By Laura Byrne Paquet
We weren’t expecting to play a round of golf with dinner, but there it was: a half-abandoned mini-putt course sprawling up the hillside behind the deck at the Eat ‘n’ Meet Grill, a quirky restaurant in Saranac Lake, New York.
In the time it took for our fish tacos and jerk chicken to arrive (they were delish, by the way), our daughter had spotted the course, found the free putters and balls, and was halfway up the hill. My husband managed to coax her down to eat before she finished her game under the watchful eye of a giant Elvis statue sticking out from the restaurant’s second-floor balcony.
The course, like much in this scenic mountain region three hours south of Ottawa, is a legacy of the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. The previous owners built it as a way to capitalize on the area’s increased tourism after the famous event. It came with the property when the Vargo family bought the restaurant eight years ago, and they have plans to restore it someday — if they can just catch their breaths.
That might not happen anytime soon, as the Eat ‘n’ Meet does a roaring business from noon to early evening. If you check it out, make like the locals and order your meal in advance from the daily-changing menu on the website
The Eat ‘n’ Meet is just one of several great dining spots in town. We also had a fabulous meal at Nonna Fina, an Italian place with a big patio overlooking Lake Flower (try the awesome chicken piccata).
It was almost directly across the lake from our digs at Harbor Hill Cottages. Harbor Hill seemed rather urban at first—you can hear traffic humming on Route 86—but then we encountered a pair of deer on our way back from dinner. Actually, the two-storey Skylight Cottage was just my level of rustic: it has lots of trees and water views, but it also has wi-fi and easy access to downtown Saranac Lake.
Saranac Lake is evolving into something of an artists’ haven, with several intriguing galleries in town. There’s also great hiking—the steep (to my out-of-shape legs) scramble up Mount Baker is a good way to get your blood pumping and rewards you with stunning views of several lakes.
Further afield, I had a great time on a guided canoe trip at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake; our group spotted so many herons on the two-hour ride that we became a bit blasé about them. In the other direction, the Visitor Interpretive Center (universally known around here as the VIC) at Paul Smith’s College also offers great hiking, birding, paddling and special events.
Finally, Lake Placid is the main tourist hub in these parts. At Whiteface Mountain, the one-time Olympic site, you can go bobsledding, luging or mountain biking from spring through fall. If you’re looking for a nice place to stay in the heart of town, I’ve heard great things about High Peaks Resort, where many of the rooms overlook Mirror Lake and you can ease your weary muscles in the spa.
Sold? Well, this is a great weekend to jump in the car. Not only are the fall leaves heading for their peak (they change earlier in the mountains than they do here in Ottawa), but the Artist at Work Studio Tour is also running from September 27 to 29. The self-drive tour features 50 artists, including painters, photographers, potters, ironmongers, and jewellery designers.
The author travelled to the Adirondacks courtesy of the Lake Placid Visitors and Convention Bureau.