I'm usually covered in mud when I visit the ADK Cafe, but the mountains on the restaurant's walls assure me that's OK.

I remember when I discovered the cozy Keene cafe almost four years ago. It was August, Anna and I were newly married, and we had just finished a grueling hike up Giant Mountain and Rocky Peak Ridge.

The view from Giant Mountain.

When good days turn bad

We had followed the steep and exposed ridge trail up the 4,627-foot Giant under blue skies, then taken the right turn that's one-tenth of a mile from the summit to head toward Rocky. The trail descends the side of Giant in a staggering plunge that subtracts elevation in an unflinching fashion. After that it gently climbs to Rocky Peak's open crown.

From that perch, Anna and I enjoyed views of Lake Champlain, the Dix Range, and the pitch-black wall of thunderstorm that was quickly swallowing the Great Range like an ominous sky bruise. A gut-rattling thunderclap confirmed my suspicion: We needed to get back, and fast.

We cruised down to the col between the two mountains in record time, but we weren't hasty enough to beat the storm. A flash of lightning lit up the sky as we scrambled through mud and clambered over tree roots to get back up Giant, then the deluge began. By the time we reached the summit ridge and began our descent, the treetops — mostly stunted balsam, white birch, and mountain ash — were making 90-degree bends a few feet above our heads. The wind, rain, and lightning cooperated to create a terrifying and sketchy 3-mile jog to the relative safety of the forest below.

Here's to safety — and meatloaf

Needless to say we were drenched, exhausted, and covered in mud when we stumbled into the ADK Cafe later that afternoon. I remember our waitress laughing with a hearty, look-what-the-cat-dragged-in nod of approval as she seated us and explained the specials. I don't remember what Anna ordered, but I know what I had: Meatloaf with a side of macaroni and cheese. It was simply the best meatloaf and mac-n-cheese I'd ever tasted, and that wasn't the mud bath or the near-death experience talking.

The ADK Cafe is on state Route 73 in Keene.

The ADK Cafe has since become something of a post-hike habit, and I recently realized I'd never been there any other time. That all changed last week when my friend Jess and I went there for lunch. It was a mid-workday meal, so for once my clothes were clean and dry, and I didn't have red spruce needles in my hair.

In good taste

As always, the dining room decor seemed as if it were specifically designed for me. It's Adirondacks to the 100th degree, from the tree-limb table legs to the aforementioned illustrations of the High Peaks which decorate the walls. The best part is, the peaks are all labeled. In my mind there's nothing better than being surrounded by mountains, even when I'm indoors.

The Cafe has a breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu. I decided to order something I'd never tried off of the reasonably-priced lunch menu, the corned beef Reuben sandwich, with a side of the Cafe's divine macaroni and cheese. I can't get enough of that stuff.

An ADK Cafe egg salad sandwich.

Jess ordered an egg salad sandwich, which she immediately praised after taking her first bite. My Reuben was as good as anything I've ordered here, so it too was excellent. The meat was tender, the sauerkraut was crispy, and the cheese was gooey. So good. I'm not a fan of bagged potato chips, but the homemade cafe chips that came with the Reuben are in a league of their own. They're well-seasoned, crispy, and impossible to stop eating.

The Reuben.

I didn't want to slip into a food coma, so I skipped dessert. That's a decision I don't recommend. The Cafe's fresh-baked pies and cookies are as scrumptious as they are beautiful — true works of art. There are also drink specials, like the maple syrup margarita, if you're so inclined.

Perhaps the secret behind ADK Cafe's delectable offerings is the fact that the ingredients are sourced as locally as possible, and everything is made in house. Restaurants like this buck the package-to-table trend that's so common in American eateries — the dishes here are made by people who care about food, for people who care about food. This is farm-to-table dining at its finest, and it should only take one visit to convince you there is no better way to eat. If you have any doubts, visit some of the farmers who produce the ingredients. They're right down the road.

After a hike and dinner at the ADK Cafe, why not stop by one of our local art galleries or shops?

This week in related ADK news:

Home cooking that's better than Mom's

Bacon and donuts and pancakes, oh my!

Southern BBQ on the ADK Coast

Beef — it’s what’s for dinner

From fancy to flannel

Coffee, burgers, and brews

A quarter pound of lobster lovin'