2011 Hot New NH Restaurants
The best new restaurants that opened this year
It's been another tough year for the economy all round but - in spite of dismal economic forecasts - chefs and restaurateurs continue to open new venues, take over failed enterprises and in general keep the table set for the adoring public that yearns for a great dining experience. It's a demand that doesn't seem to end - we just love good food served in a pleasant manner in a setting that brightens our day. This year has brought out a host of new restaurants, and the demand from the public for farm fresh, locally sourced produce and proteins is being answered. Here's hoping that great food and good service will never go unappreciated, too.
Tuscan Kitchen: Passion for Italy
When you first walk into the Tuscan Kitchen in Salem, you come to the quick realization that this experience is going to thin your wallet. But, just as suddenly, you don't care. The room is very inviting. Wide wood slat shades filter the light at dusk, and the carpeting, upholstery and colors are rich and warm. The walls are lined with intimate booth seating but, wherever you sit, you'll be enveloped with a sense of rustic, but elegant comfort. Owners Chef Jim Rogers and Joe Faro are on a mission to evoke the fine dining experiences of Italy, and not just Tuscany. The pair have a background in pasta-making, and fresh pasta and artisan breads are at the heart of the menu.
Central to the room is the pasta bar where patrons can watch linguini and other flat pastas being cut, cooked and sauced. Central to the pasta bar is the wood-fired oven that births thin-crust pizza and entrée selections from grilled meats to grilled vegetables. Careful consideration has been given to a gluten-free menu that almost mirrors the length and breadth of the regular offerings. Desserts are not to be missed. Consider the house-made gelatos - the basil ice cream will make you swoon. Offerings change daily so be ready to be surprised.
The wine bar upstairs has live entertainment Thursday through Saturday and offers a special wine-tasting menu on Wednesday evenings for $30.
Sunday at the Tuscan is like afternoon dinner with an Italian family. "Pranzo" starts with selections of imported cured meats and cheeses, centers on a classic "Sunday Sauce" for meatballs and trades on the strength of the slow-roasted sirloin and grilled vegetables. The dolci offering is hand-made cannoli from the very busy pastry kitchen. $25 per person for this prix fixe meal on Sundays only.
Don't Miss: The handmade roasted butternut squash cappellacci ($10) freshly made every morning and browned up at the pasta bar. You can watch the chefs flip and swirl your appetizer or entrée on the spot.
Sourced Locally: Cheeses and some produce in season
Check it out:
67 Main Street, Salem, NH
Serving: Lunch Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m to 3 p.m.; dinner Monday through Saturday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday noon to 9 p.m.; Sunday Pranzo, noon to 4 p.m.
Tek-Nique: Low lights and high hopes
Is it the right time to open a fine dining restaurant? Chef Matt Trottier has his hopes up and his imagination fired to provide an excellent dining experience in a softly lit room with a modern feel. He named his restaurant Tek-Nique to emphasize his skill set. After working for top chefs in southern New Hampshire and a five-star venue near Washington, D.C., he has seen all the hits and misses on other menus and is now focused on how he likes food prepared - and at fair prices, too. You'll find a lot of depth in Trottier's menu - bone marrow risotto and braised rabbit, but also popular standards such as rib eye and braised pork shank that will placate the timid diner. There is plenty of adventurous eating here, though, with truffle-scented spring chicken and veal chops with celery root purée. Also plenty of from-scratch offerings, including hand-rolled gnocchi and proper veal jus. More than that, it's the complimentary sauces and creative treatment of vegetables and starches that makes dining here a pleasure.
Not to Miss: The pecan crusted boneless short ribs with a toasty crunch coating and juicy succulence. ($24)
Sourced Locally: Produce comes from Lull Farms. Rabbit is local.
Check it out:
170 Rt., 101, Bedford, NH
Serving: Open nightly from 4 p.m. Sunday brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Hooked: King of the sea
Restaurateur Neville Pereira opened Hooked right next door to his popular Ignite restaurant on Hanover Street in Manchester. The theme for this new restaurant is seafood and, as it is with Ignite, flavor is king. The seafood offerings, including the Aegean Haddock Piccata, are slathered in rich sauces while spices add a few hot notes as in the Tandoori salmon ($20). You can stay on the lighter side with entrée salads such as the Ocean Fire Salad - fresh greens topped with sizzling onions, peppers and sun-dried tomatoes with bay scallops and mussels. A raw bar rounds out the seafood offerings with a short selection of oysters, clams, cocktail shrimp, smoked trout and smoked pastrami salmon.
