“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” - Ruth Reichl
My husband, Chris, and I walked through the tavern's navy blue doors and found a man building a fire in a wood stove. He looked up, smiled, and walked over to greet us. His name was Lin and I could already tell that he was more than just a bartender, he was an entertainer. He moved through the space effortlessly, like any master of his craft. Since we arrived right when they opened at 5 p.m., Lin had a few opening tasks to do, but he didn't start those until Chris and I had a drink in hand.
Lin never skipped a beat as he oscillated between his tasks and telling us about the history of the building. He explained that the building was from the early 1900s and has led many lives. Previously it served as the Old Essex Fire Department, an art gallery, and even a millenery, or hat maker. Chris and I looked around from our bar stools and eventually stood up to walk around in order to examine the space closer. The walls were mixed with original stonework and reclaimed wood from barn doors locally, hence the name Barn Door Tavern. As we walked around, we noticed the walls were adorned with black and white photos from local photographers, which complemented the stone and woodwork beautifully. The rest of the decor tied in with the space seamlessly with its vintage furniture, cozy fur throws, and game corner which included family board games, a classic pool table, and a dart board.
Chris and I finished off our beers and headed back to the bar. We each ordered a different beer from our first, so we could explore the 8 beers on tap. Lin said their offerings rotate on demand so there is always something new to try. If you are not a beer drinker, the tavern also has wine, hard kombucha, cider, and non-alcoholic beer. The menu is simple and food offerings are limited to bar snacks, like hot dogs, nuts, and instant noodles. What The Barn Door Tavern lacks in food is more than made up for with the atmosphere. This is where you go to fill your cup with good vibes.
The conversation changed to music and Lin asked us if we have ever heard of Billy Strings before. Neither one of us had, so he loaded up a music video of the young bluegrass musician playing live. And man, was he an electric performer. In the middle of the video, another guest walked in and said, "Hey, Billy Strings!" Lin introduced us and the four of us took turns sharing different music. I couldn't help but think about when the last time I just sat down and listened to music without doing anything else. It was a welcome change of pace and one you can easily settle into at the Barn Door Tavern. After we played a few songs, more people started to come in and everybody seemed to know each other. It became instantly clear that this was the local gathering place. They were all excited to see each other and it didn't take long for them to notice that there were two new faces. Nobody hesitated to come over and say hello. This was hands down one of the friendliest bars I have ever visited. What was initially intended as a stop for a quick drink turned into a multi-hour adventure. Since it was Tuesday, it was also Open Mic Night, one of the many weekly events the tavern offers.
First up was Piotr Barcz, a young man born in Poland in 2005. The whole room grew quiet as he sat down on the piano bench. I was not prepared for what followed. Piotr skillfully played ragtime piano tunes and I was transported to an old-time saloon. I thought, "Wow, time travel is real!" If you are a music lover or just want to experience something different in the North Country, go listen to Piotr play on Fridays. He is a young talent you don't want to miss.
From the moment, I walked through the tavern's navy doors, I felt like I was walking through someone's living room. Turns out, I was. Lin explained that one of the co-owners lives upstairs. Like with any good friend, the door is always open, well at least during business hours. Check out the tavern's weekly events and hours below. Be sure to follow them on Facebook for other events and announcements.
The Lake Champlain Region is full of legendary places. From scenic hikes to local farms, there's plenty to see and do. Don't forget to stop by The Barn Door Tavern and say hi to Leigh, Anita, and Lin.