Tag Archives: Keegan Konkoski

Fire in the Belly

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“It is a hard matter to argue with the belly, since it has no ears.” Marcus Cato the Elder

For the past fifty-or-so years restaurants have been rated on the star system by magazines and newspapers. One star means the spot is good, two stars means very good, three is excellent, and four is extraordinary. No stars means you’re on the spot. It’s either tasteless or you’ll be gagging behind the eight ball if you go.

There are some restaurants, standing inside the door, waiting for a table, you get a gut reaction, and it’s best to slowly back out of the place. It doesn’t matter if your name is on the reservation list. Tell the hostess it was a mistake.

“No one likes one–star reviews,” said Peter Wells, restaurant critic for The New York Times. “The restaurants don’t like them, and the readers don’t like them. It’s very tricky to explain why this place is good enough to deserve a review but not quite good enough to get up to the next level.”

Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar is a neck of the woods gastropub slightly off the beaten path, across from Lamb Lumber, in Lake Placid, New York. It doesn’t have the one or two-star problem. With Liquids and Solids it’s love or loathing, feast or famine, no stars or four stars.

“The joint skips the rustic pretentious vibes and serves unforgettable upscale drink and plates in a comfy atmosphere,” Nara Shin wrote recently in ‘Cool Running’.

They don’t take reservations. They describe themselves as “cooking and drink making how we want.” Originality is independence. It doesn’t matter that you have to set aside some of the tried-and-true. Most first-rate stuff is the fruit of originality, anyway.

Frank and Vera Glass, who live in Lakewood, Ohio, walked into the eatery on the corner of Station Street and Route 73 on a Thursday night in late June. It was hopping crowded lively, lots of talking, little of it for the sake of anybody else’s table. Besides, there was food and drink on the tables to pay attention to.

Summer was a week in and it was summertime in the north, a breeze in the windows. Mr. and Mrs. Glass were on a road trip and had stopped in Lake Placid to have dinner at Liquids and Solids.

“We’ve eaten here nine or ten times,” said Frank Glass. “We like it.”

“I never noticed this, it looks like they take their old menus, tear them in half, and put the meats and cheeses on what was the blank backside,” said Vera Glass, seated at a round table in the middle of the restaurant.

“Waste not, want not,” said Frank.

The menus are printed on a 2007-era Kyocera. “It prints the daily menus at a not so top speed, jams pretty fast, sensitive to overheating, traded a guy named Bill a meal for her,” said Tim Loomis, chef and co-owner.

“Best printer we’ve ever had.”

The meats, from the Kreature Butcher Shop next door, included Fennel Kolbasz, Andouille, and Corned Tongue. The cheeses included Dutch Knuckle “fruity and nutty” from the Sugar House Creamery in nearby Upper Jay and a feta “goat’s milk aged 8 months” from Asgaard Dairy in nearby Ausable.

Liquids and Solids is the brainchild, labor of love, and walk of life of Tim Loomis and Keegan Konkoski, the bartender, native Adirondack restaurateurs. “He got the action, he got the motion,” Dire Straights sang when the two were tykes. “Dedication, devotion, do the walk of life.” Getting the hang of going is in the going.

The restaurant seats maybe sixty, seventy diners and the bar seats maybe a dozen. There are no flat-screens, no pump up the volume, and nobody performs any tricks at your table.

“How’s it going, guys?” asked the server walking up to Frank and Vera’s table. “I remember you, you ate outside last fall.”

“We did,” said Frank, “It’s Mel, right?”

“Close, it’s Raquel. Do you want to start with a beverage?”

“A draft.”

“Do you like IPA’s? The Gone Away is fantastic.”

“I’ll take that.”

Vera asked about the Maple and Spice.

“It’s a bourbon, a little spicy, high-end peppers,” said Raquel. “Keegan got the idea for it from a detox, like a cleanse, not that it’s going to cleanse you, but the combination came from that in mind. The apple and lemon juices level it out. The nice thing is it comes in two sizes, a small and a 19 ounce.”

“I’ll take the small one,” said Vera. “That way I can try something else later.”

“What do you like about bourbon?” asked Frank.

“Kentucky punch, it’s refreshing,” said Vera.

Food writers are anyone and everyone who writes about food and restaurants. Some of them prowl noodle shops, like Ruth Reichi does, handing out two and three stars. Others, like Jonathan Gold, win Pulitzer Prizes. There are more than 2 million blogs about food.

Food journalists reviewers critics are expected to be honest, understand both specific dishes and cuisine, as well as be able to look beyond the food to capture the whole of a restaurant, from sandwich shops to swanky supper clubs.

“We have a funny relationship with critics,” said NYC chef Wylie Dufresne. “Regardless of how well we prepare the food, if people don’t know that we’re out there, if someone isn’t talking about us, you guys aren’t coming.”

Sometimes, though, asking a critic to name their cream of the crop restaurant is like asking a butcher to name their favorite cow. It is problematic at best. Our dependence on food is vital, a matter of existence, but our tie-ins to food are intimate, existential.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” said Virginia Wolff

Nobody needs a critic to find out where good food is. Just go there and try it for yourself. But, since the aughts, with the rise of Zagat, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, everyone’s a critic. Good criticism melds good judgment with a nub of good, old-fashioned crankiness. If you don’t like it, fair enough. But, there’s a difference between judgmental sideswipes and a write-up or write-down, whatever the case may be.

“The arrogant pretentiousness of the mixologist was unbelievable. Part-owner, if she smiled just once, she might even be pretty,” a Virginia diner wrote about Liquids and Solids.

“The short ribs were tough, fatty, and without flavor, the worse short ribs I’ve ever had. I’m 100% sure the chefs bring in and cook whatever animal they killed with their car that morning,” a downstate New York diner wrote about Liquids and Solids.

“Motivated by my dead taste buds and general anger, I am writing as a warning to others about possibly the WORST restaurant I have ever set foot in. My octopus had the consistency of a rubber boot,” a Canadian diner wrote, after rushing back to safety over the border.

It begs the question, however, why the diner was cognizant of the taste of a rubber boot in the first place.

If things don’t work out for DJ Trump in the court of public opinion, maybe he can take his talents to the food court, putting them to work yowling on Yelp.

Unlike reviews of books, music, and movies, reviews of restaurants serve a pragmatic purpose. They alert us to things like cleanliness and food poisoning. Food poisoning is one thing, pointing to a clear danger, but social media poison is another thing, like dirty dishwater.