Hot Dish: Calamari with cherry pepper and cayenne lime aioli ($10)
Sourced Locally: Desserts are from Sweet Cierra's located in Manchester's Millyard.
Check it out:
110 Hanover Street, Manchester, NH
Serving: Monday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Delux: This time for real
Editor's note: Delux has since closed. 11eleven Bistro is now open in the same space. Chef Matt Provencher moved to Martingale Wharf in Portsmouth. Chef Matt Provencher has taken over the former Richard's Bistro and is making it all his own, finally. His new name for the spot, "Delux," is not to be confused with snooty high-end dining. As Provencher says, his new menu will be "approachable." He will feature steaks and frites and the slow-roasted meats he has been preparing all along, like his braised pig shanks with a soy and honey glaze. Other fun items on the menu includes pretzel-crusted calamari and a full raw bar. Sundays brings a full à la carte brunch including homemade corned beef hash with poached egg and a "Delux Mary" - a bloody Mary brown sugar spiced rim served with seared foie gras. The interior has been refreshed with more bar seating and Provencher is working with the New Hampshire Institute of Art to showcase local student and teacher art. Expected opening is in early November.
Hot Dish: Duck in a Jar ($26)
Sourced Locally: Provencher has been one of the biggest advocates of local food in the Manchester area, so expect to see plenty of local meats as specials and local produce on this menu.
Check it out:
36 Lowell Street, Manchester, NH
Serving: Lunch Monday through Friday, dinner nightly from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Mint Bistro: Encore performance
The new Mint Bistro is maybe more fitting to its name with additional bar seating given over to a sushi bar. Shpindler brought in a sushi chef from New York to slice it right and is on hand himself in the kitchen with new staff serving nicely plated bistro food, including inventive tapas, with just the right touch of creativity and flavors. The room itself was modernized by interior design consultants Leslie Rifkin of L. Newman Associates along with Paul Mansback. Peek-a-boo oval cutouts in the ceiling reveal rafters swimming in a soft orange glow. New hardwoods on the floor and other upscale touches make the eatery even more inviting.
Hot Dish: Mint Fish Tacos with blacked cod and cilantro sour cream ($8)
Check it out:
1105 Elm Street, Manchester, NH
Serving: Daily for dinner from 4 p.m. to last call, sushi until midnight
Terra On Main: Down to Earth
Editor's note: Sadly, Terra on Main has closed. Restaurateur Teresa Tupaj Wood understands the dining scene in Bethlehem. As a former co-owner of Bailiwicks she knows how to find the right mix of food offerings with the right atmosphere. Zeroing in on the farm to table movement, she hired chef Executive Chef Rich Larcom from Vermont to execute her vision. As a team the two have focused what is fresh, local and interesting - consider elk paté or vegetable studel or free-range chicken. Dessert has a twist, too, with cheesecake made with a local chevre. The menu is short but changes are made almost weekly to reflect what can be found locally including foraged mushrooms.
Sunday brunch is a meld of a few of the simpler entrées from the dinner menu and eggs Benedict, omelettes, blueberry pancakes, grilled steak topped with an egg and the "Hangtown Fry" - baked eggs with fried oysters and cob-smoked bacon with your choice of side. ($15)
Hot Dish: Duck breast with blackberries and a port wine gastrique ($22)
Sourced Locally: Most of the proteins, including the chicken, are from Meadowstone Farm. The pork is from Vermont and the burger is from PT farms in North Haverhill. Produce in season.
Check it out:
Terra on Main
2085 Main Street, Bethlehem, NH
Serving: Dinner Tuesday through Sunday, lunch Saturday and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Crush: Perfect pies
"I just wanted to make the best pizza around," says owner Tony Naser. Naser has done his homework. Traveling to pizza hot spots from Boston to New Haven to New York, he found what he wanted in a small shop in New York city - Neopolitan pizza. This pizza, inspired by Naples, Italy, is characterized by the size -14 or 15 inches across - a puffy crust and simple toppings, starting with just-crushed San Marzano tomatoes on top. Crush's selection of pizzas varies from the Margherita with house-made mozzarella cheese to the fungi with seared mushrooms to the Del Rey with a black truffle spread. The pizzas are built on dough made with flour imported from Italy and raised for two days to allow the yeast to develop flavor. The dough is hand stretched and once in the oven puffs and blisters in the high heat of the wood-fired oven. Sandwiches are made with the same dough and baked fresh with each order. For sides, Crush offers calamari, antipasto and snappy chicken wings marinated in lemoncello, garlic and rosemary before being finished on the grill. Desserts offer a taste of Italy, too, with a boozy tiramisu, panna cotta and even a Nutella pizza. The dining space is family-oriented, but does sport a bar serving wine, beer and a choice of red or white wine-based sangria.
