Hottest New Restaurants 2009
If it takes a match to set a fire under you, the latest round of new restaurants in the state are heating up their efforts to get you in the door. Good food, good hospitality and good prices are just the start. What are you waiting for?
History as a Side Dish
WOLFEBORO Hay Creek Hospitality has done it again. This time The Wolfeboro Inn was the gracious recipient of the decorator's touch, the architect's vision and loads of cash. The $4 million renovation has put a new shine on a historic property. Wolfe's Tavern retains much of its character, but has been opened up to adjoining rooms. The 1,900, and counting, pewter mugs still line the ceiling (if you drink 62 brews you can have one of your own), and country tavern food rules the menu. But Chef Stephen Harding, formerly of The Exeter Inn, has brought a fresh sense of what quality means. Meats and seafood have been upgraded and local sources sought. U-10 scallops and thick bacon ($10) have replaced a paler version (pictured above). Harding has stepped up to the plate in fine form.
Wolfe's Tavern, The Wolfeboro Inn, 90 N. Main St., Wolfeboro
(603) 569-3016, www.wolfeboroinn.com
Open for breakfast and lunch straight through to dinner, every day
NASHUA Who says tapas have to be from Spain? The menu here travels through the ethnic neighborhoods of the U.S. featuring small-plate tastes presented in a big way. The foie gras ($16) shown here was balanced with braised red cabbage, caramelized pineapple and toasted pistachios. Step into the Latin Quarter with Paella ($24/$12) or Asia Town with orange/hoisin glazed beef skewers ($7). Bartender Jared Bracci has developed an interesting wine list in addition to his own smart martini creations that can be sipped in the hip setting.
Stella Blu, 70 E. Pearl St., Nashua
(603) 578-5557, www.stellablu-nh.com
Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday until midnight, Sunday Brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
NASHUA Many chefs claim to be inspired by their mothers, but at family-run Adria manager Miralem Mulabegovic's mother, Slavica, is the chef. She prepares the foods that Miralem grew up on in Bosnia, including stuffed grape leaves (Sarma) with mashed potatoes, hearty stews and an eggplant dish served with satars, a traditional vegetable dish. Instead of bread, a basket of ustipak -- fried, seasoned dough -- is served to every guest. A flatbread is served with entrées, and it has a wonderful fragrance and home-baked taste. Slavica offers a traditional Bosnian dessert called Ice Cube, with layers of chocolate and vanilla mousse made with ingredients imported from Bosnia. The small restaurant offers a casual bar with limited wine selections, in addition to spirits, in a pleasant setting.
Restaurant Adria, 118 Main St., Nashua
(603) 578-1904, www.restaurantadria.com
Open for lunch and dinner, except Monday
NASHUA Estabrook Grill is in the heart of a senior living complex in a former casket company, but don't let that put you off. The scene is very much alive, and if you are a fan of comfort food, you'll be glad you are, too. Half the space is dedicated to the bar with high-top tables and a special ice tap for cold beers. Chef Dan Duquette fondly remembers the Modern. The Nashua classic restaurant closed about 10 years ago, and he has done his best to bring its spirit back. Classic foods are done right here -- pot pies, rotisserie chicken, chicken Cordon Bleu and mac 'n cheese with five cheeses. Breakfast offers crêpes, roast beef hash, center-cut Pitt ham and fresh hollandaise for the Benedict. Dan, with relatives far north, also serves up a taste of French-Canadian classics with poutine -- fresh cheese curds and homemade gravy over hand-cut fries. Even the desserts are made from scratch. Beignets dipped in maple syrup are just the place to start.
57 Palm St., Nashua, (603) 943-5035
Open for breakfast through dinner, except Monday
Common Man Portsmouth
PORTSMOUTH The Common Man Restaurants have their tried and true American fare menus, but the new Portsmouth location and Chef John Harrington are putting special emphasis on seafood to honor their location on the seacoast. Find lobster mac 'n cheese ($20) and a Nantucket sauté with lobster cream sauce ($21) among more classic dishes like baked haddock. The former Victory 96 State Street has been warmed up in the traditional Common Man style with intimate seating and eclectic décor.