Imagination, ingenuity, and invention aren’t for everyone, especially not in the food court. Creativity only works when you make mistakes along the way. Who wants to eat a swing and a miss? On the other hand, who doesn’t want to eat a home run?

“They warn you when you first walk in the menu is not for the weak of stomach. I had blood sausage, pureed sweet potato, and some other stuff on a croissant. It was delicious!” wrote a diner from New Jersey.

“The menu changes daily so it’s inevitable they’ll churn out some misses along with their hits. I got beef tartare with cured egg yolk, pickled onions, patty pans, scallions, bacon vin, jalapenos, and potato chips There was a lot going on. Risk-taking, but really yummy,” wrote a diner from New York City.

“The tempura asparagus buns were playful and dangerously addictive, the gnocchi and spaghetti squash layered with a ton of intricate flavors. Excellent service, attentive,” wrote a diner from Massachusetts.

The sound of someone tooting your horn is the sweetest of all sounds. The sound of someone’s two cents’ worth, however, when they’re panning you, can be hard to take.

There are many ways of taking criticism. In the heat of the moment many people get mad and defensive. Some don’t lose their balance, listening to what the critic is saying, taking it like a champ. Others simply admit their mistake and hope for the best. Sometimes you just have to shrug it off. The best restaurateurs take a slice of humble pie, swallow their pride, and try harder, or not, since they are already trying their hardest.

Ordering dinner at Liquids and Solids is simple. It’s all on one side of the paper menu and everything is in black and white. The Ramen plate, for example, is particularized as being made of fried chicken feet, scallions, mustard greens, miso broth, and minute egg.

The sides are called Smalls and the entrees are called Larger.

“Are you ready to go to the next step?” asked Raquel. Waiting tables means being the kind of person who doesn’t get lost on subways.

“Is the Caesar salad still a Caesar salad?” asked Frank.

“It’s a little bit of a play on it, and there are potatoes,” said Raquel. “The old Caesar isn’t on the menu anymore.“

“To keep it alive, it needs to have somebody in there inventing,” Peter Wells has said about chefs and their kitchens.

“OK, we’ll grab that, with two fried eggs on top,” said Frank. It’s a buck an egg extra at Liquids and Solids.

“How about the poutine, we can share that, too” said Vera.

“They’re a little different tonight,” said Raquel.

Poutine is a Quebecois dish, French fries and cheese curds topped with light brown meat gravy, usually served in greasy spoon casse-croutes and roadside chip wagons. French-Canadians say poutine won’t cheat on you, won’t betray you, won’t fight you.

“Poutine gravy is traditionally beef, but this one’s a veggie base, broccoli. It’s a little bit of a lighter poutine.”

“It doesn’t sound like the Meatatarian, but let’s try it,” said Frank.

“How are the smoked grits and shrimp?” asked Vera.

“Southern style, everybody’s lovin’ it tonight.”

“The fried pig head?” asked Frank.

“What they’re doing is they’re cooking the pig head down and pulling all the meat off of it, then balling it, breading it, deep-frying it, and it comes with polenta, cheddar, apples, maple vinaigrette.”

“As long as we don’t see the head,” said Vera.

When restaurants lose the make-it-or-break-it intensity that made them famous in the first place, no matter how crazy much they charge for their plates after that, they become just famous and meaningless. Liquids and Solids is more along the lines of super-excellent than famous.

People go to good restaurants to eat good food and have a good time. Eating bad food in some hash house would put anyone in a bad mood. Everybody’s got to eat. You might as well have an A-1 crack at it.

The good times that roll off the food line at Liquids and Solids kitchen are the doing of Tim Loomis. “Tim rocks,” said the waitstaff on their Facebook page. “Thanks for tossin’ that food on the plate and makin’ it taste and look all sexy like.”

The good times that spill out of the craft beer and specialty cocktail bar at Liquids and Solids are the doing of Keegan Konkoski. Last year for the second year in a row she was named mixologist of the year in Best of the Adirondacks 2015.

She mixes it up even when she’s not mixing drinks. “First day of fall, see ya tomorrow,” said Keegan on the first day of fall. “Off biking. This day should be a holiday!”

“How are you guys digging the poutine?” asked Raquel.

“You can taste the potatoes more, like the broccoli moistens it,” said Vera. “Are there any herbs in there? Am I tasting thyme?”

“I’m not 100% sure. I’ll have to ask.”

Broccoli is one of the world’s healthiest foods. Many children, however, vow that when they grow up they are going to uninvent it. “I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it,” said George H. W. Bush soon after being elected. “I’m President of the United States now and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”

Liquids and Solids doesn’t necessarily try to reinvent the wheel, just realign the wheels, starting with plain old broccoli.

“They said no herbs, just different kinds of broccoli,” said Raquel.

“Who dreams this food up?” asked Frank.

“Tim.”

“Why change the tried and true?”

“Who knows what goes on in his head? Try to figure that out, you’ll be here all day.”

“What’s that oily peppery taste?”

“That’s actually simple. They did a rue, flour and butter, cooked it down with onions, and salt and peppered it.”

“It wasn’t thick, it wasn’t all ruey,” said Vera.

“They cooked it down enough that the cool tastes come out,” said Raquel.

“Why can’t Tim do a Caesar salad that you can count on and just fork up?” asked Frank.

“I think he put it on the menu in the first place for people who struggled to find something on our menu. It’s everybody’s go-to. People like to order what they know.”

All food is comfort food for somebody. Caesar salad, no matter where you are, is a standby. You can always rely on it. Except when you can’t.

“Why does Tim do anything? There’s always a reason. Until a month ago he was doing kale and mustard greens because there was an abundance of it on the farm.”

Halfway through dinner a fresh cocktail, a #1, and another pint of beer came to the table.

“Cheers” said Raquel.

“This is different than the Gone Away, but still grapefruity,” said Frank.

“It’s not an IPA, but it’s got a little funk to it” said Raquel. “It’s brewed with wild yeast cultures, in Allagash, Maine.”

“That sounds Turkish.”

“It doesn’t sound American.”

“Did Turks go to Maine, found Allagash, and make beer there?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.”

Liquids and Solids closes at 10 PM. By then the dining room was almost empty. Half a dozen people sat at the bar, two of them with plates of poutine.

“Don’t leave that bite on the plate,“ Vera said, glancing at Frank’s plate.

“Let them eat pig’s head!” said Frank.

