Best of NH 2014 American & Seafood Restaurants
In this section you'll discover where to find the best steakhouse, creamy and comforting mac and cheese, real BBQ, the biggest lobster roll, great seafood dining and more!
From left: Editor's Picks adult milkshakes from BRGR Bar in Portsmouth, scallops from the Local Eatery in Laconia, a gourmet hamburger from PINE at the Hanover Inn in Hanover and some good old fashioned homecooking from the High Street Farmhouse in Goffstown. Photos by Susan Laughlin.
Adult Milkshakes: What goes best with the perfect burger? The perfect milkshake, of course. At BRGR Bar in the Portwalk Place district of Portsmouth, chef/restaurateur Phelps Craig opened an upscale burger offering located in the Marriott Residence Inn. Vegetarians, rejoice. As your carnivorous friends devour a juicy and creative burger topped with braised short ribs and truffle mayo, you can act righteous with an adult milkshake laced with chocolate, espresso and Patron XO. P.S. The house-made sodas can be adult-ified too. Don’t even bother with a salad. This is sin city.
Calamari: Sizzle Bistro at the Executive Health Club near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport is a pleasant surprise in a hidden location. Enjoy the Tiki bar atmosphere amid tropical plants, firepit tables and the Club’s dazzling pool. The calamari is the best around, tender and crispy served with a slightly sweet sauce.
Cider Experience: Seasonally, you can watch cider being made the old-fashioned way at White Mountain Cider Company in Glen. Any other time just buy the cider and watch a cider donut roll through the protocols of dipping and hot fat until it finally spins off the donut-making machine. Sprinkle the warm reward with a dusting of cinnamon and sugar. There is glory in this simple fruit even in disguise. BTW, the attached restaurant is excellent.
Game Dishes: Although located on the northern edge of the Granite State in the speck of a town, Pittsburg, the Rainbow Grille & Tavern is well worth the journey. It’s located on scenic Back Lake at Tall Timber Lodge, a rustic spot for those who love log cabins or casting flies in cold-running streams. Chef Dave Caron puts a lot of love in his game dishes — you can actually taste it. Is it special seasonings, the friendly ambiance or the backwoods charm? Can’t say for sure, it just works. Head north!
Gourmet Hamburger: There are hamburgers and there are hamburgers. It’s just that the offering at PINE at the Hanover Inn in Hanover takes top honors. Covering all the basics — juicy burger, glistening cheese, hardy bacon and crispy onions on a soft pliant bun. A perfect meld of ingredients seals the deal. So what if it’s $16.
Hidden BBQ Gem: In Hanover, find a cellar den filled with plenty of nooks and crannies to secure a spot to enjoy mounds of smoked brisket and/or slathered ribs. The hidden entry to 3 Guys Basement BBQ is through the alleyway and a Gothic door. Fortunately, you don’t need a special knock to enjoy the burnt ends and a holy roast of 12-hour smoked delicacies accompanied by a choir of house-made sides.
Locally Sourced Diner: This is not your grandfather’s diner food. At Roger’s Redliner Diner in Portsmouth, they serve up dishes that start with whole, raw foods and top grades of meat, and scratch-cook them into what they call “familiar, home-style” meals — French toast (breakfast all day), chili burgers, turkey melts and more. The owner, Roger, also owns Me & Ollie’s Bakery, so you know the breads, rolls and burger buns are super good.
Lunch Spot: If you can’t decide what to have for lunch, being at Twelve Pine in Peterborough won’t help. You stare into the Chef’s Deli case and ponder the two dozen selections, all looking delish. Roast pork loin with leek sauce? Roast Asian vegetables? Grilled salmon? Making the decision harder is the nearby sandwich bar with deli meats, cheeses, veggies and breads, ready to be made into a grilled panini. Once you decide, grab some fresh-brewed coffee or espresso, and head for a table on the porch or stay in the café, where you’re surrounded by specialty foods, fresh flowers and other goodies, all tempting you to take them home.
Mac and Cheese: It seems that every restaurant has a way to jazz up this comfort food classic, but the River Road Tavern in Bedford just might have the most unique of all — crushed up Cheetos sprinkled on top. Sure, classy ingredients like truffle oil and lobster are delicious, but this particular version really speaks to your inner child.
North Country Snackery: For simple, wholesome, good food that’s also inexpensive, head to Ursula’s Snack Shack, a roadside stand (723-9931) located on Rte. 16 that’s just north of Milan and is open from January through October. Ursula, who cooks the American and German fare and bakes each delectable dessert, accepts cash only but you can BYOB. The bratwurst and sauerkraut served with German potato salad is a can’t-miss and for an added bonus, enjoy the spectacular views of the Androscoggin River from the picnic tables and screened-in tented dining area.
