Nashua Nexus





It may look like a typical New England downtown, but Nashua is a city of secrets — international secrets. Already home to the most diverse ethnic population in the state, New Hampshire’s second-largest city continues to welcome immigrants from South Asia, China, Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam and Russia, among other locations. The result can be seen, heard and smelled on a walk downtown, where rhythms of Lithuanian, Portuguese and Korean blend into an international melody. Each group adds its own spice and flavor to the melting pot, creating a taste that is distinctively Nashua’s.
Soaring art Masters of oils, sculpture, watercolor and other media find welcoming homes in the Gate City, perhaps none more welcoming than Gallery One (5 Pine St. Ext.). The largest gallery in southern New Hampshire is operated by the Nashua Artists Association. It is tucked away in a refurbished mill building, tipping an artistic hat to the immigrants who worked in the textile industry in the late 1800s. Demonstrations and classes pepper the exhibition schedule. The gallery is also a major stop on the city’s ArtWalk Nashua, held four times a year in the downtown and millyard. Each participating venue typically hosts a reception or music to welcome visitors. Among the galleries taking part is Maison de l’Art (57 East Pearl St.) Impressionist artist and gallery owner Monique Sakellarios, who was schooled at Leonardo Da Vinci School of Art and the American University in Cairo, not only showcases her own sumptuous oils here, but also features works by area artists.
But perhaps one of the most unique artistic stops in Nashua is not in a gallery at all, but found in a most unlikely location — Sohn Tailor (1 Factory St.). From the outside, it is possible to see the unique angel sculptures created by shop owner Kwang Ho Sohn soaring overhead. A sign in the window warns that it is not a gallery, but Sohn is gracious about explaining his work. The soft-spoken Korean native sometimes struggles to communicate in English, but his dark brown eyes sparkle as he explains his wire-and-plaster sculptures, most of which are left stark white. His art has a futuristic quality, as they float, suspended from the ceiling and crowding the window, hiding the dressmaker’s dummies and swatches of fabric. Although his dream is to exhibit the pieces properly, he says the right opportunity has not come along. “I need to present them as flying,” he says, adding that he hopes to someday present his collection in an angel sculpture museum. A written statement explains why he will not sell the pieces: “I want my sculptures to contribute to making the world a more worthwhile place to live in. I would like more good people to meet each other beyond any religious or political dimention (sic),” he wrote. “… They are a small model of a large dream on behalf of millions of people.”
Shopping mecca Nashua is itself a small model of a global marketplace, as savvy shoppers will find. Inside Cooking Matters (97 Main St.), budding chefs can find rows of hot sauces in flavors such as Mad Dog and Raw Heat; dried wood ear, chanterelle and oyster mushrooms; and Speeder & Earl’s Coffee from Vermont in Sumatra, Indonesian and Ethiopian varieties. Owner Tony Adams says many customers come in for the cheeses, too, particularly the cheddar-y varieties from Great Britain. Nearby, Absolutely New Hampshire (113 Main St.) is packed with products made in the Granite State and the perfect place to find a bit of the city’s history, while you stock up on maple products or lilac throws. The shop’s variety of visitors is reflected in the guest book patrons are asked to sign. “We get people from all over the world,” Stuart Jacobs says. “From all four corners of the earth.” Indeed, the notebook looks like a United Nations registration, with recent visitors from Poland, Germany, New Zealand, Brazil and Holland. Down the street, hip boutique SheaLeez (115 Main St.) carries the hot fashions from the Los Angeles and New York scene buyer and owner Vera Sullivan brings from shows. Within the warm gold walls, Jessica Sullivan, Vera’s daughter, is happy to show off some spring trends. “Leggings, flow-y dress tops are coming back,” she says. And for shoes? The 19-year-old says you can’t go wrong with flats or their extreme opposites. “Espadrilles! Those are big again!” In addition to the fashions by companies like Free People or Made, there are racks of shoes by Hype, Stuart Weitzman and Cynthia Rowley by the curtained dressing rooms in the rear. The shop also carries a fun selection of other similar fashion aids, such as Low Beams nipple concealer (“because headlights are for cars”) and Foot Petals, which keep women’s feet protected in heels. If your shopping companion is more into booties than stilettos, it would be wise to cross over to Bippity Boppity Baby (86 Main St.) for classic toys, such as Thomas the Tank Engine products, wooden blocks and ride-on cars, as well as more unique items, like the Pee-pee Teepee, which protects whoever has diaper duty from unwanted spray, and the Clean Shopper, a take-along padded fabric shopping-cart seat cover that lets your baby ride in style anywhere — from Paris, Texas, to Paris, France. Fine pima cotton and alpaca clothing is designed and produced by Zrinka Orr. Zrinka’s (100 Main St.) carries comfortable clothing in color coordinated styles.