In the bowels of some restaurants, whenever a food critic is spied walking in, the kitchen goes into overdrive. Everything else takes a back seat. Whatever the critic orders might be prepared and plated two three four times to make the order absolutely unconditionally no ifs ands or buts great.

At Liquids and Solids everything is prepared and plated once, because everyone’s a critic.

“How was everything?” asked Keegan Konkoski as Frank and Vera Glass passed the bar on their way out.

“Good, thanks,” said Frank.

“I had the #1,” said Vera.

The #1 is a whiskey, whistle pig, st. germaine, suze bitters, cherrys, cran-molasses mix, and falernum.

“You had the #1?”

“Yes, I did.”

“I’m impressed.”

Vera Glass walked out of Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar with a happy full belly and big smile pasted on her face. There’s nothing like tasty sincere food, a sincerely serious drink, and a sincere tip of the hat to make one’s day.

147 Stanley Street (short stories and non-fiction). If you enjoyed this story, consider supporting the site by clicking here to donate. 

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.

 

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Deconstructing Chocolate George

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“Chocolate George is at my house now because Keegan hated it,” said Tim Loomis, co-restaurateur and owner with Keegan Konkoski of the gastropub Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar in Lake Placid, New York.

“Let me just say something,” said Keegan, laughing and leaning back on her bar stool.

“I don’t hate anything, but whenever we talked about the theme of our artwork we always said at some level it had to be about food and drink.”

“You’re right, it didn’t totally match,” said Tim.

What Mr. Loomis tactfully didn’t point out was that the framed print that eventually found its way to his house was Chocolate George’s Funeral, not Good Old George or Hells Angel George, which is what George was when he wrecked his motorcycle in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco in 1967 at the tail end of the Summer of Love.

“So, when I got our last piece of artwork, I don’t even know what it is, but I was, oh, Tim, I have to move Chocolate George. There’s just no room for it.”

“I told her I would put it in the butcher shop in the meantime.”

Tim Loomis took Chocolate George next door, literally next door to Liquids and Solids, to the Kreature Butcher Shop they had opened in 2013. Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar opened its doors in 2010.

Charles George ‘Chocolate George’ Hendricks was a Hells Angel in the San Francisco chapter who hit a car while swerving around a stray cat one sunny August afternoon almost fifty years ago, was thrown from his motorcycle, and died later that night from his injuries.

He was known as Chocolate George because he was rarely seen without a quart of his favorite beverage, which was chocolate milk.

“He drank chocolate milk because he had an ulcer,” said Mary Handa, a friend of his in the 1960s. “He spiked it with whiskey from time to time.”

“We got the print when we opened,” said Tim. “We had no artwork, but we had a very old, very dear friend of ours who had followed both of us around to multiple restaurants. He was a lithograph teamster, from the city, and he had a lot of vintage stuff, stuff by Ralph Steadman, and he had Chocolate George.”

Chocolate George’s Funeral is the Holy Grail of biker posters, and although neither Mr. Loomis nor Ms. Konkoski are bikers, at least not in the sense of the Hells Angels – Keegan is an avid mountain biker – it found a place in their restaurant on the back wall just outside the swinging door into the kitchen.

“The walls were pretty barren,” said Tim about their first year.

“There’s never been a restaurant like this here before. Nobody would come in, not nobody,” said Keegan.

“Our friend came in about a month after we opened and gave us the print,” said Tim. “He was a great guy and he loved us, always really supportive. He was a portrait of unhealthiness, but a great guy.”

George Hendricks was a strapping 34-year-old when he died and a favorite among the hippies in Haight-Ashbury because he was funny and friendly. Sometimes he sported a Russian fur hat, making him look like a Cossack.

His mustache and goatee were almost as long as his long hair, he wore a pot-shaped helmet when riding his Harley, and his denim vest was pockmarked with an assortment of round tinny pin badges.

One of the pin badges said: “Go Easy on Kesey.”

The writer Ken Kesey was the de facto head of the Merry Pranksters. Much of the hippie aesthetic can be traced back to the Merry Pranksters.

“The artwork came one by one,” said Keegan.

“It’s a hodge-podge, but that’s how we got started. It was the same with everything, we slowly got more and more ingredients, built up our larder, and the bar.”

“We had a pool table originally, and originally I wanted to play up the whole laid back feeling, so we kept the pool table,” said Tim. “I should have known better. It just attracts children and takes up seats that people could eat at. But, when we got rid of it rumors started floating around, there goes the pool table, they’re already going out of business.”

Mr. Loomis and Ms. Konkoski were novice business owners introducing a new dynamic of craft beers and creative farm-to-table cuisine to a small town popular with travelers, but still, essentially, a small town with well-established tastes.

“When we opened we decided we weren’t just a door with a light on that anyone could stumble into,” said Keegan. “We thought you either have to have a little bit of knowledge or a little adventure in you to make it work.

“We didn’t want to hold hands or educate anyone. We always wanted people to appreciate what we had to offer, and if they were as passionate about it as us, then yeah, we’ll get to know you and chat, answer as many questions as you want. But, some people, they come in here and, I don’t want to sound judgmental, but they just don’t look like they’re going to like it here. All of our hostesses know to ask, have you been here before, you might want to check out the menu, it’s really different.”

“We’d rather have them leave and not sit down and be unhappy,” said Tim. “Because once they sit down and it’s gone south there’s just no fixing it.”

Five days after George Hendricks’s death more than 200 bikers trailed a hearse and the family car up and down the city’s narrow streets, pausing and revving their engines at the Straight Theater, near where he had crashed. The funeral ceremony was performed at the Cypress Lawn Cemetery, Mr. Hendricks was cremated, and his ashes scattered over Twin Peaks, which are in the center of the city, overlooking it.

Two quarts of chocolate milk slowly got warm in the back of the hearse.

The funeral procession then became a motorcycle parade, parading to Golden Gate Park where, joined by hundreds of hippies from Haight-Ashbury, a daylong wake erupted. Big Brother & the Holding Company and, appropriately, the Grateful Dead were the live music send-offs.

“Sometimes the lights all shining on me, other times I can barely see, lately it occurs to me, what a long strange trip it’s been.”

There was free beer courtesy of the Hells Angels and free food supplied by the Diggers.

The Haight Street Diggers were characterized at the time as a “hippie philanthropic organization.” They used the streets of San Francisco for theater, gatherings, and parades. The organization fed the flock that made the scene in the Panhandle with surplus vegetables from the Farmer’s Market and meat they routinely stole from other local markets.

