Welcome to our list of favorite dining destinations in New York's Hudson Valley and Adirondack regions. We visit restaurants, wineries, barbecues, and a smattering of off the beaten path culinary destinations like maple sugar shacks and fromageries. My friends and I have been dining out together weekly for over twenty years. The locations we write about are our favorite destinations. We are not claiming they are the best, just our favorites. The posts are not "reviews" in the classic sense. - we offer only our picks, not pans. We will leave the criticism to others. We are a happy blog. We much prefer a good bistro to "haute cuisine", especially if they also have a nice bar. We prefer a crock of cassoulet and a bottle of Beaujolais to just about anything else. If you enjoy simple home style rustic cooking with a decent (but not too expensive) bottle of wine, then pull up a chair and join us.

This Month's "Well Said!"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

Ferran Andria

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Wells House, Pottersville, NY

As of April 2011 - The Wells House is closed.

The Wells House
6 Olmstedville Road (at Route 9)
Route 87 Northway Exit 26
Pottersville, NY 12860
(518) 494-5995

As of April 2011 - The Wells House is closed.

Once upon a time, Schroon Lake was quite the destination. Dozens of great hotels graced the shoreline, and thousands of tourists would arrive every summer to spend the entire season. Many arrived at Riverside (present day Riparious), the last stop on the train from New York City. There they would board a stage coach for the twelve mile trip to Pottersville, at the south end of the lake. The Wells House, originally built in 1845 as a roadhouse, often served as an overnight stop before boarding a steamship for the last leg of the trip to their final destination on the lake.
When I first stopped at the Wells House in the late 1980’s, it was the quintessential biker bar, owned at the time by one William Morrisey. There was no operating kitchen to speak of, or rooms that you would actually want to sleep in, but it was a destination none the less – especially if you arrived on a bike. Weekends would often bring rows of bikes parked on the street outside the bar. Some days they were parked in the bar. Once I saw one on the bar. I suspect that was an alcohol related incident. I once stopped in with a friend for a drink when the bar was three deep with a group of bikers. George made the mistake of asking what kind of wine they served. The barkeep shot him an “Are you kidding me?” look, but after rummaging around in the beer cabinet announced that he had found a bottle of rose wine. Not rosé (ro-say), but rose as in - a rose by any other name - rose. We still laugh about it when anyone orders rosé.
In 2004 the Wells House went through a major renovation under the new ownership of Paul and Shirley Bubar. The building was restored to much of its nineteenth century splendor. Ten rooms were renovated along with two dining rooms – a formal “white linen” dining room and the bar lounge – in addition to a modern kitchen. Unfortunately he left one thing out – the bar. I didn’t go there.
The old Wells House – circa 1990 – had also sported one of the few remaining dual “on site and carry out” liquor licenses in New York State. The license allowed them to serve drinks at the bar and the carry our license allowed them to operate a liquor store. The “store” was a locked cabinet behind the bar stocked with liquor which was offered for sale by the bottle. I thought this was just a fantastic convenience but apparently the Bubars didn’t and when they opened the newly renovated Wells House in 2004, sans liquor, they surrendered the license(s). I equated this with Colonel Sanders deciding to dump the chicken idea and go with meat loaf.
There’s an old saying in the hotel business: “The third owner makes money”. The Bubars sold the place to Vin and Marian McCann, who improved upon the recent additions, added a beer and wine list, and expanded the menu offerings. The requisite bull moose head still hangs in the foyer. Recently they added a full cocktail menu to complement the beer and wine offerings. I go there a lot now.
The Wells House offers two distinct menus – a dining room menu and a separate café menu in the bar. The café dining room, furnished with rustic hickory furniture, is my favorite place to dine. Its quite spacious, has a nice fireplace, is not as formal as the main dining room, and it also has a bar to swap stories at while you are waiting for your dinner companions. The full dining room menu is also available in the café.

More often then not we will collect at the bar with a bottle of white wine before we sit down. Sometimes we never leave the bar, we have dinner right there. The house wine list offers a good selection of inexpensive to moderately priced offerings. You couldn’t spend $100 if you tried, so this is a good place to pay off that lost dinner bet. White selections include a Pulpit Rock Chenin Blanc ($21), and Veneto Pinot Grigio ($20, and a very nice unoaked chardonnay from Kin Crawford, NZ for $34. The reds offer the requisite two or three cabs, pinots, and Shiraz’s, and blessedly, no merlots. There’s a Banfi Rosso for $45, which goes great with the skirt steak on the regular menu. There is only one Bordeaux style blend on the list – a Kendall meritage for $35. The Antinori Toscanno Rosso is a nice wine for the money at $45.

The appetizer list offers a crab stuffed portabella mushroom ($10), a sesame seared yellowfin tuna served with a ginger and wasabi ($13), a beet and Nettle Farm (in Thurman) goat cheese salad ($7), and a pastrami cured salmon ($9.50). My favorite is the smoked salmon, with the tuna a close second. The mushroom tart ($7) is also a good starter.
The Café menu offers a few lighter dishes – chicken wings ($7.50), a crab meat burrito ($11.50), a panino made with grilled rosemary chicken and swiss cheese ($9.25), and BBQ spareribs with cornbread and french-fries ($16.95). A selection of pizzas is also available at the bar or in the café dining room.
One of my favorite dishes on the main menu is the Italian classic, chicken under a brick ($21). The kitchen does a great job with this dish, producing a tender, moist bird with crispy skin. Wonderful stuff. Larger appetites should try the grilled skirt steak ($23), an ample portion, marinated and served with sautéed onion marmalade. The penne a la vodka, served here with scallops and shrimp ($21) is another good dish.
The menus change seasonally. I’m sure that with the next change I will lose one of my favorite dishes – short ribs of beef ($21) with chipotle onion relish and served with mashed potatoes.
The new and improved Wells House is well worth the drive if you are in the area. The inn hosts a goodly number of skiers from Gore during the winter and Lake George visitors in the summer. It is certainly earning the praises of the local Schroon Lake community.
The Wells House closes for three weeks in April. They will reopen Thursday, April 29th.

Follow us on Twitter @ NCntryRambler
Follow us on Facebook @ North Country Rambler


Anonymous said...

Do you know why the Wells House is Closed. We enjoyed going there.

Joe Steiniger said...

We enjoyed going there too. They put the key in the door in March. Reason? More $ outflow than $ inflow? Oil (heating) costs for an old barn of a building, gas prices, food prices, add a recession.
Hopefully someone reopens the place. It's wonderful space.
Thanks for writing..

Anonymous said...

The wells house is looking to open it's doors as soon as possible with the new owners. This Historic Landmark is a huge feature to the Pottersville community. Once the building passes inspection, Liqour license, and final approvements are made. The doors will open!!!!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! We look forward to supporting a classic Pottersville Landmark.