ADK Café and Market
Need to fuel yourself for a day in the mountains? Head straight for the ADK Café and Market in Keene for thoughtfully prepared home-style cooking. Conveniently located at the junction of Routes 73 and 9N, the café serves three squares, or you can pick up to-go goodies at the market, the café’s “other half,” a few steps up the street.
Fiona Burns and her business partner started the café in February 2011. “We had no training, no clue about running a restaurant,” Burns explains. “This space in the center of Keene came available so we took a chance and just did it. Home cooking doesn’t exactly prepare you for cooking on a commercial scale. So we brought in people who had culinary experience—bakers, soups, line cooks—and learned as much as we could from them. Bit by bit, we figured out how to do all the steps ourselves.”
Next came the ADK Market in 2014. Having a second commercial kitchen allowed Burns to offer prepared foods to go and step up her baked goods: pastries, donuts, cupcakes and breads. Heavy glass jars are stuffed with cookies you wish you could replicate at home. If the weather cooperates, settle into an Adirondack chair—of course— on the wide front porch and enjoy your snack there.
In both kitchens, Burns and her team use local eggs, meats, cheese, dairy, produce and syrup. “Farmers will come by in their trucks and show us their offerings,” she adds. Local spirits and beers are a given.
I had heard their ads on WAMC public radio over the years and on one of my excursions to the Adirondacks, I stopped by the ADK Market. Luck was on my side as the apple dumplings emerged puffy and golden from the oven. My next trip on a snowy, blowy January evening coincided with dinner (imagine that). The rustic dining room felt like a friend’s cozy home. I even slipped off my hiking boots and hitched my chair closer to the woodstove, happy to warm my bones. Some establishments wave the local banner in their ingredients; others take it to the next level in their decor. ADK Café exudes that sense of place, starting with the hand-drawn charcoal mural depicting a panoramic vista of the mountains based on antique drawings of the Adirondacks. Other touches include rough slate floors, beadboard walls painted sage green, accents of knotty pine, and plaid wool curtains that feel comfortable not kitschy. A wood bench built into the wall encircles the entire room, lending a casual tavern atmosphere. The handcrafted tables were made by Dartbrook Rustic Goods right next door.
Since it was a quiet night, Burns kindly agreed to make me a sampler plate so I could taste a full range of her cooking in one shot. And taste I did! Everything was correctly seasoned, not overly salted or laden with oil or garlic. The experienced hand of an attentive, conscientious cook who lets the food’s merits shine rather than masking or teasing them into a frenzy. Her theory? “Keep it simple. People respond to that.”
First on my plate, pulled pork, which can often induce a food coma. Not here. The soft shreds tasted clean and light. A spoonful of deep-brown cowboy beans were soft and tangy with just the right kick of chipotle. My fork traveled to a piece of grilled salmon accompanied by two ramekins of sauce: yogurt dill and cranberry. Who knew that turkey’s ruby sidekick would provide a tart balance to the rich salmon?
A pile of crisp hand-cut fries, both sweet and white, had one destination: the bowl of gravy that usually swaddles her poutine. That unctuous deliciousness made with drippings from pork, chicken and brisket time-warped me right back to Thanksgiving. Next came a few bites of crisp Caesar salad with smoked trout dressing. I cleared my palate with an assortment of homemade pickled beets, carrots and cukes, which retained their vibrant summer color and crunch in a refreshing, not too vinegary brine.
Based on what I tasted, I suspect the Earth Plate composed of beans, grains and veggies would be clean and fresh, letting the healthful ingredients speak for themselves.
And that’s the essence of ADK Café—real food. As a small café, the menu may not be extensive, but trust what it offers. Seasonal favorites include chicken potpie, grilled cheese with Vermont ham and tomato relish, Vermont turkey club and salads with grilled local veggies. Although the café will satisfy any carnivore, vegans and vegetarians have plenty of alluring options. BLTs and Reubens come with tempeh, and Burns makes a killer baked tempeh marinated in thyme, soy and sesame oil.
Whatever meal you have, be sure to save room for pie! After my sampler plate, I was perfectly sated, but Burns urged me to try some pie. Fortunately, I caved.
I can honestly say I’ve never tasted pies like those crafted in the ADK kitchen. The ethereal ginger custard features shredded ginger marinated in rum. The lemon shaker pie incorporates zest from a hollowed-out lemon marinated in sugar, resulting in a sweet, tart, incredibly light slice of heaven. Fresh roasted pumpkin and maple walnut take the humble pumpkin pie to a whole new level. So if your server invites you to order pie, say yes immediately. And don’t feel guilty. Just take a few more runs down the mountain or hike an extra mile.
Call or check their Facebook page for seasonal hours. TheADKCafe.com