Eat it up Perhaps one of the greatest resources in Nashua is its varied collection of eateries, with cuisines for literally every palate. It doesn’t get more all-American than fried chicken. Chicken ’N’ Chips (12 West Hollis St.) has been a city staple for 40 years, serving up its trademark boneless Chix Stix, fried chicken on the bone and home-style Jo Jo potatoes, delivering them in cars powered by discarded cooking oil. For a Middle Eastern twist, Mezza Lebanese Bistro (6 Elm St.) showcases baba ghanouj, tabbouleh and other traditional recipes. While partner Chef Simon Rached stayed busy in the kitchen, Mary Wasielewski says the restaurant’s success is due largely to the city’s population. “Nashua is very diverse. They travel a lot. They’re well cultured. They know good food,” she says.
If you define good food as Asian in flavor, the Vietnam Noodle House (138 Main St.) can fit the bill, or try the feng shui ambiance of Jasmine Palace (116 West Pearl St.). One of the best deals for lunch, however, is the buffet at San Francisco Kitchen (133 Main St.), where you can fill up on all the spring rolls, crab Rangoon, sesame chicken, sushi and fried rice you can handle for one price. The restaurant’s newer, roomier booths are easier to slide in and out of for seconds. Or thirds. The newly expanded restaurant now features Japanese hot pot cooking, or “Shabu Shabu.”
If you prefer the taste of Thailand, you can do no better than the Giant of Siam (5 East Hollis St.). Business is a family affair for owner Korapin Sueksagan, who says the eatery is staffed by her relatives. The paneled walls and rose tablecloths complement a collection of figures, headpieces and artwork with a distinct Thai flavor. “Everything comes from Thailand,” she says. Sueksagan and her husband have operated the restaurant for about 20 years now, attracting customers with family recipes and fresh ingredients. The yellow, red and mussaman curry are among the menu’s most popular dishes, but it is the way the staff greets its customers as if they are welcomed guests that really resonates with regulars. Hospitality is also a priority at Seven Hills Restaurant (57 Factory St.), where owners Umit and Merve Palabiyik have brought the taste of Istanbul to the narrow storefront. Perched on the long brick and wooden bar that occupies most of the street-level room is a samovar, ready to dispense hot water for tea. Among its more unusual drink offerings, the restaurant serves Turkish cola, raki, Turkish wine and, of course, Turkish-style coffee. “Coffee is part of our social life,” Umit Palabiyik explains, noting that the beans don’t grow in his home country, but have to be imported. “If we drink coffee, it’s a special occasion,” he says. Future brides make coffee as a test, he says, and some people believe they can read the future in the “mud” at the bottom of the coffee cup. But there is one java tradition he especially favors. “When you drink a cup of coffee with someone, you are obligated to stay friends for 40 years,” he says. Palabiyik says he warns first-time drinkers that the taste will be very different from and much stronger than the American version of the drink. Foodies at Seven Hills will find a menu filled with wraps, kebabs, omelets and baklava, which Palabiyik noted is often claimed as a Greek or Egyptian invention. “The Greeks say it’s Greek. The Turkish say it’s Turkish,” he says. “I say it’s good.” In the basement, the Palabiyiks have set up a Grand Bazaar, featuring packaged foods and wares from Turkey. “A lot of people come in for Turkish delight, because of the movie,” Palabiyik says, referring to “The Chronicles of Narnia.” The evil White Witch of the C.S. Lewis story enticed youngest brother Edmund with the promise of Turkish delight. Palayibik is happy to oblige the curious with a large display of Hazer Baba Turkish delight, in apricot, honey and almond flavors. About once a month, he and his wife offer cooking classes that highlight the ingredients they sell in the store. “What we have here is a culture,” he says. “We’re trying to sell culture.”