Hot Dish: Pizza Del Rey with fresh mozzarella, field mushrooms, prosciutto de Parma and black truffle spread ($17)
Check it out:
449 Amherst Street, Nashua, NH
Serving: Open through lunch and dinner daily from 11:30 a.m. weekends 12 p.m., delivery in Nashua
The former Acqua Bistro has been freshened up with a cleaner interior look and a simpler vision for the menu. Pasta is house-made including the squid ink fettuccini offered in two sizes ($17/12). Flatbread pizzas have a creative touch with fig preserves and herbed goat cheese, spinach and truffle oil or the more basic but nicely conceived prosciutto with tomatoes and house-made mozzarella. Entrée choices are very basic but daily specials add more interest. An offering of "Boards" with local cheeses or roasted and marinated vegetables give variety to an evening snack in the ever-popular bar. In season the space has one of the most inviting outdoor dining spaces around, but otherwise several tables inside have a nice view of the Nubanusit River.
Hot Dish: Braised root vegetables ($18), all the flavor of a braised dish but without the meat.
Sourced Locally: Produce in season from the abundant farms in the Monadnock Region; local cheeses; chicken from Misty Knoll; mushrooms from Wichland Woods; bison from Yankee Farms collective
Check it out:
18 Depot Street, Peterborough, NH
Serving: Dinner Tuesday through Sunday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Surf: Star of the East
In addition to revamping and renaming his classic bistro, Michael Timothy's, in Nashua, Chef Michael Buckley has expanded his circle of influence to the Seacoast. This past summer Buckley added another star to his small constellation of restaurants by opening a new Surf on Bow Street in Portsmouth. The newly constructed building offers views of the harbor and even a small deck with just a few tables. Inside, a large bar is the focal point of the room - now a signature of Surf restaurants. Along the walls banquette seating offers cozy conversation areas with raised unobstructed views to the sea.
Buckley works hard to maintain a well-trained staff while offering an interesting variety of fresh seafood, from a full raw bar with a nice variety of oysters to casual fried fish, with a flair to unexpected entrées like Moroccan spiced scallops. Fans of Surf in Nashua will be pleased the menu is similar, but look for a different set of specials at each restaurant, each featuring fish and shellfish fresh from the wharves.
Don't Miss: Surf and Turf, get the best of land and sea with two grilled tenderloin medallions topped with two Jonah crab cakes. Full $36, half $21
Sourced Locally: Produce in season local lobsters and other Atlantic fish
Check it out:
99 Bow Street, Portsmouth, NH
Serving: Open for dinner from 4 p.m. and lunch Thursday through Saturday at 11 a.m.
Photo by P.T. Sullivan
The District: The late show
The space once occupied by the sleek and modern Pesce Blue has been warmed up with dark woods and soft ambient lighting. The bar was relocated and enlarged because, frankly, that is where people like to sit. The menu is a combination of the sublime and cleverly devised comfort foods - everything from a braised short rib with Korean barbeque and house-made kimchi to chicken and waffles with blackberry and basil syrup to chai-rubbed duck breast. The District also fills a void for late-night diners including those who work in the trade by offering their full menu until midnight.
Hot Dish: All-natural Grilled rib eye ($24)encrusted with spices
Sourced Locally: Chicken from Murray's Farm, produce from the Seacoast farmers markets
Check it out:
103 Congress Street, Portsmouth, NH
Serving: Lunch Wednesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner daily 5 p.m. to midnight
Local chains step up their game
As fine dining restaurants remove the white tablecloths and spell out the menus in plain English, a few chains are upping their ante.
Ground has been broken for the Copper Door, offering "an elevated, yet casual dining experience," according to Tom Boucher of Great NH Restaurants, owner and CEO of T-BONES and Cactus Jack's. The location is on Rte. 101 just across from the Bedford Fire Station. The restaurant is expected to open in late 2011.
Rick Loeffler, owner of Shorty's Mexican Roadhouse, is opening Shorty's Grill in the former location of Daffodils in Bedford on Rte. 101 near Wallace Road. Two other restaurant concepts were tried in that same spot, but neither was run by Loeffler.
The menu will be a hybrid of the highlights of Shorty's Mexican Roadhouse along with simple bistro food, including grilled steaks and fresh fish, and comfort food offering, including burgers, salads and a thin-crust pizza. Entrée prices will be less than $20, says Loeffler.
News and Improved: Changes on the Cuisine Scene
Tough economic times are mixing things up, but enterprising restaurateurs, bakers and wine makers - with new options for wining and dining - have been popping up over the past year.
