Photograph by Daesha Harris
Hague’s dining hot spot
Living in a Lilliputian lakeside community like Hague has its charms. A swinging restaurant scene isn’t one of them.
So, when the Hague volunteer fire company moved and put its former firehouse on the market, some combination of longing, civic duty and optimism compelled Sheri DeLarm and Crispin Ginn to make an offer.
“We love Hague,” says DeLarm, whose family has lived in this town on Lake George’s northeastern shore for generations, “but there was no place to eat.… We thought, Let’s buy it and just make a little restaurant out of it.”
This was 2003. At the time, DeLarm was a community health educator in Glens Falls and Ginn was a medical-device engineer. “I had been teaching sex-ed for 20 years,” DeLarm says. “I was ready for a change.”
Then, the day after they closed on the property, Ginn lost his job.
The loss of income made it hard to secure financing. It was another three years until, with the help of a Small Business Administration loan, they were able to renovate the building and open the doors. DeLarm’s sister, an interior designer, helped them plan the space, and DeLarm and Ginn did much of the work themselves. “We didn’t want to do the Adirondack [style] thing,” DeLarm says. “It had been overdone.” Instead they opted for an airy, modern look, with walls showcasing local artists, and floor-to-ceiling folding doors that open to the rear deck overlooking gurgling Sucker Brook.
There are a few touches, like antique fire extinguishers, that nod to the building’s past, but for the most part the décor avoids harping on the theme. (The property came equipped with a 1955 fire truck, though, which Ginn takes out for parades.)
Its first four years in business, the restaurant stayed open through the winter, but it soon became apparent there were not enough year-round residents to support it through the lean season. For a while it stayed open until Christmas, DeLarm says. “Then it was Thanksgiving. Now it’s the end of September. Summer’s wonderful—but it’s short.”
The menu has also changed substantially from year to year, along with the chefs, who often find other employment during the off-season. “Regulars like the changes,” DeLarm says, “because it’s like they’re getting a new restaurant every year.”
This year chef Jennifer Tuccillo is returning for her second summer, with a light, casual menu that includes dishes like a grilled-peach salad, a fried-green-tomato BLT and a “baseball sirloin” with roasted portobello mushroom and cipollini onions. “My type of cooking is a clean palate, fresh food—I want it to taste like what it is,” Tuccillo says. One standard through the years has been local perch, which Tuccillo prepares as a perch cocktail appetizer or pan-fried in fish tacos.
Though DeLarm is in charge of the day-to-day operation, Ginn is the fix-it man who “keeps the place running,” she says, and their daughters—Molly, who studies law in Dallas, and Gracie, who attends the Fashion Institute of Technology, in New York City—tend bar at the restaurant in summer. (The house margarita, with fresh-squeezed lime, is the local favorite.)
DeLarm doubts their children will decide to return to Hague permanently, though. “They loved growing up here,” she says, “but they saw how difficult it was to make a living.”
DeLarm and Ginn were both recent college graduates when they met at the Hearth Restaurant, on Lake George’s Silver Bay, where DeLarm was tending bar. For a few years, she says, “we lived all around, being ski bums.” Ginn crewed for an unlimited hydroplane racing team from Silver Bay, and DeLarm taught skiing out West. At some point, she says, “we had the serious conversation of where to raise a family, and the trade-off between money and quality of life.” Their love of the mountains and the lake won out.
Growing up, she says, there were gas stations, bars, restaurants and hotels in Hague. Now, the only places to eat in town are The Firehouse or the deli at The Hague Market, which is owned by DeLarm’s sister and brother-in-law.
“I have no summer,” she says. “But I feel we’re doing a service to the community. I get thank-you notes from people all the time. That keeps me going.”
The Firehouse Restaurant is at 9813 Graphite Mountain Road in Hague. To learn more visit www.haguefirehouse.com or call (518) 543-6266.