Common Man Portsmouth
96 State St., Portsmouth
(603) 334-6225, www.thecman.com
Open for dinner every day
Raising Your Glass
NORTH CONWAY Try your wine with food at this tapas bar and wine outlet. To the left find a small wine boutique dedicated to select wines, or sit at the small bar or larger seating area and sample wines with an interesting array of tapas, salads and regular entrées. Owner Kathy Smith and her son Jason work magic between food and wine pairs. Here, a great wine comes first, and then Kathy and her chef work to create a dish that is the perfect match. This fall find a J.L. Wolf Gewürztraminer paired with a cider-glazed pork tenderloin with a lingonberry reduction ($16.99 or $22.99 with suggested wine). This is an easy way to find out about new and interesting wines made better with the right food match.
2697 White Mountain Hwy., North Conway
(603) 356-8463, www.winethymewolfeboro.com
Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday
A Light Touch
CONCORD Owners Sunny Chang and Kim Lully have found their culinary destiny. Sunny cooked at his parents' restaurant, The Korean Place in Manchester, for 10 years. After they decided to retire, he chose to steer away from traditional Korean cuisine and start fresh with a new location, in a new town, with a bistro menu of his own design. You won't find bread on the table or overly-rich sauces -- but instead a lighter pan-Asian touch to American favorites. Grilled steak ($18) is served with buttery Chinese cabbage and salmon is served with hoisin sauce and crispy salmon skin ($19). Lunch offers a taste of dinner with scaled-down portions. Sunny has reached out to local purveyors and farmers, building specials on seasonal availability. Fans of The Korean Place will find a tip of the hat to a few of their favorites in this new setting -- maybe even hot pot this winter.
Sunny's Table, 11 Depot St., Concord
(603) 225-8181, www.sunnystable.com
Open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Saturday
MANCHESTER Hats off to the owners for putting their heart and soul into the transformation of an industrial space to create an inviting bar and restaurant. Intimate seating areas have been designed to reflect the past with exposed brick, tall ceilings and subdued lighting. And a sizeable bar beckons. A new menu retools a few favorites and adds more variety to the offerings. From the pumpkin lasagne ($16.95) to the peppercorn-encrusted pork tenderloin ($17.95) to the huge eight-ounce Firefly burger ($8.95) there is something for everyone. Nothing esoteric here, just high-profile flavors from the well-known qualities of Dijon mustard, truffles, brandy, bourbon, ginger and applewood-smoked bacon. The house-smoked salmon is rife with the aroma of mesquite and lightly complemented with a citrus butter ($17.95). Hats off to the menu, too.
Firefly American Bistro & Bar
22 Concord St., Manchester
(603) 935-9740, www.fireflynh.com
Open lunch through dinner daily
CONCORD The former Cat 'n Fiddle space has been transformed into a modern Japanese dining experience. Sprawling Ichiban is really three restaurants in one. As you enter, the striking Koi Bar pleases the eye, offering top-shelf vodkas for your favorite martini or Asian drink. To the left is restaurant seating in cozy booths to enjoy Japanese appetizers including tempura, Yakitori (chicken on a skewer), sukiyaki and Japanese spring rolls. Head straight through the bar and find a series of hibachi tables where coordinated chefs juggle knives for your dining entertainment. To the right of the entrance is a smaller sushi bar area for savoring a good selection of house rolls ($8 to $15), fresh sushi and sashimi beautifully presented.
Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse, Sushi Bar and Lounge
118 Manchester St., Concord
Open for lunch and dinner daily
MANCHESTER Ignite! Yes, that is what the chef exclaims as he flames up your ManchVegas salad, an order of mixed greens aside a sizzling platter of onions, red pepper, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes with chicken and shrimp ($12.99). Flames and flavor are king at this cozy comfort food eatery. Co-owner Neville Pereira says, "There is no such thing as too much garlic." The menu touches on cuisine across the states, from maple-glazed scallops and bacon ($9.99) to Maryland crab cakes ($10.99) to Bayou wings ($7.99) served with a Cajun dipping sauce. Neville claims to the have the juiciest Reuben ($8.49) in town and the best burgers. The fried calamari ($9.99), with a few tentacles as a treat, is tender and crispy even after it is tossed with a pepper-garlic sauce. His Alpha Omega burger ($8.99) is 10 ounces of fresh-ground hamburger topped with grilled onions and peppers with melted feta, lettuce, tomato and tzatziki sauce. Maybe we should say Opa!
