Portsmouth Book & Bar

Sip and dine amidst the shelves of used books



Photo by Michele Duval

Up a few steps of the imposing granite Old Custom House Building you enter a new bookstore-café that feels very modern and hip and, at the same time, like it's been here for awhile. The Portsmouth Book & Bar harks back to an earlier time in downtown Portsmouth, like the 1970s, with people scattered around comfortably reading and sipping beverages in a cool, old building.

The afternoon light comes through the extra large windows, illuminating the great architectural space with plaster cornices, columns and a coffered ceiling. A soft Fleetwood Mac song moves into an old Willie Nelson tune; a large Serrano ham sits on a carving board in the open kitchen behind the bar tiled with soft-gray veined stone; tap handles wait to be pulled. The books are used at 50 percent or more off but this is no Annie's Book Stop. The flannel-gray-painted bookshelves hold 15,000 gorgeous books of every subject matter. The owners want you to know that, first and foremost, they are booksellers with 90 years of experience between them. All well and good, but they appear to also know how to hire and keep a chef.

Chef Amy Mehaffey was with them at their store in Amherst, Mass., too. The nicely affordable menu ($1.25-$12) lists breakfast, house granola, a fruit plate and baked goods; salads, cob, house, southwest and beet and chevre; pressed sandwiches, carved turkey with cheddar and cranberry chutney and three vegetarian choices; small plates, veering towards Spanish classics such as assorted olives, Marcona almonds, charcuterie, a Spanish tortilla (potatoes, eggs and Iberico cheese with romesco) and others; and dessert, chocolate and red wine cake with honey mascarpone and an olive oil cake with lemon curd.

The bar menu ($2.50-$11) is just wine, beer and hard cider but with standout beer choices and a small, internationally varied wine list. Of course, there's excellent coffee and espresso, wi-fi and they will even buy your old books by appointment.

Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Popular Articles

  1. John Gilbert Winant: The Most Important NH Man You Never Knew
    You've heard of our famous former governor, but what do you really know about his illustrious...
  2. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo the Taco Way
    Check out the Hippo de Mayo Taco Challenge (aka the world's largest taco tour)
  3. The Other Mountain Club
    The Randolph Mountain Club, with its low-key, bare-bones approach to outdoorsmanship, keeps...
  4. Summer Guide for Adventure and Outdoors Lovers
    This summer we want you to get outside and choose your own adventure
  5. Ultimate Summer Festivals
    There are summer fests galore in New Hampshire, but here are a few noteworthy ones no epic summer...
  6. The NH State Library Celebrates 300 Years
    One of New Hampshire's many "firsts" marks a major milestone this year.
  7. Where to Find Big Fun in Littleton
    There's always gladness in this big little city.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags