Community flavor

The Fiddlehead Bistro offers locally-sourced world cuisine

Windows showcase downtown Saranac Lake and the Saranac River from the tables at the Fiddlehead Bistro, which opened for business Thursday. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

SARANAC LAKE — Locally made and eclectic.

That’s how you’d describe just about everything at the Fiddlehead Bistro, from its menu to its tables to the paintings on the wall.

Two years and nine months after Shamim Allen and Craig Bailey bought 33 Broadway, and spent countless hours gutting and rebuilding it, the 40-seat restaurant opened its doors Thursday night to a packed house.

“It’s been exciting and stressful,” Allen said earlier Thursday during a tour of the building. “Everybody’s coming together. We have had so much help from friends. Jeff Biby is tightening up chairs right now. Jason Brill put together chairs last night. Mark Coleman from Ampersound was putting speakers and wires together late last night. People have been really great.”

The Fiddlehead Bistro sits on a narrow half-acre lot between Dorsey Street and the Saranac River. Located across the river from the former Dew Drop Inn, which is also slated to be reopened as a restaurant and bar, the building at 33 Broadway housed several restaurants over the years, most recently the former Morgan’s 11 wood-fired pizza shop.

Shamim Allen, co-owner of the Fiddlehead Bistro in Saranac Lake shows off the twisted, red cedar root system, found at a yard sale by Saranac Lake resident Steve Langdon, that now hangs in the stairwell of the restaurant. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

Allen and Bailey brought it in the spring of 2014. It was where the couple had their first date when they were in their 20s. A few years later, they got married, then divorced, then got back together again in 2012.

From the beginning, Allen said the goal was to make the Fiddlehead “a community effort, community supported and beautiful.” That’s part of the reason why it took so long to complete, she explained.

“We weren’t going to skimp on quality,” she said. “I would say to people, ‘Yes, it’s taking a long time. We have a very small crew, but I never lose sleep about whether it’s getting done right.'”

The small construction crew — primarily Bailey, Dave Godfrey and Eric Miller — also ran into plenty of challenges and pitfalls during the renovation, Allen said. The discovery of asbestos in the ceiling and rotten wood along the building’s river side set the project back at different times.

“When you open up a wall, you don’t know what you’re going to find,” she said. “We thought we had a walk-in cooler that was awesome, but when the guys cut into it to expand it a little bit, it had black mold inside the walls. The whole thing had to come down. The cement floor had to get jack hammered. They rebuilt the entire walk-in cooler from scratch. You can’t plan for that.”

Jeff Biby makes adjustments to a chair inside the Fiddlehead Bistro in Saranac Lake a few hours before the restaurant opened its doors to the public Thursday. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

Looking out across the Fiddlehead’s dining area on Thursday, however, Allen said the final product is even better that what she imagined.

“Part of it is what I envisioned, but there are other parts I couldn’t have even imagined,” she said. “Like the entryway. That round, beautiful vestibule was completely Dave Godfrey and Eric Miller. That was their brainchild, they made it happen, and it’s stunning.”

Local hands helped build, equip and decorate the restaurant. Its floors are made of homegrown cherry wood from Addison Bickford’s property in Rainbow Lake. Each of its tables were built by local craftsmen like Peter Hughes, Russ DeFonce and Paul Snyder. Original paintings by artists Ken Wiley and Kathy Fadden, and a sculpture by Carol Vossler, adorn the walls. Kathy Ford spent every night at the cafe for more than two weeks hand painting a glass mural that separates the dining area from its bar and lounge.

“We have a great artistic community, and we wanted to celebrate and showcase that,” Allen said.

Perhaps nothing stands out more than the massive, twisted, red cedar root system that’s been affixed to the stairwell wall. Allen said Saranac Lake resident Steve Langdon found it at a yard sale.

This old Vulcan stove serves as the host table and is one of the many unique features inside the Fiddlehead Bistro in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

“This was like two years ago,” she said. “He called me up right away and said, ‘Shamim, I know this is really weird, but I thought this may be something you want for your restaurant.’ It’s been sitting up against my garage for the last two years. Beth Hogle painted and stained it with a water-based antique finish. So it’s completely finished, but it looks raw.”

The restaurant’s menu also reflects Allen and Bailey’s commitment to keeping it local as much as possible.

“The focus is the local ingredients we can get. The organic ingredients we can get,” Allen said.

“It’s going to be really eclectic,” said Bailey, who’s the Fiddlehead’s head chef. “We’re doing a classic British dish. We’re doing a Thai dish, an Indian dish, a fusion thing. It’s all over the place. Two thirds of the menu is vegetarian or vegan.”

“We believe that people up here do want to try different things and be exposed to different flavors and textures,” Allen said. “We’re going to have that here — even different kinds of drinks with local ingredients. We have elderberry syrup that our head bartender, Jen Norman, made. We have balsam honey syrup that goes great with bourbon. We’re going to figure out how to use as much local stuff as we can.”

The Fiddlehead Bistro, at 33 Broadway in Saranac Lake, opened for business Thursday. The restaurant is open Thursday through Monday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

Including Allen and Bailey, the Fiddlehead has a staff of seven people. It’s open for dinner Thursday through Monday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Reservations, which are strongly recommended, can be made by calling 518-891-2002.


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