You go to the Adirondacks for fresh mountain air, fall foliage (a little past peak, but very golden just the same) and simple, hearty fare.
And spectacular scenery like this:
We spent a weekend in the central Adirondacks earlier this month and were rewarded with three rain-free days, perfect for visiting Great Camp Sagamore, near Raquette Lake, and the Adirondack Museum, in Blue Mountain Lake. It was cold and crisp in the morning and at night, but the sunshine was downright brilliant at times.
Whatever your destination is, food is going to come into play. Here are some rules for the road: 1. Consider a hotel that includes a restaurant. In the Adirondacks, more places than not close for the season this time of year -- or close and reopen for snowmobile season. Our base of operations was the Van Aukens Inne, in Thendara, a couple miles from Old Forge. The rooms are comfortable, and the historic inn, across the street from the Thendara station of the Adirondack Railroad, has a tavern and restaurant, where we relaxed with dinner and a couple of drinks Friday night.
The food, a scallops special and a huge salad with beef and bleu cheese, wasn't any thing out of the ordinary, but it was decent. And generous. The best part of all was saying goodnight and heading upstairs, rather than getting in the car again.
2. Ask the locals where they like to eat. A bartender at Van Aukens recommended the Muffin Patch, on Route 28 in Old Forge, for breakfast, and we were not disappointed. The Muffin Patch is comfy and cozy, a little more upscale than your basic diner, with homemade muffins, breads and sweet rolls. The menu also offers breakfast sandwiches, mega omelets and more. 3. Never underestimate the power of the words "pancake house'' on a restaurant. Keyes Pancake House, in Old Forge, also came highly recommended. It was packed with families on Sunday morning and a line for tables snaked out two doors. Such is the scene every day, according to our waitress.
Pancake lovers pack Keyes Pancake House, Old Forge.
Try the blueberry pancakes, and spring for the pure New York maple syrup.
4. Just because you don't see any cars, don't assume that a place isn't open for business. "Welcome to the Adirondack Park after Columbus Day,'' said our host, bartender and waitperson at the Hard Times Cafe, on Route 28 in Eagle Bay, eight miles north of Old Forge. We walked into an empty bar and restaurant about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and asked if the place was open.
The response from behind the bar: "The door wasn't locked, was it?''
The place, like most in this part of the Adirondacks, is casual as can be, with a small bar and a dining room off to the side. We downed beers and huge burgers, served with fresh-cut fries on the side. The specials that evening included lasagna and other pasta dishes, and the place filled quickly with the heady aroma of garlic and tables of diners.
5. Carry some trail mix in the car, just in case. In addition to dozens of exhibits dotting its landscape, The Adirondack Museum, in Blue Mountain Lake, has a Lakeview Cafe, with fine views of the lake and a casual menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and a few other things.
Our visit coincided with the museum's closing for the season, so it was a good thing we bulked up at breakfast. Pickings in the cafe were pretty slim.
In warmer weather, pack a cooler and picnic lunch and spread out a blanket on the museum grounds for lunch. 6. Don't worry if the road isn't paved: Even people who live in the most remote corners of the mountains need a place to eat and drink. The Stillwater Hotel, on the western shore of the Stillwater Reservoir, is a magnet for nature lovers, campers and vacationers during the warm weather months and for snowmobilers in the wintertime.
The place is operated by Marian and Joe Romano, who fell in love with the Adirondacks and moved there from New Jersey, and features house specialties such as steaks, seafood and Marian's signature lemon pepper chicken soup. We enjoyed a Saranac pale ale, chilled to perfection, and chatted with Joe the owner as he took care of two tables for lunch.
7. Don't assume a hardware store has nothing in store for food lovers. Old Forge Hardware, on Fulton Street, just off Route 28, is an authentic general store, in business since 1900. The store sells everything from canoes and camping gear to candles, clothing and rustic Adirondack furniture.
Among the foodie things you'll find:
What better reminder of our Adirondack adventure than gingerbread moose cookies at Christmastime?