Saranac Lake is not only a beautiful Adirondack mountain town, ringed by crystal blue lakes and countless hikes to amazing vistas, but it also has a lively, walkable downtown. Main Street and Upper Broadway are replete with artists’ studios, restaurants, and bars. Now that Saranac Lake is my hometown, I’ve done my due diligence and “researched” the numerous eating and drinking establishments, many of which are conveniently located right in the downtown core. There are too many to mention in one blog, so I decided to highlight the diversity you’ll find in a night out in Saranac Lake.
For the music maven
Since the 1970s, The Waterhole has been a mainstay for live music fans. It attracts regional and some national acts, like Bela Fleck, bluegrass musician Del McCoury, and countless regional jam bands, soul, and funk artists. The upstairs was transformed into a state-of-the-art music hall and an adjacent patio that play host to bands all year long. Often you’ll find us Adirondackers and our visitors dancing the night away.
However, the downstairs bar area looks like it probably did when it opened, with thick brick walls, a vintage juke box, a copper bar top, and pool table. My friend Pam and I were there last week during happy hour in this beer-and-whiskey kind of place. It was full of patrons playing pool, feeding the juke box, and drinking $2 cans of domestic beers. Quite the lively scene.
If you’re looking for a pub atmosphere where it's likely everyone will know your name, Grizle T’s is it. With its wide-planked wood floor, low ceiling, and 10-seater bar, it has that hometown feel. The bonus is its extensive beer menu and 15 taps of sudsy delicousness. The rotating beer menu included American pale ales, IPAs, a sour beer, stout beer, and hard cider, among others. As expected with a locals’ pub, it offers twofer specials (two for one), happy hour pricing, and a mug club, where you can get your personal 20-ounce mug hung above the bar.
As we walked from Grizle T's to the next stop, we were pleasantly surprised with a pre-sunset rainbow over the Saranac River.
With a long side deck containing small bistro tables and chairs overlooking the Saranac River, the Left Bank Cafe is reminiscent of a charming French bistro, which is the point. The original owners lived in France and wanted to bring that feel back to Saranac Lake. The spacious interior has a tongue and groove ceiling, a jazz piano, leather banquettes, and a small yet selective wine list that Anne Sterling, a local culinary instructor, creates. She ensures quality, yet affordable wines by the glass including my favorite, a cote du rhone. My friends and I enjoyed a few glasses while sharing their homemade country pate, freshly baked baguette, crispy cheese bread, and selection of locally-made cheeses.
It seems the term craft cocktail is hot these days, but what does that mean? Surely more than vodka and orange juice over ice, or well gin mixed with tonic. From my experience, a bar pouring craft cocktails entails unusual liquors, bitters, homemade ingredients, and barrel-aged and traditional spirits, all combined in unexpected ways. It’s where art meets science.
Fiddlehead Bistro, a locally-sourced restaurant located on the Saranac River and right across the street from Left Bank Cafe, delivers big on its original and creative drink list. My friend Jen was bartending last Friday night. She explained she created the cocktails and in many cases, incorporated ingredients found in her backyard. Take the “Back 40,” a rotating drink where she uses flora from her yard. Last Friday, the “Back 40” consisted of local gentian root, elderflower liquor, muddle berries, and genever, a precursor to gin that's made from juniper berries. It was slightly bitter, with notes of grapefruit and pine. Right up my alley.
One of the most popular drinks here is the “Jewel in the Rough,” made with coconut milk, an anise-flavored spirit called Lebanese Arak, floral almond flavors, and garnished with fennel and star anise.
While the interior bar area is small, with six barstools and one table, the plan is to open the back deck next spring so patrons can enjoy these creative libations while overlooking the Saranac River.
Want to grab some beer for home? Stop by Fusion Market on Lake Flower Ave. and check out their impressive craft beer selection. They have domestic beers, too.
If you're looking to augment a night out with lodging, the Saranac Lake region has lots of places to stay, from cozy cabins to waterfront motels. And you'll need sustenance before a night on the town as well!
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