you will have to peruse the list on the website and decide for yourself.

A hand printed chalkboard menu lists eight microbrews. This is where we find Kim wrestling with an agonizing decision. Currently on tap (it varies) are Ithaca Beer Company’s Apricot Wheat Ale and CascaZilla Red Ale, Lake Placid UBU, Long Trail IPA, Shipyard Export Ale, Leinenkugel Honey Weiss, Sam Adams Summer Ale, and Miller Lite. In this line of work (yeah, we laughed when we said it), prudence dictates keeping consumption to within the legal limit. Depending on how long we would stay, and the fact that it only comes in pints, Kim would have to keep it to one or two flavors. She chose the CascaZilla. Dark red with a mellow, fruity flavor, this hoppy ale was surprisingly tame in the bitterness department and is highly recommended. Unless you’d prefer the Miller Lite.

The bar, an island situated roughly in the center of the room, is surrounded by twelve Windsor stools painted violet blue. Hand thrown earthenware mugs dangle patiently over the bar, awaiting liberty at their mug club sponsors’ whims. Decidedly (and consciously) not rustic in theme, art, music posters and photographs lend a flavor of funkiness as an eclectic mix of music plays quietly in the background. Walls of a soft, rag-painted sand and ivory with arts and crafts style amber wall lanterns suggest a sense of subtle style. Barely visible, but noticeably out of place among the hangs a tiny (six inches tiny) mounted deer head. In even more miniscule writing is inscribed: The Lake House not Adirondacky enough for you? Then here’s our Adirondack flair.

Humor is not wasted on us. A glance at the menu informs that separate checks are not provided, but a calculator will be. Further reading reveals the Punch You in the Rye burger, the Tree Hugger, and Holy Cow! Pizzas enlist the backup of musical guests. Starters, salads and sandwiches all promise a fresh and tasty deviation from the norm and are all priced between $5 and $15.

The Lake House Grille has recently added a new stage to better accommodate the lineup of talented musicians and free up space for the expected influx of music enthusiasts. From blues to southern rock, bluegrass to jazz, and back again, entertainment is featured every Saturday night at 8 p.m. and, in August will expand to include Fridays.

The Lake House Grille opens is open from Memorial Day through Columbus Day, Thursday through Saturday, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Sunday during holiday weekends. Don’t miss the keg draining on the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend. Happy Hour is not observed, but, for an annual fee, patrons will be admitted into the mug club which entitles them to more generous drink portions.

Owned for the past six years by Frank Mesiti, whose dad bought the building when it was a convenience store, the Lake house Grille has established itself as a notable restaurant and music venue. His taste for music and flair for food diverge from the typical offerings of the local bar scene. Frank has created a unique and simple, yet inspired, little niche in Wells. His personable, easy personality and his attention and interest in his business and customers have helped Frank to nurture an enthusiastic following and dedicated fans. He now has two more.

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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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