My favorite part of seeing a new town is often trying the food. The local restaurants always give an insider look at a town’s personality. Is it pretentious? Is it inviting? Recently I returned to one of my local favorites in Elizabethtown, otherwise known as the county seat of Essex. Elizabethtown is right next to Keene which is ensconced in the High Peaks. And, similar to Keene, Elizabethtown offers stretches of scenic driving and hiking. As far as the town’s personality goes, The Deer’s Head Inn says it all.
The Deer’s Head Inn, established in 1808, is the Adirondacks’ oldest tavern. Not only is the Deer’s Head Inn a farm-to-table restaurant, it’s also an actual Inn with lodging, a market featuring all local products, and an event space. They regularly host live music.
In terms of personality, it’s relaxed with delicious food and an understated, but beautiful interior. There is a dining room, bar, and a pool table set off in its own area. The atmosphere is welcoming while still maintaining an approachable formalness. I say formalness because you feel like you are in a fine dining restaurant without the pretentiousness or lack of comfort. You can sit around a cozy wooden table or dine at the bar. The menu is thoughtfully curated to highlight the regional and seasonal delights of the Adirondacks.
I went recently on a Friday night to have dinner with a friend who lives in Elizabethtown. We shared appetizers and drinks, which ended up being plenty for the two of us. If, however, I wanted a more substantial meal, I definitely would have ordered the Broiled Trout cooked in white wine, butter, and rosemary. Or, if I wasn’t really feeling like fish, I could have ordered the Skillet Seared Pork Chop with ginger pan jus and roasted fennel on the side. I could go on about the choices of entrees, all mouth watering, unique, and within my price range. The menu, in general, is robust with plenty of options.
Before we ordered our food, though, we enjoyed drinks served up by a favorite bar tender, Rick. He is a mixing wizard and below you will see him mixing a martini. Instead of getting fancy and ordering a martini, I opted for a local craft beer from Ausable Brewing Company. The bar menu, like the food menu, is extensive with plenty of unique craft cocktail options. Keep in mind, all the fresh ingredients are from nearby farms.
After some sipping, we ordered Poutine — fries drenched in gravy and cheese curds —the Lamb Sliders, and the artisanal cheese plate.
The poutine was unique in that the gravy was lighter and less salty than in the traditional diner fare. This did not, however, take away from the full enjoyment of this rich and filling dish. The fries were topped off with graden herbs, adding a freshness to it.
The lamb sliders were topped with pickled red onion and feta tzatziki, creating a tasty marriage between a very pronounced flavor in the lamb and a fresh zing from the tzatziki.
The third dish we shared was the cheese plate, which is always the hardest thing for me to resist on the menu. All three cheeses were goat and from nearby New York farms, including Asgaard farm which is well known for their goat cheeses. And each cheese was delicious and ranging in softness.The plate came with blueberries, honey, and crostini.
The place is usually bustling with diners, and you never feel rushed to eat and leave. There is a very comforting feeling there, and in part, this dynamic is created by the community The Deer’s Head Inn fosters. Their market features local farmers and other artisans, just as their menu does. I am not surprised that the Deer’s Head Inn is a destination for locals and travelers alike. It does such a stand up job of providing high quality food that truly reflects the farmers in the Adirondacks, but also the region’s spirit. It’s fresh, delicious, and cozy. Whether it’s after a long hike, or the end of a shift, I’m going to the Deer’s Head Inn to meet friends or to eat a plate of brussel sprouts at the bar while Rick, Zohar, or Leslee mix cocktails. The menu is the culinary masterpiece of chefs Zach and Wyatt.
Here are some not-to-miss fall seasonal dishes featured on the menu:
- Autumn Squash Soup (with crispy sage)
- Fresh and Pickled Vegetable Board (featuring root veggies)
- Heirloom Tomato and Burratini
- Roasted Squash Dip (with cumin and maple syrup)
- Toasted Brussel Sprouts (with lemon dill vinaigrette)