Wednesday, July 25, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour:
Windfall Bar and Grill, Cranberry Lake

Eighty miles to Tupper Lake. Another twenty-six to Cranberry Lake. The two-and-a-half-mile stretch on Tooley Pond Road, winding between Cranberry Lake and Silver Lake to the Windfall Bar and Grill, was the shortest leg of our travels. It’s all about perspective in the Adirondacks.

Rounding a curve just when we’d decided there was no sign of human interference other than the road and a small cemetery, we were somewhat surprised to find the Windfall Bar and Grill occupying a yellow ranch house. Nothing garish or pretentious about its curb appeal,  just a simple looking country tavern and restaurant, well maintained and hospitable. The same was found within.

The bar is just inside the front door. Two TVs, a pool table, darts, Quick Draw, and lottery scratch games provide some amusement whether you’re waiting for a table or just having a drink. The pine bar comfortably seats eight to ten with your choice of padded or wooden stools. Two booths and a few tables allow seating away from the bar. Complete with its own upright piano and lighting, a small niche across the room supplies space for musical performers.

Surveying the lineup of draft and bottled beers, Kim spied a new brew, Brooklyn Pennant Ale ’55, among the fine choices. Also on tap are Harpoon IPA, Guinness, and Lake Placid Ubu Ale, an Adirondack staple. She wrinkled her nose at Angry Orchard, a Samuel Adams product that seems to be the current trend. Twenty-five bottled beers offer a mostly domestic variety with no surprises. The wine list includes eight red, six white and a sparkling wine, along with several house wines and a house made sangria, available by the glass or bottle. The Windfall Bar and Grill also offers a house made root beer on tap. During summer months, the Windfall boasts a delicious mojito made with their homegrown mint. The bartender, Glenda, prepared one for Pam who nodded her approval, unwilling to relinquish the straw from her mouth as she sipped from the depths of this tall, tasty drink.

In addition to reader recommendation, it was a Facebook invitation from the Windfall that prompted our trek to Cranberry Lake. We had the opportunity to meet one of the owners, Rosalyn Dragun. Her husband and co-owner, John, was busy in the kitchen. Not too busy, however, to later share some of his layered drink recipes via Rosalyn. Pam continues to be challenged by the layered shot and was hoping for some pointers. Maybe the next time we visit. The Windfall features a number of delicious sounding shots, popular with the crowds of snowmobilers that slide through the door every winter. Among the interesting names are the Duck Fart, Jellyfish, and Chastity Belt.

John and Roz have owned the Windfall Bar and Grill since 2006, though the establishment has been in business since the 1970’s. According to Roz, they’ve taken it from rowdy reputation to an eating destination. Earl and Sharon, frequent patrons, attested to the fabulous food. Earl’s favorite, he claims, is the chicken picatta. A number of burgers, salads, sandwiches and sides are listed on the pub menu, most priced from $4.99 to $9.99. We found the quesadillas to be above average in all respects, and the dijon horseradish salad dressing should be bottled and sold on the premises. The dining menu features the Windfall’s signature chicken picatta, seafood dishes, steak, ribs, and a tempting dessert list to be enjoyed in the cozy but open dining room with views of the landscape and local wildlife.

The Windfall is open year-round from 3 p.m. and is closed on Monday and Tuesday. It’s also closed for a week around Christmas and for two weeks in April in observance of “Mud Season”. Although a favorite winter destination among snowmobilers, the Windfall seems to be holding its own in the summer as well. Karaoke and an occasional acoustic band provide entertainment.  On August 2, the Windfall hosts Jonathan Foster, former northern New Yorker transplanted to California,  whose bio describes his music as “alternative country folk rock Americana blues music”. During Presidents’ weekend in February, they host a winter weekend party with a chicken barbecue and musical entertainment. Their St. Patrick’s Day party tends to be the last hurrah for snowmobilers.

Visit the Windfall for the food, the warm hospitality, and occasional music. Enjoy the drive among the pines and ponds on this idyllic route down the road less traveled. Reservations are highly recommended, especially on the busiest days. From the expressions of either satisfaction or anticipation on the faces of diners coming and going, it’s worth the trip.

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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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