Organic Menu: At Blue Moon Evolution in Exeter, owner Kath Gallant takes seriously her commitment to a healthy diet via organic and local choices. Open for lunch and dinner, find a menu deep in creativity with vegetable and grains for a light touch. The raw board offers raw sunflower pâté, marinated raw vegetables while a raw carrot tart is crusted with cashews. Vegans and vegetarians and everyone else, rejoice, your heart will love you back.
Private Dining: So, it is time to propose, celebrate an anniversary or you just had your nails done. If you’re looking for a super-special spot, consider the cupola at Lavinia’s in Center Harbor. Just the trip up two sets of stairs and through grandma’s attic is worth the occasion. Once seated in the cozy space you’ll have views of the lake and windows all around. Enjoy the meal in total privacy, and forget it, there’s not much room for anything else. Reservations required.
Restaurant Bar: There are some restaurants where the bar is the place to be. Unums in Nashua is definitely in that category. It’s not that the dining room isn’t perfectly lovely, it’s just that the large, serpentine bar offers nice views of downtown Nashua through the large plate glass windows and a second smaller bar near the kitchen lets you watch the show as the chef prepares your meal.
Roast Beef Sandwich: Sometimes beauty is not in the décor. At the old-school eatery Beefside in Concord, revel in the layers of succulent beef piled high on the bulky roll. The Giant has six ounces of beef, and if you order a Super, it comes with lettuce, tomato, mayo and American cheese. After all, isn’t beauty in the tastebuds of the beholder?
Rustic Menu: Craving grandma’s chicken pot pie? Mac and cheese? A classic grilled steak? Check out the High Street Farmhouse in Goffstown for all of these dishes, plus more excellent home-style cooking including pulled pork shepherd’s pie, local NH maple-braised short ribs and fresh seafood. It’s all served in what the name suggests — a charming farmhouse.
Scallops: There’s nothing quite as succulent as a fresh scallop with a perfect sear and a slight translucence. At Local Eatery in Laconia, Chef Kevin Halligan makes this perfect seafood dish with a savory risotto and, if it’s your lucky day, a taste of lobster. The old train station setting lends a sweet historic touch to a great meal.
Sliders: At New England Taphouse Grille in Hooksett, you can choose from more than 50 fresh and cold craft beers on tap to slake your thirst. The perfect complement is, of course, a burger. Grab a trio of burger sliders built on a hand-formed certified Angus beef or pork patty. Savor the classic style with chipotle ranch dressing or a nest of southern pulled pork with bourbon BBQ sauce.
Smoked Chicken Enchiladas: When MacDaddy’s Rollin’ Smoke BBQ says “rollin’,” they mean it literally. They take their tasty BBQ dishes on the road as a customized mobile catering service. The Meredith-based company will deliver or stay right where you are and cook. One awesome offering is their smoked deep-dish chicken enchilada — perfectly barbecued chicken, rice, corn, chiles, tomatoes and spices wrapped in a tortilla. If you’re a vegetarian, they’ll make it sans chicken.
Steak Tips: After four generations in the meat business, how could Mr. Steer steak tips not be the best? Perfectly marinated USDA Prime and Choice Angus beef (no tenderizers here), the steak tips (six different kinds) are a summer cookout favorite. If you’re looking to grill something different, try their just-as-delicious lamb tips. People travel to the Londonderry store from all over the area — so many people, in fact, Mr. Steer sells 5,000 pounds of marinated meats each and every week during the summer.
Student Restaurant: Think a gourmet meal is always expensive? Think again. Southern New Hampshire University’s student restaurant The Quill in Manchester offers delicious five-course meals for $28. The restaurant was overhauled about two years ago and now features a bar, sophisticated lighting and a lovely dining environment that rivals any “fancy” restaurant.
Tiny Local Lunch Spot: This New Castle charmer is where the locals meet for breakfast or gather for lunch — it’s part market and part café ooh la la. Ana Gabriela runs Henrys’ Market Café with passion and purpose. A tiny garden in back supplies produce and herbs in season and even out, when she opens a jar of preserved Brussels sprouts. Breakfast is a simple affair with fresh baked goods and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Lunch is giant steps above the typical corner store offerings. Even the simple is sublime — grilled cheese with bacon, roasted cauliflower and Gruyère cheese on roasted garlic ciabatta. Swoon.