I learned many lessons as a child, but one in particular stuck with me: When faced with the option to order chicken fingers or mozzarella sticks, you don’t choose, you get both.
Life lessons aside, my coworker Alison recently shared her love for a special ice cream spot in coastal Massachusetts. I, too, can recall many ice-cream-for-dinner situations, mostly (but not always) during summer’s hottest days. There was Sundae School in Cape Cod, Wentworth’s and Ashley’s in Connecticut, or The Blue Pig in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. So, yes, I love ice cream. But the summer eating spot that gets me going the most is at the Adirondack Hotel in Long Lake, New York.
For 15 consecutive years, at least one member of my family attended Long Lake Camp for the Arts, a performing arts sleepaway camp in Upstate New York. And every three weeks, the rest of us would make the five-hour drive north for visitors’ weekend, that beautiful 48-hour period of freedom for the attendee from cafeteria food, comparatively good though it was.
The outside-contact-starved child in question got to pick their lunch joint of choice. Granted this was a choice between three equally delicious, equally American roadside-type diners, we always chose the restaurant at the Adirondack Hotel. To my highly gourmet nascent taste buds, it had the best chicken fingers in town. Sure, there was a kids’ menu serving option, but I was a child who could seamlessly take down two Burger King chicken tender eight-packs at a time, so I considered that, er, child’s play.
But I also loved mozzarella sticks. I envisioned that the breaded coating protected my lactose intolerant stomach from the attack of the dairy (it didn’t). Whether it was the youngest child syndrome or that cholesterol concerns weren’t yet of note, my parents always encouraged ordering both, since I could share if I needed help finishing (I didn’t).
When I was nine years old, my time came to ship off to arts camp. It was my turn to be onstage for the first time, to experience the crippling sadness of homesickness and to then learn that I could escape that feeling while soaring on a flying trapeze and free-falling into a springy net below. The fried-food double header that was first mastered on road trips with my parents then became synonymous with the relief of a nine-year-old’s rampant homesickness. I equated my parents’ loving hugs to the cozy internal feeling of my favorite lunch, both things which came to be high points of the following eight summers—even after I learned how to miss home a bit less and camp a lot more.
Besides crispy beige food, the place has serious charm. There’s a life-size stuffed bear in the lobby that’s like a spindle in a fairy tale; you can’t help but pet it apprehensively as you walk by. Every table has a front-row view of the seaplane port in the lake across the way, where local kids catapult off a rope swing into the water. It was a neighborhood bar by night, something I didn’t realize until a reunion trip back there just two years ago. It’s also a hunter retreat in the winter, explaining the hunting guides and paraphernalia scattered throughout.
I recognize that you’re probably not a preteen about to go to camp for the first time. But if you’re hiking in the High Peaks or road-tripping up to Canada, it’s worth the stop. I hear great things about its fryer.
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