Ignite Bar and Grill
100 Hanover St., Manchester
(603) 644-0064, www.ignitebng.com
Open for lunch through dinner, Monday through Saturday
O Steak and Seafood
CONCORD Chef/Restaurateur Scott Ouelette is doing it again -- this time taking his popular O Steak and Seafood restaurant to Concord. His Lakeport location at the Lake Opechee Inn has been a hit in the Lakes Region with its upscale comfort food and high-end décor. Expect to find the same menu at this new location, including his now-legendary Kobe beef pops and O chips -- hand-cut potato slices lathered with a bleu cheese sauce. The dining room will be sophisticated, but intimate, offering diners a first-rate experience. Evening hours will extend when events are scheduled at nearby arts venues. Scott plans to have the space open by the end of the year.
O Steak and Seafood
11 S. Main Street, Concord
Open for lunch and dinner
MANCHESTER Roi Shpindler of Caesario's has gone upscale with the help of Chefs George Bezanson and Michael Dussault. Michael brought fame to Manhattan on Pearl and George put a gourmet twist on lunch at the Bridge Café. Now the duo is working side by side with the ying and yang of flavors inspired from France, Spain, Asia, the Middle East and even reaching into the past of the Vikings. In a word, eclectic. The Harvest Chicken ($20) featured on this month's cover is an homage to the classic food Michael grew up on. But this is not your grandmother's food. It is approachable, but the flavors are unique and intrigue the tongue.
1105 Elm St., Manchester
(603) 625-6468, www.mintbistronh.com
Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.
MANCHESTER Rosa Paolini is back with her own hot spot on Elm. She and Matt Mailloux have converted the old Taste of Europe into a hip-hopping, thoroughly modern sanctuary dedicated to food, drink and good times. From the white furniture in the lounge area to the electronic fireplace to the curvilinear ceiling, the place shouts out sit and stay a spell. Regular restaurant dining is compacted into a front room with views of Elm Street. Rosa brought in Chef Kevin Donahue, formerly of the Atkinson Country Club, to devise a menu of small plates, tapas and entrées -- all under $20. The pumpkin bisque is as good as you imagine it should be. The wine list is short but carefully considered and will grow with time.
870 Elm St., Manchester
Open for lunch and dinner
Monday through Saturday
PETERBOROUGH restaurateur Dave Chicane has opened another approachable dining spot. Dave's philosophy of affordable, healthy dining has spilled over from his Southeast Asian-influenced Pearl Restaurant and Oyster Bar to re-center on Mexican cuisine. Not Tex-Mex, but the kind of food grandmas on the outskirts of Mexico City or Puerto Vallerta might be making for dinner tonight. Although the inspiration is from south of the border, the ingredients are from local farms. Dave has long been a supporter of the local food movement and the spirit of Slow Food. Find an extensive list of 65 tequilas for some fine margaritas made with fresh-squeezed limes and cane sugar -- no bottled mixes here.
Cantine Mexican Food
1 Jaffrey Rd. (Rte. 202), Peterborough
(same stripmall as Pearl)
(603) 924-3883, www.cantinemex.com
Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday
New and Improved 2009
New Hampshire's dining scene has new restaurants opening, new chefs arriving, familiar chefs returning and changes in both menus and venues. By Barbara Radcliffe Rogers.
In the face of the past year's economic woes, it's not surprising that comfort foods and breakfast-lunch spots account for a larger-than-usual share.
Comfort Foods Grill in Portsmouth
(793-3212,www.comfortfoodsgrill.com) serves breakfast classics, including seven different omelets with international flavors -- Italian, Spanish, German and Greek. Lunch comfort includes old favorites with a touch of improvisation and updating.
The Irish pub Ri Ra's much-anticipated opening in Portsmouth (319-1680, www.rira.com) came just in time for St. Patrick's Day. Built entirely from authentic pub salvage collected and restored in Ireland, the atmosphere is as authentic as the food. There's live music Thursday through Sunday nights.
Seacoast diners are welcoming back Chef Ben Hasty, this time to Epoch Restaurant at The Exeter Inn (778-3763, www.epochrestaurant.com). Chef Hasty brings with him a passion for using local produce, meats, poultry and seafood in sophisticated dishes. Elsewhere in Exeter, Pimentos (583-4501, www.pimentosrestaurantandlounge.com) has added a new wine bar upstairs in the restaurant and has expanded the menu.