Two months after Chocolate George’s funeral the Diggers announced “The Death of the Hippie” by tearing down the store sign of the Psychedelic Shop and burying it.

“Our reputation in Lake Placid is really mixed,” said Keegan.

“We’re the weirdo’s down here,” said Tim.

Not everyone agrees.

“This gastropub with Western saloon flare has the best beer selection – both draft and bottle – in the Adirondacks,” wrote Lauren Matison in Thrillist NYC. “Also awesome, their next-door butcher shop churns out rillettes, pates, cured tongue, sausages, and cheeses.”

“Much credit is due to chef Tim Loomis and his business partner, Keegan Konkoski, the competent and adventuresome mixologist,” Walter Siebel wrote in his review in the Watertown Daily Times.

“I’m definitely probably known more as the bitchy bartender than anything,” said Keegan.

“If you want a macro brew I say we don’t have that and suggest the bar across the street. I don’t pour shots and I say no to drunks. I don’t serve them. They’ll look at me and say ‘You don’t want me here!’

“After we opened I had to do a lot of weeding out and getting rid of some people who just wanted to come in here and get wasted.”

The craft beer and craft cocktail-focused bar at Liquids and Solids is more in the vein of the Experimental Cocktail Club than it is Happy Hour, of which there is none, although since the drinks are fine and delicious it could easily be said that any time at the Handlebar is a good time.

When asked why they were having such a big party for George Hendricks, Henry ‘Hairy’ Kot, his best friend, said, “George loved be-ins and happenings, so we thought we’d have a happening just for him.”

The wake had been advertised as George’s Wail! on psychedelic-style posters hung in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

The next day a photograph of the funeral cortege stretching away on a long loping street ran in the San Francisco Chronicle, along with a story titled “The Gang Gathers.” The photograph was taken by Bob Campbell and later printed as a poster by the Print Mint in San Francisco.

The words Chocolate George’s Funeral at the top of the poster are in brown and gold. The rest of the photograph is in black and white, except for the funeral car, which is a bright fluorescent pink.

“We never knew what the pink was about,” said Beth Hendricks, George Hendricks’s second-youngest daughter.

Three years after struggling out of the red and pushing into the pink Mr. Loomis and Ms. Konkoski collaborated again on the Kreature Butcher Shop next door to Liquids and Solids. Mr. Loomis found a new favorite t-shirt emblazoned with Meatatarian.

“We have a counter guy there, but he’s not the butcher,” said Keegan. “Tim is the butcher. He takes the whole animal and breaks it down.”

“When we started Liquids and Solids a good friend of mine and I went and got our first pigs together,” said Tim. “When we talked about it later we remembered how long it took to break that first pig down. Man, it took six hours.

“I can do a pig cleaner in an hour now than I did back then, no problem. It’s partly just knowing what I’m doing and partly having the right tools. We didn’t even have a saw then. We still only have a hand saw, but at least we can saw through bone.”

“We prefer to get our animals whole,” said Keegan. “Then we can use everything. We try not to waste anything. The whole sustainability, consumption thing is important to both of us. Wastefulness really irks us.”

Kreature’s beef comes from Kilcoyne Farms in the St. Lawrence Valley and pork from several different suppliers in the North Country. Their yogurt comes from North Country Creamery in Keeseville and their cheese from Sugar House in Upper Jay.

“They keep doing more and more plots up in Keeseville every year, some cool stuff,” said Keegan.

“No one can hold a candle to Margot’s cheese,” said Tim.

“But, just because it’s local doesn’t mean we carry it,” said Keegan. “If it’s good and local, two thumbs up. We try to support them in anything that’s delicious, absolutely.”

“We always get our beef from Pat Kilcoyne Farms, which is grass-fed and finished on grain,” said Tim. “I’m not a huge meat eater but, wow, sometimes I have a steak and it’s phenomenal.

“We were approached by Asgard about taking one of their cows, which are all grass-fed. When Pat asked me if we needed a cow in the next couple of weeks I said, not this time Pat, I’m getting one from Asgard.”

“Well, have fun chewing on it,” said Pat Kilcoyne.

“I tell beer makers, if you brew something and think it’s dynamite, bring it down,” said Keegan. “The ones that are well-done and are great, awesome. It has to be good. I’ve made mistakes before, put something on the menu and, oh, my God, it’s horrible.

“There are so many young passionate people that are part of our restaurant lives right now.”

It’s the passion of people who act because the energy is in the action, not just the thought or feeling. Even though it’s the thought that results in the act, it’s action that sets priorities.

“I remember the day I met Lucas at Fledging Crow,” said Tim. “I had no idea who they were. I was, like, I’m opening a restaurant and I need some vegetables.”

Every day is the day that time opens its door, never a minute too late, never waiting for the next minute, sometimes leaving a shadow behind.

On one level Chocolate George’s Funeral is a moment in time, an historical document of something that happened in one place on one day, but on another it’s an unsettling existential document, a ripple in the veneer of everyday life, so that its black and white truth seems suddenly illusory.

The signifiers in the picture are the street and medians, the flat-fronted buildings, and the receding line of electric power poles. A single person in white shorts stands at the corner of one of the crossroads in the deep focus photograph, either watching the funeral procession of black-clad bikers or simply waiting to cross the street.

What makes the picture unstable are the other, contrasting signifiers, the motorcycles and their riders. There are hundreds of them, a restless band bound together by their outcast and yet conservative ideology, riding Harleys which are both engineered and emblems, parsing an age-old ceremony as they rumble slowly up the street.

They are in rows and lines as orderly and mundane as the street, the rows of apartments, and lines of power poles. Even still, they are troublesome men.

“The Hells Angels try not to do anything halfway and anyone who deals in extremes is bound to cause trouble,” said Hunter S. Thompson, author of Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga.

“Our friend who gave us Chocolate George used to bring us moonshine-soaked cherries, the real deal, not the stuff you buy from Old Hickory, or whatever,” said Keegan.

“But, he was a weirdo. We got a tour of his bomb shelter once. It was full of serious stuff and more canned food than you could eat in a year. The guy was ready.”

“He had gone up to Au Sable to live, escape from the city,” said Tim.

“He’s now deceased,” said Keegan.

The poster they had been given stayed at the far back of Liquids and Solids, gracing a wall above a small round two-chair table next to the kitchen, for more than three years.

“Tim liked it,” said Liz Yerger, one of the gastropub’s servers. “He never said why, exactly, except that a friend had given it to him.”

“Maybe we were too scared to take the picture down all that time,” observed Keegan.

