Thank you to this week's guest blogger: Kyle Miller
A Jaunt Through The Gloaming
No matter how many fine choices there are for dining in your little town, do you ever feel restless and in the mood for something different?
That was just my predicament recently. The wife and I had each just arrived home from our respective jobs, and as we approached the house together we could sense a shared but unspoken disinclination to cook supper. It had been a beautiful day, but hot and steamy, with the kind of heat that makes you listless and lazy.
As the sun sank, the steam was billowing up into spectacular mountains of clouds, painted dramatically in a palette of orange and purple. Seriously? We’re supposed to go in and cook noodles in a hot kitchen on a night like this? Ditching our work paraphernalia inside, the porch door creaked and slammed behind us as we slid back into the car.
What a fine evening it was, the kind that makes you want to roll down the car windows and drive just slow enough to enjoy the sights and just fast enough to let the cool air wash over you. We settled in to enjoy an aimless drive. Just somewhere else for a change, someplace different – why not north? We felt content in knowing that supper was out there just waiting for us to arrive.
Did you ever notice that when you don’t have to be somewhere, the drives you take so often suddenly become scenic? We felt like tourists on an evening long vacation. Heading north we drove along 9N to 22. The tail end of the heat was still evident as we enjoyed the views of Lake Champlain that opened up on the drive to Westport. By the time we wended our way to Wadhams, the falls and those quaint buildings clinging to its edges were bathed in golden light. The fields and farmhouses around Whallonsburg seemed straight out of an N. C. Wyeth painting. By the time we got to Essex it was cooling off nicely and the gloaming hour was just settling on the lake.
We realized as we passed Essex that our stomachs were growling in protest, as if we had passed our destination, but we decided to continue on a little further to Willsboro. There, two local favorites had joined forces. Johnny’s Smokehouse and Zeke’s Pub recently combined to create Johnny’s and Zeke’s Pub, the only sports bar in all of my stomping ground. They had just had their official opening on August 16th, so why not stop in and check it out? See, we knew we’d hit supper if we just drove far enough.
Johnny’s and Zeke’s Pub
Pulling into the parking lot, it was evident that this is a popular hangout, based on the number of cars. The building looks fairly new and well maintained.
Taking a seat inside, I noticed it was classier than most sports bars I had been in before. It was well lit and clean, the barn board and brick red decor was sedate with a tasteful amount of decoration. There was just enough froufrou nailed to the walls – I like a sports bar that doesn’t look like a garage sale just exploded.
It wasn’t packed, but there were a fair number of people at the bar and surrounding tables. It was jumping, but not too loud for conversation. The folks there were all locals, and were very welcoming. Some patrons had taken advantage of the handicap accessibility of the place and everybody seemed to be enjoying the social pleasures of neighbors in a small town catching up with one another.
There are four large screen TVs at Johnny’s and Zeke’s, hung high in the corners, so there is something to watch no matter where you sit. The night I was there I had my choice of tennis, football, NASCAR, and Spike TV. If you prefer a game of chance there is a fifth screen with the ubiquitous NY Lotto endlessly making winners and breaking hearts.
Our waitress, Shelly, a friendly and knowledgeable server, was glad to answer our questions (what’s “slick chicken”?) and take our orders. She gave us menus and a wine list and left us to our ruminations until we decided.
The wine list was larger than I expected for a place this size - 9 wines in the offering to be exact. The menu was also impressive with tempting entrees like baby back ribs, New York strip steak, shrimp scampi… even a turkey dinner, but I was set on pub fare. Hmmm, pizza? Wait, would you look at that, seven, count ‘em, seven types of wings! Wings it is.
Once my wife saw that I had backpedaled from the ribs entree to wings, she went for one of her favorites, a turkey Reuben.
With the enormous pressure of what to order off our backs, we relaxed and soaked in the atmosphere. The crowd certainly was jovial, but that may have more to do with life in Willsboro than with the beer being served, I dunno.
While we were waiting, I went to meet the bartender, who was pulling the 4 taps and making cocktails – another plus for Johnny’s and Zeke’s, as I like a bartender who can actually do more than pour a beer. Jack, a stalwart young man, was being put through his paces mixing cocktails and keeping the suds flowing when I stepped up to the bar. I asked to take his picture for the blog and he genially asked if I could wait until he was caught up, but I suspect there may have been an element of camera shyness involved. While I waited I perused the well-stocked wet bar and large selection of bottled beer in the cold case behind the bar. It was then I realized just how silly it is taking pictures of your bartender in the middle of a crowded bar, and, after snapping a pic, tried to stroll back to my seat with as much of an air of abandon as I could muster, pretending to be very interested in the current NASCAR race and whistling “Sweet Sue” through my teeth. It didn’t work, but my embarrassment faded with the arrival of our food.
Wings And Beer; Manna From Pub Heaven
Sitting there so far from home, at the end of our impromptu flight, looking at my wings and beer, I thought, “Sometimes, life is good.” It was then I realized the “nom nom nom” sound was my wife working on her sandwich with gusto, and I had better catch up.
I had decided on the Montreal rub wings, ordered extra crispy. I chose wisely. They are a dry wing with a good balance in the seasoning, not too salty, not too peppery, and behind it all is a hint of smokiness. The chicken was good and tasted fresh, not at all like the freezer burned wings I had come to expect from sports bars.
My wife’s sandwich was a fine example of its species, but I was glad to return to my wings after politely accepting a bite of hers. I hoorayed a little bit on the inside when she didn’t want to try mine. I mean, I’d have shared if she wanted, but they were some dang good wings.
While I was at Johnny’s and Zeke’s Pub that night, I was chatting with a local woman who let me know that the cook was doing Zeke’s style of wings. I’m not sure what the significance of that means, but they were tasty and I enjoyed the talk with my new acquaintance. That’s the nice thing about so many of the small towns around here, if you don’t know someone when you get there, you probably will by the time you leave.
Ready to find out for yourself? Plan to take your own tour up the Adirondack Coast!
Touchdown! ADK gameday roundup: