Maybe our day on the slopes ended early and we’re looking for a relaxing drive and some new places for dinner. Maybe we’ve done enough crouching on the ski runs and want to stretch our legs with some snowshoeing. Maybe part of our group isn’t into skiing as much as the rest of us, and want to take a day trip instead of hanging around the lodge. Again.
The stretch of Route 3 that links Saranac Lake with Tupper Lake is a notably scenic drive even for the Adirondacks — a place known for scenic drives (check out the pic above). We pass the Saranac chain of lakes, Second Pond, plenty of mountains, and a variety of forests.
Whatever we’re looking for, Tupper Lake might be just the place to find it. Two amazing brew pubs, other fine choices for family fun with kids, and lots of gorgeous places to play in.
Big Tupper Brewing
Big Tupper Brewing has a motto: “If it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing.” And it’s hard to argue with that.
Their beers are the passion of brewer Rick LaFlamme, who wants to create beers which "span all taste buds." There's also five different custom coffee blends, with different roasts in season.
Their beautifully renovated building used to be another popular pub, and it's just a short block from Tupper Lake, the lake. Inside, there's plenty of photographs of Tupper's lumberjack history. With a mindset like this, I'm glad I arrived hungry.
There's a small central bar and large dining rooms on either side. I arrived on a beautiful sunny day, and the many windows lit the place up. And look who's here! A group of friends who went snowshoeing earlier.
Snowshoeing makes us hungry.
I admit it, I love this menu. There's classic pub food like wings and pickled eggs (with their own special pickling recipe!). Then there's the interesting twists, like nachos made with waffle fries and Lumberjack Pie, which is a north woods take on shepherd's pie.
There's lots of different burgers. I choose Headwall, which is two beef patties with cheddar, bacon, tomato & onion. I have to get it without the bun; I have to be gluten-free, sadly, which is why I cannot sample the beer. But there is gluten-free local cider on the menu.
My friends, who have worked up a a snowshoeing thirst, assure me I am missing a lot. They range from the flagship beer, IPA “Eh” Ale, which is crisp and perfect for a sunny winter day with a tang in the air, to the Touk, which is a darker roasted ale that went with this friend's choice of soup.
For dinner, I would get the Porterhouse steak, or maybe the pork wings, which is slow cooked French shank which is promised to fall off the bone. We are all too full to get dessert, which is a shame. There's a variety of homemade funnel cakes or the Touk Float, which is their own BTB Touk Ale with a scoop of house made vanilla ice cream.
When I let the server know it was my first visit, she personally escorted our party to the Men's Room. "People will ask if you've seen them," she said. All of us were suitably impressed with the functional custom touches there.
"Husbands would tell their wives and then the wives would want to see it," she explained. "So now we wait until the room is empty and make the offer."
Did I mention the service was excellent?
They also have a gift shop, and of course, we might want a growler to bring home. Then we have a great reason to come back and refill it.
Wait, there's more
Raquette River Brewing is a little place with a big reputation. Mark & Joe, Tupper Lake natives, expanded on Mark's twenty-year hobby to create a place that is all about the beer.
They have six to eight beers on tap at any given time, from blond ale to their new stout. I love the story behind Raquette River Smoked Red Ale — where a batch went wrong, but not terribly, so people demanded to try it anyway. Then, when it ran out, the brewers had to figure out how to make it again, on purpose, because it was so popular.
Now that's people who know how to make beer.
They are so focused on their small batch operation that the brewing area is framed in large windows so we can see what we're tasting. While the brewery does not serve food, there is a truck. And what a truck it is.
Arthur’s “On the Road” is a catering truck that is open Thursday - Sunday from 11am to 7pm (winter hours) for some great BBQ with that great beer. Don't let the modest exterior of this truck make us think the flavor is similarly modest. Arthur's is a staple of many events locally, and now it has a home at the brewery.
Among its many varieties of sauces is Carolina; some of the best I've ever had. Tender and delicious and wonderful. There is also a constantly rotating change of place, too, like lately, it's German. It all goes with the beer, of course.
Along one side of the beer garden is the Wall of Growlers. These are empties from small craft brewers from all over the world. Fans gifted Mark & Joe with so many they had to build shelves, and finally gave the collection their own wall.
And the rest
But two fine breweries are not all Tupper Lake can offer. For an Italian craving, Little Italy is a great choice, consistently voted "Best Pizza in the Adirondacks," and also with a full lunch and dinner menu.
There's also Ohana's 1950's Diner for a real kid-friendly experience. While they serve beer and wine, the menu is a creative mix of diner classics like loaded burgers and Glazier hot dogs, and dinners like shrimp in a basket, with real ice cream counter shakes. The kid's meal comes in a special box that is also a 1950's car.
From grilled sandwiches to grilled steak, it will all be delicious, because one of the owners is also the cook.
That's Tupper Lake. We take our food seriously. The lumberjacks wouldn't have it any other way.