Thursday, May 14, 2015

High Peaks Happy Hour: Alpine Grille, Hope

Alpine_ExtFor two years we sought input, but now that Happy Hour in the High Peaks is written and published, people are eager to tell us what bars we missed. Sometime in 2014, someone suggested that we visit the Alpine Grille in Wells. Pam dutifully entered it into her notes under the “bars we missed” category. Resurrected and moved up the priority list by the recent sad news that Lake House Grille in Wells will not reopen this spring, we decided to pursue the Alpine as a potential replacement on the Happy Hour Trail.

Although changes to the book aren’t practical, we are replacing 46er bars that have closed since the publication of Happy Hour in the High Peaks by adding new selections to the Happy Hour Passport, an abridged guide to the 46 High Peaks bars highlighted in the book. Meeting the criteria for replacement of a Happy Hour High Peak bar isn’t an applied science, but a necessary evil. Certainly we first look for a bar in the same town, then region, and one already featured as a Trailhead. But Wells is a region of its own, worthy of a visit from north or south.

Determining just where the Alpine Grille is actually located was tricky business. Mixed messages from various websites indicated it was in Wells. No…Northville. Or maybe Hope? We found the Alpine on Facebook (hoping they at least knew their own true location), plugged the address into Pam’s GPS (of indeterminate advanced age, which Pam stubbornly refuses to update) and hit the road. The GPS guided us in a southerly direction – so Northville it must be. We passed through Northville – ironically the southernmost Happy Hour Trail destination – and headed north on Route 30.

When the GPS announced, “Arriving at destination on right,” our glance was met with expressionless trees. With no bar, restaurant, or even dwelling in sight, we realized that we were on our own. We scoured the landscape left and right, watching for telltale signs of food and drink. Passing through the Town of Hope, just as we were about to give up hope, we spotted a sign for Wells on the left. Across the street, a marquee announced restaurant hours on our right. You can’t miss the large blue building of a construction common to Adirondack roadside inns of the late 1800s. Perched precariously close to the road, its upstairs porch juts perilously over the highway. (In fact, at least two passing vehicles have not missed it. It’s been hit twice.) Just short of squealing tires, we pulled in and let the dust settle.

Like any explorer would, we observed our surroundings and got our bearings. An open sign said what we wanted to hear. A barstool stood expectantly in the foyer as if waiting for a bouncer to take the helm. Wow, we thought, they are that busy that security is required at the door?

Alpine_DREntry did not involve three forms of identification. No burly bouncer, no grand dance floor or music stage. Instead we found a standard-sized bar and a neat and tidy dining room with pale yellow painted walls accented in pine, and a gas fireplace nestled in brick for cozy warmth in the cooler months. Welcoming staff and chatty patrons made us feel right at home.

Settling ourselves at the bar, we were immediately greeted by the bartender, Jo. Pam’s brows rose in pleasant surprise, expectations following, at the glass menagerie overhead. The magnitude and diversity of glassware implied an adept barkeep. Pam asked Jo for her recommendation, and a modified rendition of the classic white Russian ensued. Swiftly dubbed the Raspberry MoJo, the delicious creation of kahlua, raspberry vodka, and milk was immediately promoted to the daily specials board. Kim’s inquiry into the beer selection yielded a variety of bottled choices and Sam seasonal, Shock Top, and Ubu on draft. The wine list consists of a dozen or so red, white, and sparkling offerings.

We quickly got comfortable with Jo, and told her of our quest. Owner and chef Chad Gray was summoned from the kitchen and had a fair amount of time to share with us as he prepared for the dinner crowd. At the mention of address, Chad quoted GPS coordinates to us. Though not tested in the field, 4283-4299 State Highway 30 will get you to the Alpine using your GPS. If you want to send a card or letter, 920 State Highway 30, Northville, NY is the way to go. Further clarification puts you in Hope if you’re inside, and beyond Hope if you happen to take your drink outside.

Alpine_BarChad had heard of Happy Hour in the High Peaks and would be happy to fill the recent void on the Happy Hour Trail, should the Alpine Grille be accepted. As a potential replacement, the Alpine had Pam at the glassware selection. Kim was playing hard-to-get.

Always concerned with proper absorption, we had a look at the menu. The Alpine’s lighter fare includes the usual burgers, sandwiches, and salads along with a better than typical assortment of appetizers – most in the $6 to $12 range. Dinners of steak, seafood, chicken, duck, pork, pasta, and a handful of vegetarian dishes ensure you’ll find something to your liking on the menu, all at around $20.

While we waited for our food, Pam struck up a conversation with Marissa, an Alpine staffer, who is about the same age as Pam’s daughter. Sweet, quiet, and somewhat shy at first, Marissa quickly warmed up when the conversation turned to softball and learning to drive. Kim chatted with Garth, a regular pie-and-coffee customer who was happy to rave about the Alpine’s homemade desserts – and discuss the pros and cons of lemon vs lime.

Alpine_EntBuilt in the 1800s and operated as an inn in the 1940s, The Alpine Grille was acquired by Chad and his wife Jean about two years ago. Chad has served as chef there for eight years. Before that, it was known as Courtesy House and still bears that name on the sign along with the new name. The Alpine Grille currently caters to local and seasonal clientele, but has become a staple for the nearby hunting lodge known as the East River Boys. Snowmobilers and skiers are familiar patrons during the winter, but the Alpine’s mainstay is regular local patronage.

With more than sufficient hours of operation all year long, you can visit the Alpine Grille Wednesday and Thursday from 3 to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday from 3 to 10 pm and Sunday from 1 to 7 pm. During the summer they extend Sunday hours until 8 pm. The Alpine closes for a week in February and again in April, so follow their Facebook page for those exact dates. Pricing is on the moderate side, so a visit to the Alpine won’t empty your wallet or max your credit card.

Kim’s earlier reluctance now reversed, we knew before we even left the parking lot that the Alpine Grille is a worthy successor to the Lake House Grille. We’re pleased to announce that the Alpine is now officially a 46er destination and will be included in the next printing of the Happy Hour Passport.

If you think finding the right food and drink in Wells is beyond Hope, you’ve got it all wrong. The Alpine Grille is just within Hope, just shy of Wells, and well beyond Northville. No matter how you find it, you’ll be glad you did.

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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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