Wednesday, September 19, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour: Charlie’s Inn, Lake Clear

Escape the great camp style so overdone in the Adirondack Park and step into a true Adirondack bar at Charlie’s Inn and Restaurant on Junction Road in Lake Clear. Dating back to 1891 when the Lake Clear Junction station was built, history of the common traveler permeates the pub. Walls cluttered with memorabilia from every decade of its existence represent those who have come before. Look past the lottery and snack vending machines and feel the echoes from the train station across the road. Imagine the rum runners making their way to and from Canada, stopping in to share stories, to eat, to rest, to engage in their commerce.

A quick glance at the drink specials menu, featuring the modern flavors of Dude or Bubble Gum vodka, may bring you from your reverie momentarily, but the drink prices are of days passed. Charlie’s has all of the modern amenities like cell service, Quick Draw and several televisions, even an ATM machine, but the pine walls, stuffed birds and Adirondack wildlife will leave you floating in and out of your trance.

Other patrons came and went, exchanging pleasantries with the bartender, with one another, and with us. With a 24-site campground on the property and seven rooms and a cabin for rent, it was difficult to discern between locals and visitors. A few loyal regulars were quick to offer endorsements. One stated, “This is a national treasure!” Another added Charlie’s was simply “real”.  One gentleman at the end of the bar, seemingly engrossed in his reading, wasn’t missing a word.

Jill Brockway, who acquired Charlie’s from her “inn-laws” five years ago, left an invitation for us on the Happy Hour in the High Peaks Facebook page and gladly we accepted. Jill and her husband John have owned the inn for the last five years, Jill explained as she gave Kim the tour, her mother-in-law in charge behind the bar. Those modern drink specials were obviously Jill’s idea, because “Gram” (as she prefers to be called) did not seem as savvy with them as she might a Rob Roy, Tom Collins or draft beer, but a charming host nonetheless. Jill gave a guided tour of the old train station, as locked in time as its doors. Charlie’s Inn is proud to be a sponsor of such local fundraising events as Life Flight, a biker poker run to support the local food pantry, and a snowmobile poker run to support a variety of needy causes. In between these activities, Charlie’s caters weddings on their vast and secluded grounds and hosts the occasional pig roast for charity.

Jill manages the kitchen where menu options range from prime rib and haddock to wings and fried pub fare. The dining room features wood floors and paneled walls in a waterfowl motif, a woodstove, and 1950s red vinyl and chrome chairs. A screened porch with deck furniture also provides additional seating – minus insects.

Charlie’s Inn is a year-round destination but caters mostly to winter visitors on snowmobiles. During the summer it is open from 11 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday and from noon on Sunday, and features musical entertainment on Friday night. In winter months, Charlie’s Inn is closed on Mondays only. In keeping with school’s spring vacation, as well as mud season, the inn and restaurant close annually for two weeks in late March and early April. Charlie’s doesn’t feature a Happy Hour, but charges Happy Hour prices all the time, with a number of $2.50 canned beers and four on tap.

Charlie’s Inn and Restaurant is a welcome change from the overly competitive bars and taverns trying hard to stand out, and charging  high prices for their uniqueness. Here you’ll find a friendly greeting and a homey atmosphere on a working person’s budget. But beware the little man carrying a book. He can trick you into buying him a drink, but it’s worth the price to be engaged in the con.


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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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