Wednesday, July 11, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour: Johnny’s Sports Bar, Willsboro

Just when we thought we had seen the best the Adirondacks has to offer, heeeere’s Johnny’s! If it were as simple as walking in with a ten-item checklist, Johnny’s Smokehouse and Sports Bar in Willsboro would be an easy ten. It isn’t, but they do have it all, inside and out.

In its infancy, Johnny’s was established by Trisha Sheehan in July, 2011 and seems well on its way to maturity. The combination of exciting and creative menu options, a wide selection of beverages, and an appealing atmosphere contribute to an overall enjoyable experience.

1.  Plenty of parking:  The parking area is large enough to handle the capacity of the bar, restaurant and patio. Although a small parking lot can make a bar look busy with just a few cars, a large parking area shows optimism and expectation.

2.  Atmosphere:  From the exterior, freshly painted stucco, appealing arched windows and entry trimmed in taupe, and a tidy entrance with hours posted. Interior gleaming in clear resin coated tables with Johnny’s logo embedded in each. Warm, cheerful hues of persimmon trimmed in a soft grey. Four large flat screen TVs strategically placed. Computer generated bulletins hang here and there, brightly colored, informative and attractive. The pub tables are amply spaced with options for two to six and room for standing as well. The bar, in alternating stripes of cherry and maple and accented with embedded casino chips (in tribute to Trisha’s father and Johnny’s namesake) accommodates eight to ten on padded wooden stools.

3.  Entertainment:  In sports bar terms, each TV can be counted as entertainment. For those rare occasions when nothing is on, electronic darts, a jukebox and Quick Draw serve to entertain. Johnny’s features a DJ every Friday. A back wall of recovered barn board is a contrasting rustic accent and serves as a partition between bar and restaurant. Barn doors on wrought iron hinges swing open to expand the bar for occasional live music.

4.  Drink:  Five beers on tap and 30 beers, coolers, and malt beverages in bottles. Assorted wines, mixed drinks, frozen drinks, flavored vodkas. To prepare them all, a bartender named Paul. Kim selected a Vermont Switchback while Pam found a new tasty treat, the Loopy Sour, with Loopy vodka, cranberry juice and a splash of lime. Paul’s propensity for mixology is showcased with $5.00 specialties including martinis, Grape Cosmo, Cherry Cheesecake and the Surfers’ Sunrise.

5.  Food:  Oh the food you can eat! It’s a smokehouse of meat! Offered beyond are salads, pizzas, calzones, too. Fried pickles, mac and cheese bites, burgers raised locally, homemade salad dressings, garden vegetables grown on site. For the seafood lover, crab cakes and fish and chips delight. On top of it all, they make delivery with a call. Johnny’s keeps its two smokers busy making their own smoked meats on site. The smokehouse sampler was forthcoming, slathered with homemade sauces.

6.  Hospitality:  Mr. Congeniality. Easily mistaken for the owner, Paul is one of those bartenders who knows his drinks, knows his surroundings and takes pride in what he’s doing and where he is. Won’t say it’s a rarity, but it’s refreshing. Nothing know-it-all like, but knowledgeable. When we first arrived at Johnny’s, Paul shared some of the Loopy Vodka recipes with Pam from a Three Olives recipe card. When they both wrinkled their noses at the milk based vodka recipe, a professional respect was born. Paul makes his own simple syrups, his most popular a ginger peppercorn with ginger from the house garden. He tried to give Pam his recipe, but to her it sounded too much like cooking, and her mind wandered at the mention of “heating”. Later Paul shared a margarita secret ingredient that Pam took note of, no cooking involved.  Don’t think she’ll share it until it has been tested in the lab, though.

7.  Friendly patrons:  Most patrons were enrapt in soccer or baseball games, and we were busy getting information, but we did have an opportunity to meet some newcomers. We met a couple who spend their summers in the area and also have taken on the challenge of climbing all of the Adirondack High Peaks. They shared a few suggestions on places for us to review. Fortunately, there was only one we haven’t visited, and now it’s on our list. Johnny’s has its share of diverse patrons, including locals, tourists and seasonal residents.

8.  Outdoor seating:  The patio in front of Johnny’s is ready to seat up to 24 with six tables for four.  Umbrellas are available for shade when the sun is at its highest, but a nice breeze seems to naturally flow by too. The tables are comfortably spaced for wait staff traffic and even some privacy from other patrons.

9.  Hours:  Happy Hour is offered Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. offering domestic drafts for $1.00, Shock Top and Sam Seasonal for $2.00 and well drinks for $3.00.  Three Olives martinis are available all day for $5.00. Even the appetizers are 50% off at the bar during Happy Hour. During the summer season, Johnny’s is open 7 days a week. The restaurant is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. or later on Saturday and from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Bar hours are inclusive and extended beyond as needed. During the winter season, Johnny’s is closed on Tuesdays, but you’ll find them open on the holidays.

10.  Versatility:  Not just a restaurant. Not just a sports bar. A place to go alone or meet some friends, have a drink, eat or not. Appealing to most.

Meet, greet, eat. Repeat.

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Kim and Pam Ladd

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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