Hospitality is also a priority at Seven Hills Restaurant (57 Factory St.), where owners Umit and Merve Palabiyik have brought the taste of Istanbul to the narrow storefront. Perched on the long brick and wooden bar that occupies most of the street-level room is a samovar, ready to dispense hot water for tea. Among its more unusual drink offerings, the restaurant serves Turkish cola, raki, Turkish wine and, of course, Turkish-style coffee. “Coffee is part of our social life,” Umit Palabiyik explains, noting that the beans don’t grow in his home country, but have to be imported. “If we drink coffee, it’s a special occasion,” he says. Future brides make coffee as a test, he says, and some people believe they can read the future in the “mud” at the bottom of the coffee cup. But there is one java tradition he especially favors. “When you drink a cup of coffee with someone, you are obligated to stay friends for 40 years,” he says. Palabiyik says he warns first-time drinkers that the taste will be very different from and much stronger than the American version of the drink. Foodies at Seven Hills will find a menu filled with wraps, kebabs, omelets and baklava, which Palabiyik noted is often claimed as a Greek or Egyptian invention. “The Greeks say it’s Greek. The Turkish say it’s Turkish,” he says. “I say it’s good.” In the basement, the Palabiyiks have set up a Grand Bazaar, featuring packaged foods and wares from Turkey. “A lot of people come in for Turkish delight, because of the movie,” Palabiyik says, referring to “The Chronicles of Narnia.” The evil White Witch of the C.S. Lewis story enticed youngest brother Edmund with the promise of Turkish delight. Palayibik is happy to oblige the curious with a large display of Hazer Baba Turkish delight, in apricot, honey and almond flavors. About once a month, he and his wife offer cooking classes that highlight the ingredients they sell in the store. “What we have here is a culture,” he says. “We’re trying to sell culture.”
Going out Entertainment in Nashua is just as diverse as its population. Whether you prefer to stroll along the city’s Riverwalk, catch a moment of peace by the river at Le Parc de Norte Renaissance Francaise on Water Street or like to kick back in an antique barbershop chair and watch the game in Castro’s Back Room (182 Main St.), Nashua has a place for you. Sports fans and families crowd Holman Stadium to root for home team The Nashua Pride and partake of fireworks, special guests like “American Idol” reject William Hung and other activities. Mine Falls Park, accessible from downtown, has eight miles of trails for walking or biking in a natural setting along the former power canals that drove the mills. Greeley Park stays busy all summer thanks to the Park and Recreation Department’s SummerFun series of concerts, an annual open-air production by the city’s only professional theater troupe, Yellow Taxi, and the annual Greeley Park Art Show. From fall to spring each year, the Nashua Symphony Orchestra performs world-class classical music in the city’s Keefe auditorium, while the 14 Court Street theater hosts performances by the Peacock Players children’s theater, Nashua Theatre Guild and new groups that pop up every year. Peddler’s Daughter (48 Main St.) not only features live music and good “craic” (that’s Gaelic for fun), but also weekly trivia nights and special speed-dating events. You can find live music on weekends at Del Vaudo’s (112 West Pearl St.) and Wednesday through Sunday at Michael Timothy’s Wine Bar (212 Main St.) Fody's Great American Tavern (9 Clinton St.) in a refurbished Nashua landmark offers an active entertainment schedule with four nights of live music every week and regular stand-up comedy and cabaret-style theater shows. Or puff on a hookah and go dancing at the 603 Lounge (14 West Hollis St.) The Black Orchid (8 Temple St.) has occasional entertainment, but the ambiance makes it a great place for a drink. So, if drinks and conversation are more your speed, Manhattan on Pearl (70 East Pearl St.) features a Spanish-inspired tapas menu complemented by unique takes on the traditional martini using locally produced ingredients. “We try to be reflective of the community,” says mixologist Jared Bracci. No easy task when the community you’re serving is like Nashua’s — constantly changing and growing. NH www.greatamericandowntown.org www.gonashua.com www.nashuatelegraph.com
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