In Raymond, Yankee Food Market and Restaurant (895-0186) has moved and expanded from a specialty meat store to a casual steakhouse. Meanwhile in Salem, Wasabi Steakhouse Sushi Bar (890-1688, www.nhwasabisteakhouse.com) now offers online ordering from a full sushi menu, plus appetizers and entrées for pick-up or delivery.
News in Nashua is the opening of Meena's Kitchen (204-5025, www.meenaskitchen.com), a vegetarian Indian restaurant on Pearl Street offering a six-course dinner for $12.99, and of Thousand Crane II (579-0888, www.thousandcranerestaurant.com) in the former Jasmine Palace location, also on Pearl.
A vegan restaurant that carnivores rave about is bound to get attention, and the few tables at Café Indigo in Concord (224-1770, www.cafeindigo.com) are already filling. The carrot cake that made them famous is now available in food shops and served at Granite Restaurant.
Red Arrow owner Carol Sheehan has opened J's Tavern Under the Bridge (249-9222, www.jstavernnh.com) underneath her Milford Diner. The small restaurant and bar serves signature martinis.
In the Monadnock Region, Carolyn Edwards has moved her popular Sunflowers Café (593-3303, www.sunflowerscatering.com) from Fitzwilliam to the Jaffrey spot vacated by Aylmer's Grille that moved to the Woodbound Inn & Resort. The café now has a bar, and is open for dinner as well as lunch and Sunday brunch. Entertainment is offered on a regular schedule.
The bright-colored façade of Pedraza's Mexican Restaurant (352-3199, www.pedrazasmexicanrestaurant.com) aroused considerable controversy when it opened on Keene's Central Square, but attention now seems more focused on its authentic Mexican food. Just off Main Street in the nicely converted former bus station, The Port Authority Café (283-5024) serves attention-grabbing sandwiches with hand-cut fries until midnight -- or 2 a.m. on weekends.
Just north of Keene on Route 12, Summit Steak House and Tavern (358-3331, www.summitsteakhouseandtavern.com) offers sunset views over the Connecticut Valley and a menu of steaks and creative entrées such as Caramelized Scallops with Smoked Lobster Sauce.
In Hanover, the former Carpaccio space has been taken over by former employees serving Italian cuisine with local resources. The new venture is called Salubre Trattoria (643-2007, www.salubrehanover.com).
In the Lakes Region, the Irish restaurant Kathleen's Cottage (744-6336) has replaced Cu Na Mara in Bristol, offering an authentic menu and live music on weekends. The menu, whisky selection and microbrew list have all expanded.
Early last summer Heat (366-2110) replaced JT's Barbecue in Weirs Beach, serving wood-baked pizza, pasta and ribs along with owner Davida Cook's hand-made desserts. Thai Smile Thai & Sushi Restaurant (536-1788, www.thaismilenh.com) is luring travelers from I-93 into Plymouth for Thai, Japanese and pan-Asian cuisine; their Crab Rangoon gets special raves.
Farther North, Littleton has two additions. Beal House Inn (444-2661, www.thebealhouseinn.com) has a new owner and Brian Coffey, former chef/owner of Birches Grill in Gorham, is the new chef. At Chang Thai Café (444-8810, www.changthaicafe.com) Emshika Alberini blends traditional Thai with contemporary cuisine.
Ben Williams, former owner of Horsefeathers, has opened a smart new restaurant, Black Cap Grill (603-356-2225, www.blackcapgrille.com) at Settler's Green. The menu is accessible, with sandwiches, build-your-own burgers, bar favorites and variety of mains.
Chef Neil Connolly has joined Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa (484-3843, www.mountainviewgrand.com) in Whitefield. He spent 10 years as personal chef to the late Senator Edward Kennedy.
In Gorham, Chef/owners Liz and Steve Jackson of Libby's Bistro (466-5330, www.libbysbistro.net) have opened a new pub downstairs, with the same great kitchen, a less complicated menu and a casual atmosphere where hikers and skiers will be comfortable just off the trails.
At The Balsams (800-255-0600, www.thebalsams.com) local management has taken over for Delaware North. Back is Jeff McIver who worked alongside Steve Barba before the takeover. Josh Berry is the new executive chef and Chris Harmon is the chef de cuisine. They are busy re-establishing the superior dining experience that had been a hallmark of the resort. NH