April 10 is Opening Day on the Decks of Portsmouth

There still may be snow on the ground but it's time to drink outside!

Miguel Estrada, Martha McGovern and friends plan to make Opening Day every year.
Photo by susan laughlin

Neither wind, nor rain, nor cold weather dampens the spirit of Opening Day on the decks in Portsmouth. The tradition is as solid as the recently melted ice on the sidewalks once was. Whether the temperature is 45 degrees or a balmy 60 degrees, patrons head to The Old Ferry Landing or Poco’s Bow Street Cantina to salute the coming summer season with a drink in hand. That hand may be wearing mittens or gloves, but the drinks are still heartily quaffed. Opening Day regular Martha McGovern of Portsmouth and several others plan for the day in advance. They take it as a well-deserved vacation day.

The Old Ferry Landing is the first restaurant to open its deck and tradition dictates it happens on the second Thursday of April. Owner Jack Blalock offers his infamous Jimmy Juice as a salute to summer. He came up with the concoction after a trip to the Keys, where he could not find the right flavor for a summer refreshment. His drink has three types of rum and a solid taste of tropical fruit. The perfect complement to the drink is The Old Ferry Landing’s fried scallops. The tender morsels are a fresh taste of the sea, lightly deep-fried. The Blalock family has run the restaurant for more than 30 years. It was once a ferryboat station before bridges were built and the ceiling rafters are original to the structure. The picturesque ferry boats still dock just a few yards away from the deck.

For the less hardy, the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce sponsors a Hit the Decks event in May, where all the decks along Bow Street and more al fresco dining options throughout the city celebrate the coming of the summer season.

A few other restaurants, including Martingale Wharf, have eclipsed Opening Day by having heaters on the decks and are already open, but mark your calendar for April 10. It’s the place to be for hoisting a rum drink to spring. Tell the boss you have a bad case of Spring it is.


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