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Home is where the heart is

I love to eat out. Possibly because, contrary to my son's belief that I am the 'world's best baker,' I am a horrible cook. (Oliver is 6, so I figure I can get away with holding my title for just a few more years before he discovers the truth.) However, I am not a solo diner by nature. I like the social aspect of a restaurant experience — I want to chat about life issues, debate hot topics, and sample my companions' meals. If I am alone, I usually opt to grab something quick and snack on the go. So, as I head to Pitkin's Restaurant in downtown Schroon Lake, I am a wee bit out of my element. But I am on an adventure, and my 2016 bucket list includes overcoming my shyness. So today I can, and will, eat alone. Dang it.

Of course, here's the thing about Pitkin's: Every time I walk in the door, I feel welcome. If you adhere to the old saying "home is where the heart is," Pitkin's slogan could easily be "Welcome to Marie's home."

Breakfast of my (childhood) dreams

Honestly, whenever I drive past Pitkin's I am instantly transported back to my youth. Growing up I spent at least six to eight weeks each year at our primitive camp on Hoffman Mountain. As a child, after two or three days without running water or electricity, I was always ecstatic to hear my dad announce we were going into town for breakfast. This meant one thing, and one thing only — Pitkin's. The family-run restaurant was our favorite place, and the fact that we were always greeted with a smile was probably one of the reasons.

After years of doing breakfast here, we had our 'usual' down pat. My dad would order eggs over easy and sausage with a side of wheat toast, and coffee light and sweet. I waffled (not literally) — my choice was either the delicious pancakes with crispy bacon or a bacon and cheese omelet with a side of hash browns. And that last side, my friends, I have never been able to find better anywhere else. Hash browns -— not home fries — shredded, browned delicately and oh, so good. I still randomly order them when I see them on a menu, but never have they lived up to what Pitkin's served up for the formative years of my childhood.

By the time I graduated high school, my father had started building his dream retirement home on our five wild acres, and before I graduated college he had permanently changed his address to Old Sweeney Farm Rd. And, while his camp was no longer primitive in nature (we even had indoor plumbing!), it was still always a treat for us to head into town for a meal when I came to visit. It was a family tradition — one I'm glad to continue today, even if I'm by myself.

Back to the present

As I enter Pitkin's it's 11:45 a.m. on a random Wednesday in March. It is fairly quiet, just one large group of guys in the corner and a couple of two-tops. I am greeted with a friendly hello and an invitation to sit wherever I like. I grab a booth, and I'm quickly transported back to younger days (and just to age myself, by younger I mean 30-plus years or so.). I have always loved the wall art in the restaurant. Made locally by regional artists, the pieces vary in size, shape, and theme, and honestly, the eclectic collection of pieces just make me happy to look at.

Kevin, Marie's grandson, is my waiter, and the delicious smells of lunch are wafting from behind the swinging kitchen door. (I can admit I was a bit sad to have missed breakfast — why, oh why, didn't I start my trip earlier?) I quickly glance at the menu and the specials board, but again, I have spent enough time frequenting the joint to know what my order will be. I choose the turkey club with fries, and just to deviate from my childhood choice of chocolate milk, I go with some strong fresh-brewed coffee.

Within minutes of ordering, I start to become a bit overwhelmed (did I mention that I am really shy and rarely a solo-diner?). I have my back to the door, but it keeps opening. Folks of all ages are piling in. By 12:15 every booth is full, the place is full of happy chatter, and I am double-checking that this is, indeed, a Wednesday morning in March.

However, there is no need to be shy; conversation flows easily at this town diner. I am soon happily chatting with my booth-neighbors, Heather and Martha. I mentioned spending many of my days at the town beach in the '70s and '80s, and Heather asked if I knew, " only became a public beach by one vote." Well, no, I did not know that, and I'm totally intrigued. I spend the next few minutes talking with the ladies about old family ties and a bit of lake history. (If we're lucky, Martha might even write a blog or two about the good, old, Schroon days!)

As I look around the restaurant, I can't help but note that it's a great mix of locals and travelers. I think one of the coolest things I witnessed in my hour at Pitkin's was how absolutely friendly everyone was. I even watched diners juggle their seating so other groups could be better accommodated. Y'know... it's the little things that really make an impression and keep folks coming back!

I chat with a few more locals and hear that Marie's famous St. Patrick's Day dinner is coming up. I'm told it's definitely worth making a return trip for. I'll have to keep that in mind as the Irish half of my ancestry does dictate a good corned beef meal every March!

Everyone had an opinion on their favorite go-to meal, and they were more than willing to share (their opinion — not their meals. Those were disappearing too quickly for me to grab a taste!).

My lunch arrives, and I'm not going to lie — it's as delicious as it looks. That's really all there is to say about it.

My only regret? Not ordering the homemade split pea and ham soup. As I glanced around at my neighbor's tables, there was at least one or two cups of soup on most of them. It is obviously a favorite. Hmm, maybe I should have asked before I ordered.

Well, lesson learned, I ask Kevin about dessert. And yes, he assures me, "they're all made in-house by my grandmother every day!" (Did you happen to get a look at the Special's board - if not, take a moment to really read the writing on the board below!)

I can't decide and they're so affordable, heck, I order the top two recommendations. Sometimes a girl just has to be a bit crazy.

No regrets: I don't care if you are eating breakfast or dinner — order dessert. Eat it there, bring it home, whatever. Just do it. You will thank me, even if your waist doesn't. Oh, my. Yum.

So, now that I've had my cake and eaten it, too, I'd say it's time to go for a walk by the lake. Today just solidified my love for this Adirondack village — it's nice to know some things just get better with age! I will be making a trip back to Schroon Lake soon, with my son. I think it's time I continued the Pitkin's tradition with him, followed by a hike up my childhood favorite, Mt. Severance.

Also, keep in mind Pitkin's is currently on their winter hours and only serving breakfast on the weekends — and, here I thought I was late to arrive! You may want to call ahead to make sure they are open before you head over to grab your hash browns! From what I gathered, March hours are Monday through Friday from 11am-3pm, Saturday & Sunday from 8am-3pm. Pitkin's will start opening for dinner daily beginning April 1, and of course special hours for St. Patrick's Day dinner!

(Now, someone needs to let Marie know how much I enjoyed my visit, since she assured me, "Young lady, I never go near the internet!")

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