The Kitchen

Matthew Greco and Michael Prete serve up traditional sandwiches with a funky twist

I'm not a lunch person, but even I know a good way to judge a lunch spot is to go at noon and see how busy it is. On a rainy day I go to The Kitchen and there are two tables open and a queue forming at the order counter. A man in fatigues, a FedEx worker and a young dad with his daughter - everyone is here. Ray Charles plays on the stereo and although it's cold outside, The Kitchen is cozy.

This is precisely what owners Matthew Greco and Michael Prete envisioned when they opened The Kitchen last year - to create a "really great lunch spot in Portsmouth serving traditional sandwiches with a funky twist." Serving handcrafted pizzas, salads, sandwiches, "dawgs" and burgers (plus a seasonal dinner menu and weekend brunch), The Kitchen is quickly becoming the place to go for lunch in Portsmouth.

Despite the number of patrons, my food arrives quickly. Piping hot "spudsters" served with truffle ketchup (small order of 7 for $3) do not disappoint - these crispy, creamy grown-up tater tots could easily become habit forming. They arrive in a Chinese to-go container with the Matty Melt ($9), a house-made veggie burger, which Greco says he's having trouble keeping in stock and I can see why. Comprised of sweet potatoes and black beans, it's topped with a seasonal slaw of green apple, green pepper, tomato, onion, a smear of smoked paprika mayo, cheddar and served with fresh, crunchy slaw and a spear of housemade dill pickle. It is, simply put, delicious.

And even though I'm not big on sandwiches, if I see a Po Boy on a menu, I order it. I got mine to go - it's a tightly wrapped torpedo of yumminess: Creole seasoned fried Maine shrimp, pickled onion and roasted red pepper mayo on a sub roll ($8.50). My pickle was thoughtfully tucked in the outer wrapping of the paper so the bread didn't get soggy, thank you very much.

"People love us. I'm happy this is where people want to eat - it's something I'm really proud of," says Greco. "We've developed a group of loyal followers, but we get new faces too." Based on today's meal, this new face will become a familiar one before he knows it.

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