Maybe that’s when Keegan Konkoski broke out a bottle of spirits and mixed up something strong – her own Maple & Spices – a heady brew of bourbon, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and lemon and apple juices, and after all that time all that long strange trip took leave of George ‘Chocolate George’ Hendricks.

147 Stanley Street (short stories and non-fiction). If you enjoyed this story, consider supporting the site by clicking here to donate. 

20150304220055-computer-laptop-apple-software-millenial-sitting-employee-working-writing-thinking

Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.

 

Please, No Sensitive People

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There’s an old-school saw that says if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. That’s exactly what most people do, assuming they’ve stepped foot into the kitchen in the first place.

Restaurants have one of the highest employee turnover rates of any kind of business. Voluntary turnover across all businesses, according to the Department of Labor, is about one of every five every year. In the food service business the voluntary turnover rate is more than one of two every year, never mind the involuntary rate.

But, before there can be turnover there has to be staff. Since the end of the Great Recession in 2009 both hoagie shop and fancy restaurant owners have seen more and more vacancies for positions from part-time hostess to experienced sous chef.

From San Francisco to New York City there are not enough restaurant staffers.

“It’s become a much tighter and more competitive work environment,” said Bob Luz, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, in 2013. “The economy is on the road to recovery and the talent pool is thinner.”

“If he’s a dog we’ll figure it out and we’ll get rid of him in the first week,” said Jeff Black of the upscale Black Restaurant Group in Washington, DC. “But, we need bodies. We need people that want to wait on tables.”

The recruitment problems big restaurants in big cities have are not any different than the problems small restaurants in small towns have.

Still looking for experienced staff for front and back of the house. This will probably be your best job ever. Liquids and Solids, Facebook, June 6, 2010.

Liquids and Solids, a small, edgy new wave gastropub in the Adirondacks, in Lake Placid, New York, opened on June 6, 2010.

“When we opened it was just us,” said Keegan Konkoski, co-restaurateur and owner with Tim Loomis. “Tim would be in the kitchen all day and I’d be at the bar all day and we had two servers.”

One of the servers was Keegan’s sister, Jamie.

“Before we opened we thought Tim would have no problem staffing his kitchen. He’s a culinary graduate of Paul Smith’s, a lot of their students will want to be here and work with him, do a little internship.”

An alumnus of Paul Smith’s College in nearby Paul Smith, New York, Tim Loomis interned in France and has worked at, among others, the Wawbeek Lodge, Lake Placid Lodge, and the Freestyle in Lake Placid.

“We thought finding him help would be so easy, but we are picking bones.”

Looking in from the outside, work done by other people can sound easy. How hard is it to cut carrots and wash dishes? But, working in a restaurant, being on your feet all the time, is physically demanding.

“The business, it sucks. It’s hard,” said Bryan Dayton of OAK at Fourteenth in Denver, Colorado.

“It can be back-breaking work,” said Keegan.

Dishwashers are unsung and underpaid and it’s easy to overlook how important they are, hunched over and hidden away in a steamy back corner, until you don’t have one.

We are looking for a special guest sanitation engineer for Thursday night. All you can eat and drink! Liquids and Solids, Facebook, December 21, 2010.

“The worst days of service that I have had, both as hourly employee and as manager, have been when there was no dishwasher,” said Matthew Stinton, the beverage director at several New York City restaurants and wine bars. “Not having a dishwasher will fuck your world up and make you rethink the way you do things.”

One of the predicaments Liquids and Solids faces every year is that it is a seasonal eatery. It is open year-round, but has to deal with summertime spikes, which complicates staffing and inventory levels.

Need summer help, both departments, liquids and solids. Liquids and Solids, Facebook, June 21, 2011.

“We definitely have our downtime,” said Keegan, “so we try to make as much as we can when we’re busy because it slowly depletes after that.”

“We try to bang it,” said Tim.

After Columbus Day Liquids and Solids cuts its hours, closing Sundays and Mondays, refreshes itself for several weeks during the Christmas and New Year holidays, and then sits back on its haunches waiting for spring.

When spring comes the snow melts, birds sing, and the heavy lifting starts.

L & S needs some strong bodies tomorrow to help move some equipment. Volunteers will be rewarded! Contact Tim if you want to help. Liquids and Solids, Facebook, May 24, 2012.

A challenge all hands-on restaurant owners face is the amount of time their restaurants demand of them.

“If you are not prepared to never see your family, never have a holiday, then you are not prepared to be in the restaurant business,” observed Cory Bahr of Nonna in Monroe, Louisiana.

Tim Loomis’s day starts at 8 in the morning. It ends 14 or 15 hours later.

“One of the main guys I’ve worked with over the years, as soon as service was done he was out,” said Tim. “I don’t like doing that. I try to be there and help clean, but if it’s not clean by 11 o’clock, I’ve got to go.”

No one can do everything. While Mr. Loomis is in the kitchen with his crew, and Ms. Konkoski is behind the bar, and the hostess and servers are at their stations, the bathrooms at Liquids and Solids are left unattended.

Largely a relic of the past, bathroom attendants who clean the facilities and dispense mints, mouthwash, chewing gum and cigarettes, are today usually only found in big-time night clubs and restaurants, although in Japan they are being replaced with ladybug robots.

It isn’t a bathroom attendant who’s needed sometimes so much as a bathroom bouncer.

L & S is seeking a full-time bathroom attendant due to recent acts of vandalism on the bathrooms. Three air fresheners have gone missing, pennies are dropped in the toilet daily, and stickers from the paper towel dispenser have been removed. A picture was ripped off the wall and thrown into the garbage can! Two screws were holding it up. It had beautiful boobs on it. Who does not like boobs? Please apply in person. Protect against prudes. Liquids and Solids, Facebook, June 7, 2012.

Recruiting, training, and retaining staff is one of the toughest jobs restaurant owners have. They are always, especially if they are small businesses, at the mercy of unforeseen absences, such as sick leave or a family emergency. They don’t have the back-up staff to provide coverage.

“Food may rot and burn, but at least it doesn’t run off to Alaska with an oil-pipeline worker before lunch. Help will do that, and much, much more, creating an anarchy that acts upon the kitchen’s atmosphere like a handful of sand thrown into a spinach salad,” wrote Kimberly Snow in ‘Why You Don’t Want to Run a Restaurant’.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics almost 370,000 people are employed as dishwashers nationwide. And they aren’t just the dish crew. They clean and mop, take out the garbage, and unclog toilets. They are sanitation engineers.

L & S is looking for a guest sanitation engineer for Saturday night, no experience needed. A good grasp of 80s movies is helpful. $60.00 plus food and beverages. Must be 21. Contact Tim. Liquids and Solids, Facebook, September 7, 2012.

The position has been filled by Ryan MacDonald, who will be making the trek from East Burke, Vermont, just to make a guest appearance in the pit. Liquids and Solids, Facebook, September 7, 2012, a few hours later.

“We generally don’t have any problems early in the morning,” said Keegan. “We have our meeting between 9 and 10 and everything is usually copasetic.”

After their morning meeting Keegan does the books, goes mountain biking or cross country skiing, and then returns to Liquids and Solids in the early afternoon, where she remains until the end of the night.

“Hopefully I don’t get a text from Tim about a catastrophe,” she said. “But, there’s always something, the air conditioning broke, someone’s dog died and they can’t come to work, it could be anything. Every week there’s something.”

Sometimes that something is a chore most restaurants don’t have to contend with anymore in the 21st century.

Well, here we are lookin’ for help again. Winter wood is being delivered tomorrow and we need help moving it. Start time around 11. Dinner to all volunteers. Liquids and Solids, Facebook, September 21, 2012.

“We do our own town dump runs, too,” said Keegan.

While hostesses and servers are charming, and bartenders are patient and accommodating, working in a hot kitchen, a very hot kitchen, where you are not supposed to drop anything no matter how hot the thing is, dead-lifting heavy boxes on a floor that is slippery and slightly pitched for drainage reasons, on your feet for 10 hours straight, where it’s not OK to not have whatever you’re cooking ready when the chef says its has to be ready, in a tight space where there is no personal space, is another matter.

“When it’s busy, in the heat of service, Tim’s awesome, but he can get ornery,” said Keegan. “We don’t need to sugarcoat that.”

Kitchen staffs can be thick as thieves and at each other’s throats at the same time. That’s why so many off-color jokes are bantered in restaurant kitchens.

“They would make every inappropriate joke in the book,” said Marla Gilman, who worked the line at Liquids and Solids for a year, about her colleagues. “But, it wasn’t real. There were never any hard feelings.”

Team Kitchen is now seeking a sanitation engineer for 2 – 3 nights a week. Must have a strong background in 80s and 90s pop culture and appreciate both punk rock and classic country. If this sounds like you, walk right into the kitchen and talk to Tim. Please, no sensitive people. Liquids and Solids, Facebook, July 9, 2013.

Liquids and Solids is a laid-back gastropub in a small town on a quiet street across the street from a lumberyard. Like all businesses they have their own standards. Unlike many businesses, especially those that are seemingly laid-back, those standards are first-class.

“The farm-to-table cuisine at Liquids and Solids wins rave reviews,” wrote Diane Bair and Pamela Wright in 2013 in the Boston Globe. “Creative plates like beef heart ragout with gnocchi. Among the liquids, the sinus-clearing ‘maple and spice’ bourbon cocktail gets its kick from cayenne pepper.”

Although being the best may be a false goal, measuring success by doing your best is certainly a true goal.

Servers and wait staff are said to be the front of the house and cooks and chefs the back of the house. Some restaurants, especially those with a reputation for great food, employ expediters, the middle of the house, who make sure that orders are cooked and plated in a timely fashion.

Looking for an exciting Friday and Saturday night from 8:30 – 10 PM? We need an expediter! Pays money, food, drink, and time with Tim. If you don’t know what an expediter is, don’t volunteer. Liquids and Solids, Facebook, February 7, 2014.

“We try to create a fun atmosphere because we know it’s hard work,” said Keegan. “But, it has to be professional. We have to make sure everything gets done correctly.”

“At the end of the day that needs to go there and that needs to be cleaned,” said Tim.

All of which is easier said than done unless you stick to it all day long.

“This job will consume you,” said Bryan Dayton of OAK. “We work long hours. Yesterday I worked an 18-hour day. On a Wednesday.”

Attention to detail means restaurant owners often have little in the way of a social life. Their husbands, wives, boyfriends, and girlfriends have to be saints because their loved one is the one who unlocks and locks the doors every day and night. Not only that, your loved one is always on call. Personal time for holidays becomes a thing of the past.

Need someone to spend Valentine’s evening with? We need a dishwasher that evening. In fact, we are looking for a full time or part time person. Liquids and Solids, Facebook, February 11, 2014.

“Restaurant work is a hard life,” said Keegan. “One of the things that burns us a lot is when someone working at a restaurant says, oh, that’s not my real job.

“Say it’s not your real job one more time…”

Busy restaurant kitchens are not just intolerably hot rooms full of people in fire resistant white jackets. They are fast-paced pressure cooker rooms in which you don’t want to be wearing glasses because they soon will be clouded by oily steam, keeping you from keeping track of your fellow cooks and chefs who might or might not be in a bad mood that day, but who are certainly armed with sharp knives and cleavers.

“I attacked the last croissant with a cleaver, not stopping until I’d mashed every little flake of pastry into a greasy mass,” wrote Kimberly Snow, describing how “something snaps in you.”

“It’s tough,” said Tim. “Our guys work hard, so it’s hard to walk away, to not be here.”

hiring IN KITCHN. don’t NEED TO BE SMRT. JUST HARDWERKIN. Liquids and Solids, Facebook, August 21, 2014.

Commercial restaurant work is not for everyone because it is hard work. It is the kind of hard work that has to be done even though you are dog-tired from already working hard all day. There is the laundry issue, too: when kitchen staff does their wash it is always very smelly laundry.

Restaurants don’t pool tips for the back-of-the house dishwashers, cooks, and chefs like they do for wait staff. But, at Liquids and Solids, just like you can add an egg to a menu item for a buck, you can add a buck to your bill at the end of the night for the kitchen’s beer fund.

“One thing we had no idea about when we opened was how much employees cost,” said Tim.

“When it’s all said and done, though, when they’re worth it they’re worth it,” said Keegan. “Besides, you can’t show up and not have them be here. Everything here is truly made from scratch.”

It is shortly after Columbus Day, when their summer season has drawn to a close, that the beer fund at Liquids and Solids comes into play. That’s when the hardwerkin staff takes some time off and leaves the country.

Bye, bye blackbird for a long, long weekend.

For all of you that bought a beer for the kitchen this summer, they totaled $887.00 in earnings and will be in Montreal celebrating soon thinking of you all that made it possible knowing they be appreciated for the daily grind! Thanks. Liquids and Solids, Facebook, October 13, 2014.

