The Deers Head Inn
7552 Court Street (Route 9)
Elizabethtown, NY 12932
518 873 6514
Lunch & Dinner Monday through Saturday
Pub opens at 4:30 PM
The sign on the front lawn reads “Established 1808”. The Deers Head in its current re-incarnation has not been around quite that long, but it still has the look and feel of the classic road house that has welcomed travelers on the Post Road for centuries.
Four years ago we started to hear the stories about this new place in E'town. The chef had run the kitchen at the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid. People who had dined there raved about the ambitious menu, the fun bar with entertainment on Fridays, and the professional yet casual service from a friendly waitstaff. Happily the rumors turned out to be true.
The Deers Head is just within our “45 minute drive to dinner” limit from Schroon Lake. Exit the Northway at Exit 30 (Keene / Placid) and continue north on Route 9, through the lovely hamlet of New Russia to E'Town. (Elizabethtown will officially appear on the signs, but no one in the North Country calls it that. To do so is to reveal yourself as a flatlander, or worse - a tourist.)
Matt Baldwin runs the kitchen. He did indeed run the kitchen at the Mirror Lake Inn for a decade before striking out on his own to open the Deers Head with his wife Joanne. Joanne sports her own culinary CV, but chooses to stay in the front of the house and leave the cooking to Matt. This strikes me as a wise strategy. Husband wife business teams are stressful enough. Spousal kitchen teams can end up on the police blotter, or as script material for a reality show. If you are lucky you will find Joanne behind the bar, where I can attest to her skills with a martini. On her off days you might find her mother Joyce at the same station, bearing drinks and stories of yesteryear.
The atmosphere at the Deers Head is a wonderful combination of friendly neighborhood restaurant / roadhouse / tavern that also happens to offer really good food. The neighborhood part is a prerequisite for success, as there are not a lot of visitors or tourists here. You come to E-town to serve jury duty or apply for a pistol permit. Or to eat here. Or you are looking for Keene and you made a wrong turn. That's about it.
If you have time before dinner you should stop at the bar for a cocktail or a glass of wine, especially if you are there on a Friday night. The pub usually offers a local band for entertainment on Fridays, and we have run into some surprisingly good ones on recent trips. You can eat in the pub if you like, but those tables are at a premium on weekends. The main dining rooms are more formal without being stuffy, but it is difficult to hear the music from those back rooms.
The menu offers a combination of contemporary offerings like coffee rubbed venison loin ($27) and classic dishes like scampi ($14) and rack of lamb ($27). Last night we started with appetizers of crab cakes ($10) served with a cajun style remoulade ($10) and a really interesting grilled venison and wild blueberry sausage ($10), served with a hearty course grain mustard and a very good sweet and sour red cabbage. On prior visits I've enjoyed the smoked trout ($10), and the butternut squash ravioli ($8) plated with artichoke hearts and sauteed spinach. The house salad, which comes with your entree, is mixed greens topped with dried cranberries candied pecans. Wonderful stuff. A cup of soup can also be substituted. For an additional $3, you can substitute a Caesar salad, which is also very good (but for my money not as good as the house salad.)
The kitchen's signature dish (my signature, not theirs) is the coffee and black pepper crusted venison loin ($27), served in a port wine demi-glace. Last night I noticed that this dish was conspicuously absent from the menu. Joyce assured me that it will be returning for the summer. I look forward to it and highly recommend it. I did try the evening special, grilled swordfish, accompanied by fresh green beans and grilled peppers. The dish was just fabulous. First, because I was eating swordfish and Mary doesn't like me to eat swordfish. (Unless it is free range, line caught, etc.) Rarely if ever will your server know where the fish is sourced, even if the chef does, so I generally avoid the fish and the discussion entirely and order something else. Unless Mary is not there which was the case last night. Guilty pleasures. The chef prepared the fish with fresh green beans that were done to that perfect point of cooked but still just slightly crunchy, and bursting with "fresh from the garden" flavor. Likewise the grilled yellow peppers which I found hiding, nestled under the swordfish.
The kitchen also does a nice job with a steak. I've enjoyed a prime rib dinner on past visits. The current menu offers a Delmonico ($24) and a grilled filet mignon ($25) topped with a blue cheese and port wine demi-glace, or an eight ounce sirloin ($13) served with house butter and potato. Another good dish is the cappelini carbonara ($24) tossed with shrimp, snow peas, prosciutto, cream, and Parmesan cheese.
All in all, the Deers Head Inn offers one of the better menus in the area, with a very proficient kitchen, and a friendly, competent wait staff. What's not to like?