The Halfway House
7158 US 9, Elizabethtown, NY 12932
Open 7 Days, Lunch & Dinner | Reservations: 518-873-2198
I love surprises, and The Halfway House was a bucket full of surprises. I really did not know what to expect when we heard about the place – lots of Portuguese items on the menu, a new dining room, a great bar. We are hearing all of this about a place which I have passed a hundred times and never really noticed. Recently it had been closed. The restaurant looks and feels like an old roadhouse. In years gone by it was a tavern, a gas station, and a working farm. We were told (by some very friendly locals sitting with us at the bar) that the “Halfway House” name was derived from its proximate location halfway between New York and Montreal on Route 9, which in days of yore was the Old Post Road, and the one and only road between here and there. Even without the benefit of Google Maps I could quickly derive that we were nowhere near the halfway point between New York and Montreal, unless we were talking time and not distance, and the horse was headed uphill. I suggested that perhaps the original owners referred to the halfway point between E-Town (Elizabethtown for flatlanders) and New Russia, which was our approximate location. In any event, you start at Schroon Lake or North Hudson and head north on Route 9, navigate what the locals affectionately refer to as “Malfunction Junction” at the intersection of routes 9 and 73 (you’ll know it when you see it), go through New Russia, and start looking for a barn sided roadhouse on the right with a gigantic maple tree sticking out through the roof. You found it. (And I’m serious about the maple tree.)
The interior looks like what a north country roadhouse should look like. A genuine Adirondack live edge pine top bar seats a dozen people, with the requisite mounted elk overseeing the festivities. On the backbar sits a genuine – and working – espresso machine. Not the push button instant espresso impostors, but the real deal. Tell me the last time you saw an espresso machine sitting on an Adirondack backbar – with an elk. The new owners have added a new dining room to complement the original tavern seating. Local pines were milled on the property to finish the rooms. It really is nicely done, and very comfortable.
The menu is an eclectic collection of bar food that you might expect to find – chicken wings, nachos, mozzarella sticks, with some items I expect you have not seen lately in your local Adirondack eatery – shrimp in garlic sauce ($12), chistorra – a Basque / Spanish “chorizo” style sausage ($12), and my personal favorite – Aquadente Bagaceira Portuguese sausage, which comes in a flaming porcelain pig. Seriously.
Never heard of this dish? Me neither, so I Googled it. Can you guess what the first search result was? “The Halfway House in Elizabethtown, NY.” Apparently the Aquadente Bagaceira refers to a spirit distilled from Portuguese wine – a type of grappa – which is used as a marinade to baste the sausage, which is a linguiça style sausage somewhat similar to Spanish chorizo. The dish includes an entire ring of the linguiça, scored and cooked over the flaming spirits, and more than enough for two or three people. And it was fantastic. And it was $12.
At this point I had to ask – what was with the Portuguese menu items? This is not a menu that you expect to find on Route 9 just north of New Russia. The answer was in the kitchen. The current owners are Steve and Tina Cross. When we arrived Steve was tending bar. Steve’s daughter Jessica had been called in to cover the floor because they were short handed. (At the end of August half of the Adirondack waitstaff goes back to college, but the tourists are still here.) Steve’s wife, Tina holds court in the kitchen, and Tina is from Brazil. Brazil, as in Portuguese, which explains the linguiça. The Brazilian theme continues with the entree selections which focus on grilled meats – lots of steaks – and seafood dishes.
The kitchen puts out a credible paella (paelha in Portuguese) in two styles: Marinheiro / all seafood, and Valencianna with an addition of pork and chicken. The dish was a steaming pot of saffron rice, studded with rings of squid, little neck clams and mussels, a split half lobster, scallops and shrimp, reasonably priced at $25.95. Our party also sampled some steaks. The offerings ranged from a prime rib ($27.95) to sirloin au gratin ($22.95), to an herb crusted filet mignon cooked table-side on a hot stone ($24.95).
The Halfway House is most definitely a welcome addition to the dining scene here in the Adirondacks. They offer a well prepared (and very unique) menu in a comfortable setting with classic north country atmosphere. We will be back soon.