147 Stanley Street (short stories and non-fiction). If you enjoyed this story, consider supporting the site by clicking here to donate. 

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.

 

Making Liquids and Solids

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It is a tough road to hoe starting up a new business. More than 30% fail within two years, 50% within five years, and less than a third survive ten years, according to the Small Business Administration.

The numbers for restaurants are even worse.

Within three years of opening 60% of new restaurants close, says Randy White of the White Hutchinson Leisure Group. Business Insider calculates that 80% of New York restaurant start-ups fail within five years while American Express puts the number at a scary 90%.

It’s a wonder anyone ever opens a new restaurant at all.

When Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar, an edgy gastropub, opened five years ago across the street from the Lamb Lumber Yard on the quiet side of Lake Placid in the Adirondacks, in northern New York, the odds were stacked even higher.

Tim Loomis and Keegan Konkoski, co-restaurateurs and owners, had never been in business for themselves, had no marketing or financial experience, and were an ex-romantic-couple-to-be.

They had almost no capital to get their restaurant off the ground, either.

“Our financial backing was family members, “ said Ms. Konkoski.

“We bare-boned it. Every time we made a dollar we put it back into the restaurant. We couldn’t even afford to buy bar stools with backs.”

“We lost some customers who said the stools didn’t have backs,” added Mr. Loomis. “Nothing about the food and drink, just the stools.”

Anyone stumbling in to Liquids and Solids its first year had to locate the stools first.

“We only had two floor lamps, so nobody could see,” said Keegan. “It was funny, but frustrating, so every time we made another dollar we bought a new lamp.”

Their building at the bottom of the curve on Sentinal Road across from the Chubb River for which they had signed a seven-year lease was also a problem. Several previous restaurants had already failed in the same space.

“We knew it was tiny and needed a lot of love,” said Keegan.

“Really, it was a total piece of crap.”

Mr. Loomis and Ms. Konkoski plowed ahead and opened in June 2010 on Tim Loomis’s birthday.

“We were young and dumb and didn’t know what we were doing,” said Keegan. ”But, when we talked about it we thought, let’s just try it.”

Their first special was grilled chicken thigh with tarragon, creamed spinach, goat cheese, arugula salad, garbanzo beans, baby beets, and preserved lemon, followed by what they called their painkiller dessert, caramelized pineapple, orange scented coconut ice cream, nutmeg tuile, and dark rum sauce.

It was a taste of things to come, but then the roof fell in. The New York State Liquor Authority held up their liquor license for two months.

Gross profit margins on food are usually 32 to 38 percent, according to John Nessel of the Restaurant Resource Group, while gross margins on liquor are usually 60 to 80 percent. No one sat on the backless bar stools for the first part of the summer even if they had wanted to.

“When we finally got liquor that helped,” said Keegan. “But, Lake Placid is a tough place to open something like this.”

What she meant was a place whose menu is printed on reused paper, but which features avant-garde small-plate finesse. A place which is often crazy creative, combining ingredients like oranges, ‘chic’ peas, and licorice on the same plate, but which sources almost all of its ingredients locally, most of them from the off-the-beaten-path town of Keeseville in an off-the-beaten-path corner of the Adirondacks. And a place whose plates would stand out at any restaurant anywhere, but whose food wizard, Tim Loomis, keeps understated and, in his own words, modest.

“I use very simple ingredients,” said Tim.

Although the name suggests the basics of food and drink, solids and liquids, it is with artless grace anything but basic.

“Don’t be fooled by its dive-bar façade and no-frills interior,” wrote Lionel Beehner in the New York Times in December 2011. “This recently opened gastropub boasts an inventive ‘solids’ menu, combining farm-to-table dishes like Utica-style chard and rabbit confit gnocchi.”

“What we offer is the kind of cuisine we like ourselves,” said Keegan. “When the Spotted Pig in New York City came on our radar way back when I thought, gosh, that’s more our style, more our speed.”

The Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village, which like Liquids and Solids is small, doesn’t take reservations, and serves what has been described as “heroically satisfying” food, was one of the first upscale gastropubs, opening in 2004, and setting the standard since.

“I did a short stint at the Lake Placid Lodge and that was the undoing of fine dining for me,” said Tim. “I just wanted no part of it. It wasn’t fun. It should be a celebration, not just sit there stuffy with linens.”

Tim Loomis and Keegan Konkoski are both from the North Country. Tim is from the Northeast Kingdom area of Vermont and Keegan is from Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks, although they came to Liquids and Solids by different paths. Mr. Loomis trained in the culinary program at Paul Smith College and interned in France while Ms. Konkoski graduated from the school of hard knocks.

“Interning in France was pretty phenomenal,” said Tim. “I learned more there than I did at culinary school.”

Keegan plied her trade at the Foot Rest Café in Saranac Lake, a small town fronting on Lake Flower.

“I was always a cook there, since I was 16,” she said.

They met at the Wawbeek Lodge, a late 19th-century Great Camp on the Upper Saranac Lake that is no longer there, which, until it closed in 2007, was renowned for its Adirondacks-style cuisine. The restaurant, with a stone chimney that split to let a double staircase pass through, was in a building perched on a bluff of boulders.

A large moose head shot by President Theodore Roosevelt looked down from a wall of the Moose and Bear Lounge upstairs from the restaurant. Craft beers were served there before there were craft beers.

“It always had a great reputation and chef,” Tim said. “I worked there the whole time I was in school. It was my first introduction to good food.”

It was at Wawbeek that they met. “I was dating one of Tim’s co-workers,” said Keegan. “When the Wawbeek closed everybody went to work at the Freestyle, which was opening in Lake Placid. I was at North Country College then, but I told them, hey, I don’t have a day job, do you want me to help paint, schlep chairs, whatever.”

Schlepping led to bussing tables to eventually becoming Freestyle’s bartender, while Tim worked on the line in the kitchen.

“We dated for a long time,” said Keegan. “We were together romantically for eleven years. Tim says ten, but it was eleven.”

When the first incarnation of Freestyle closed Tim and Keegan moved on to Lisa G’s, a longstanding casual dining restaurant popular with both locals and out-of-towners. It was across the street from the Handlebar, which would become Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar.

“We knew we wanted to own a restaurant one day, and we loved the area,” said Keegan.

Lake Placid is one of the gateways to the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, a range of 46 mountains. Canoeing and kayaking in the innumerable rivers and lakes, hiking, and mountain biking are popular in the summer.

