Liquids & Solids at the Handlebar
6115 Sentinel Road
Lake Placid, NY 12946
From 4 PM | Closed Sunday & Monday
Summer ~ Open Tuesday through Sunday
Great Bar? Check.
Great craft beer | cocktail selection? Check.
Great small plate menu? Check.
On-premise butcher? (Seriously) Check.
What more do you need?
It’s easy to say that now, but if you had asked me when this place opened five years ago if an exclusive small plate / nose to tail / charcuterie format would work here in the Adirondacks, I would have steered you away, in fact I would have steered you to Brooklyn. This area was not ready for such trendy and esoteric restaurant themes, I would have cautioned. But it worked – big time.
Liquids and Solids has enjoyed a uniform positive buzz since opening in 2010, offering a menu almost exclusively comprised of house-made charcuterie, with sporadic appearances of prepared locally sourced veggies and cheeses. Keeseville’s Fledgling Crow Farm and North Country Creamery cheeses are frequently featured. The space is as casual as casual gets, with a dozen highly sought after seats at the bar, and a like number of high top tables scattered around a small dining room. During the summer, additional seating is offered outside.
The restaurant’s focus is on charcuterie, an obsession that drives a kitchen that produces some of the finest sausage and rillette and paté that I have run across in northern New York (and for that matter, anywhere else.) Those talents have resulted in a passionate fan base for co-owner and chef, Tim Loomis. It also drew the attention of the James Beard Foundation judges two years ago, when Loomis was named as a semifinalist in the North East regional competition. That is an acknowledgment that you do not read about often inside the blue line, especially when the kudos are coming in the direction of what had been up until most recently the corner dive bar (The Handlebar). The attention also resulted in the opening of an adjacent butcher shop in 2013 to help keep up with the newfound and well-deserved notoriety. Co-owner Keegan Konkoski takes credit for the crowd at the bar, who are treated to an extensive selection of craft beers, specialty cocktails, and very generous pours of wine by the glass.
I love charcuterie, due in large part, I’m sure, to the fact that my dad was a butcher. I enjoy pretty much any kind of sausage, but if I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be kielbasa (or its Gallic cousin, French garlic sausage.) I vividly remember some of the best: from a butcher in Riverhead on Long Island in the 1980’s, a package that my sister brought me from a Polish butcher on Staten Island ten years ago, and closer to home – the house made kielbasa from Fred the Butcher in Half Moon, just north of Albany. (Yes, that Fred the butcher.) And then there was the taste of kielbasa that I was offered by a tablemate at dinner last Friday. Plated on a pile of home made sauerkraut tossed with spaetzle, the sausage was bursting with flavor, melted in your mouth, and was every bit as good as any I’ve tasted. It was reason enough to come back to the restaurant.
The next reason to come back to the restaurant was my next course – a delicious hand chopped steak tartare. The kitchen gets my applause just for serving it. Ever since the “ground beef should be served at 160 degrees or higher” scare ten years ago, beef tartare has become as rare as Baked Alaska on New York restaurant menus. I now make regular trips to Montreal just to get a fix. I’m sure there were, and are, some legitimate concerns about improperly handled raw meat, but I’m also quite certain that beef tartare will not be mentioned anywhere in my obituary, so I’m willing to risk it. Bring it on, ideally with a raw egg on top – another ridiculous taboo, but thankfully, just the way they serve it here.
A side dish of poutine presented something of a paradox – a delicious paradox, mind you, but a head scratcher none the less. Poutine is, of course, that artery clogging, Nord de la frontière, Quebec 2 AM diner classic – french fries tossed with melted cheese curds and covered with brown gravy. I’ve been treated to some wonderful variations on that theme – Pied du Cochon’s (Montreal) house specialty topped with a slab of foie gras, barVino’s (North Creek) famous riff, topped with (Oscar’s) sausage gravy. Here at Liquids & Solids, in a restaurant that should be sending you home with doggie bag of Lipitor, they serve it with a vegetarian tomato basil “gravy”. Delicious, yes, but sacrilegious in my book.
For dessert, we shared a peanut butter and bacon stuffed cannoli. Yes, you read that right ~ bacon / peanut butter / cannoli ~ only at Liquids and Solids, my new favorite “casual / small plate” stop when we are anywhere near Lake Placid.
Sorry, I was laughing too hard and forgot to take a picture of the cannoli.