“Mountain biking is my passion,” said Keegan.

Skiing and snowboarding are go-to’s in the cold-be-damned winter. It is the kind of cold that warps snowflake crystals so that they sparkle.

One week in 2013 when Liquids and Solids was having a bad week they posted a notice on their Facebook page that they would be closed that day because of a broken sink.

“We did have a lot of broken stuff that week, but the sink wasn’t broken,” said Keegan. “It was just a great, beautiful day and we were, like, let’s go snowboarding. But, we said to everyone, the only way we’re going is if everyone who works here goes to Whiteface. We all went to the mountain.”

By the spring of 2010 Tim and Keegan were ready to abandon their social lives, work harder than they ever had before in their lives, and be paid a salary starting at $0. They opened Liquids and Solids.

“When we left Lisa G’s we told Lisa we are not going to step on your feet,” said Tim. “It’s going to be completely different.”

It was completely different.

Liquids and Solids is a haven of craft beers and creative cocktails and an upscale, irreverent kitchen. ‘Put an egg on it for a dollar’ is one of the options on the menu.

“People would say, what, you don’t have Budweiser? You’re never going to make it,” said Keegan.

“Or meat and potatoes,” added Tim.

The Liquids and Solids menu reads as a list of items and ingredients.

“They would read the menu and say, just give me that, but without those things,” said Keegan.

“That’s when we decided we don’t show up for our 15-hour days for someone to change what we care about. We don’t do any substitutions, except if it’s an allergy.”

A part of Aida Management’s ‘10 Ways How Restaurant Failure Can Be Avoided’ is the admonition to customize offerings to guests: “The restaurant menu should be adapted to the needs of your guests. It is not as simple as cooking what you love to cook.”

“Liquids and Solids was born whenever we went out of town and found cuisine we liked,” countered Keegan.

“I try to showcase everything that’s going on in Keeseville, everything I like, from the vegetables and now all the cheeses that are coming out of there,” said Tim.

A take it or leave it attitude can be the death knell for a business, except when it isn’t. Sometimes it’s better to have a hundred people get what you are doing than a million people who can take it or leave it.

“The irreverence so clearly in evidence at this restaurant is the irreverence of an artist who with passion and integrity offers his voice for the sake of the art itself,” was how Pete Nelson described Liquids and Solids in the Adirondack Almanack. “They have a deep understanding of excellent cooking, of the ingredients they use, of balance.”

In 2013 Tim Loomis was a semi-finalist for the prestigious James Beard Best Chef in the Northeast award. The New York Times in 1954 characterized James Beard, a pioneer foodie, author, and teacher at his own cooking school, as the ‘Dean of American Cookery’.

“Wow!” the staff at Liquids and Solids posted on their Facebook page. “Tim’s always telling us he’s awesome, we always believed him, but just never told him.”

By then, their 4th summer, the bar stools had backs, the pool table next to the bar had been removed to add more tables, and the word was out.

“World-class innovative cuisine and drinks,” said Jon Deutsch of Philadelphia. “Seriously, I hope you don’t go because I don’t want a longer wait.”

By their 5th year Liquids and Solids had not only survived, but was prospering on its own terms. It’s when you’ve beaten the odds that the odds don’t matter anymore, not that they ever seemed to matter much at Liquids and Solids.

For all that, Tim Loomis and Keegan Konkoski had transitioned from doing all the dirty work to doing all the dirty work. It continued to consume most of their waking life.

“When it’s 10 o’clock and it’s non-stop, and people are still coming in the door, sometimes you lose it,” said Keegan.

“The board will be full for four hours, and I’m just trying to whack the food out, but sometimes you can’t get a pan hot enough to sear a scallop properly, there’s no time,” said Tim. “That’s when I get frustrated.

“But, when you’re having a good night and it’s just that perfect amount of busy and you can get that pan hot enough, I mean it’s nice.”

“I like the groaning,” said Keegan.

“When you ask people how everything is and they can’t even tell you in words and they’re just saying yummmmm, I like that a lot.”

There are many different kinds of success. Sometimes the best success is being able to spend your life your own way, even though it may preclude monetary gain. Although everyone wants to get ahead, it can be difficult finding success working just for money.

“Success is having to worry about every damn thing in this world, except money,” said the country singer-songwriter Johnny Cash.

“When we started this we said we wanted to hopefully become thousandaires,” said Keegan. “With our size and low budget we’re still trying to get there.”

One of the reasons they are still wannabe thousandaires is the large inventory they maintain of craft beers and complex array of specialty drinks, as well as the integrity of their food.

“At the bar I try to make my drinks as delicious as possible and as big as I can,” said Keegan.

Although their suppliers are largely local, from the Sugar House Creamery in Upper Jay to Kilcoyne Farms in the St. Lawrence Valley, Liquids and Solids chooses its suppliers carefully. From the crème fraiche to the Brussels spouts, the duck prosciutto to the ham, quality is of paramount importance in the kitchen.

“Taste is the first thing I look for, absolutely,” said Tim. “It’s the fundamentals of everything.”

They don’t 86 anything when they’re running on empty, either, at the bar or in the kitchen. “Nine times out of ten nobody would even notice,” said Keegan. “It’s just me being me. I would know I cheated.”

Having reached the high-water five-year mark, in the meantime setting standards for plain deliciousness in Lake Placid, Mr. Loomis and Ms. Konkoski are less certain about Liquids and Solids’s future than it’s present. Their lease expires in 2017 and they have talked about downsizing.

“When we talk about the future we definitely use the word small a lot,” said Keegan.

“One of my favorite places I’ve been to is LePigeon in Portland,” said Tim. “With the entire bar, and every seat filled, there are 36 seats. The bar is around the line and food comes plated right to you. You get to see everything, it’s a little more intimate, and I really enjoy that.”

“When we talk about leaving, the lease, not the area, I get a pit in my stomach,” said Keegan.

Whatever the future bodes for the making or unmaking of Liquids and Solids, Mr. Loomis and Ms. Konkoski, who remain good friends as well as business partners, will be a part of that future, which is not any more uncertain than the present.

“We get to do amazing things because we want to do them. Nothing is set in stone. It might be a different story,” said Keegan.

From the Foot Rest Café to the Wawbeek Great Camp to Liquids and Solids, food and drink never change until they do.

147 Stanley Street (short stories and non-fiction). If you enjoyed this story, consider supporting the site by clicking here to donate. 

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.