Find your fix for great Middle Eastern food at A&R Munchies at 20 Schuyler Street in Manchester. Shawarma, kibbe, tabbouleh and stuffed grape leaves are authentic recipes.
Mr. Mac's, a restaurant specializing in, you guessed it, macaroni and cheese opened at 497 Hooksett Road in Manchester.
Eden Restaurant moved from its Salzburg Square location in Amherst to the former Charbel's at 2323 Brown Avenue. in Manchester.
Pochito's Mexican Restaurant and Cantina opened for lunch and dinner in the former Commercial Street Fishery in Manchester (33 S. Commercial Street).
Queen City Cupcakes has opened at 790 Elm Street in Manchester, right next door to Portland Pie Company. This, along with a rash of other new bakeries including Sweet Retreat at 90 Dow Street, also in Manchester, and Cupcake Conspiracy at 583 Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack.
Josh Enright has sold his stake in the Rustic Leaf Bistro in Milford to get back to the original concept of fresh and local foods served in a casual café. The new operation is called Seed to Stalk Café and Catering and is located in Buildings 4 and 6 of the corporate buildings of Bedford Farms across from HomeGoods. He is also working with Amber Grogan of Jewell and the Beanstalk at 793 Somerville Street, south of Valley Street and Elliot Hospital in Manchester. Lunch is by Josh while breakfast by Amber will remain the same.
A new family-run Greek restaurant opened this year in Derry. The Amphora is at 55 Crystal Avenue.
Neville Pereira from Ignite Bar and Grille and Carol Sheehan from Red Arrow Diner have joined forces to create Divots on the River, opening soon. The eatery will sport a three-season porch with views of the Merrimack River and the 10th hole at the Intervale Country Club, 1491 Front Street, Manchester.
Brookstone Grille in Derry has a new chef after the departure of David Smith. Executive Chef Kevin Riley is returning to his home state after studying at the CIA in New York and graduating in 2001. He has done stints at the Four Seasons in Boston and the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.
The Hancock Inn at 33 Main Street in Hancock has new owners, Jarvis and Marcia Coffin. They have spruced up the historic inn and completely renovated the kitchen.
The Lane Hotel at 30 Main Street in Keene is under new management and reopened recently with major renovations.
Nicola's Trattoria in Keene moved from Central Square to 51 Railroad Street this past spring, near the site of a new food cooperative planned for next year.
Waterhouse Restaurant at 18 Depot Street in Peterborough has opened with entrées ranging from $18 to $25, also house-made pastas and gnocchi in two serving sizes are on the menu.
Cantine Mexican Kitchen at 1 Jaffrey Road in Peterborough has been closed by owner Dave Chicane. He has relocated out of state.
Thanh Thanh 3 has opened in the former Sunshine Restaurant at 9 Simon Street in Nashua offering authentic Vietnamese cuisine, including pho and a variety of stir-fry dishes. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. They offer comfortable booth seating and a separate lounge area with high-top tables.
Nearby, Sweeties Bake Shoppe opened at 189 Kinsley Street in Nashua.
Nashua's Buckwheat's Gluten Free may be opening for retail business soon. Currently their bread is carried at Great Harvest Bread Company, a franchise bakery where the hallmark is flour, ground fresh on-site. They are located on Amherst Street across from the Country Tavern.
Crush Neopolitan Pizza has opened at 449 Amherst Street in Nashua with their wood-fired pizzas - one is even deep-fried.
Luna Caprese has opened in the former Ya Mammas/Amigo's site at 75 Daniel Webster Hwy. in Merrimack. Open for lunch and dinner for southern Italian specialties from pizza (lunch) to pasta, chicken and veal (closed Mondays). (603) 578-9950
O'Brien's Sports Bar has opened in Nashua in the former location of Adria at 118 Main Street. Shawn Roy, formerly of the Merrimack Homestead, is the executive chef.
Swan Chocolates closed their downtown retail location.
The town of Amherst approved the construction plans for LaBelle Winery on Rte. 101 near the Amherst-Bedford town line at the former Bragdon Farm property. The new winery complex will include state-of-the-art wine-making equipment and will also feature a tasting room, wine cave, terrace and space for celebrations. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy LaBelle wine in an elegant setting while overlooking the vineyard.
The Seacoast has a bevy of new restaurants, including Chef Michael Buckley's Surf at 99 Bow Street, Street at 801 Islington Street, The Farm Bar and Grill in Dover and Merrill's Place at 3548 Lafayette Road, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Pesce Blue Italian Grill has closed and is now The District. Find a real smokehouse at Porkez BBQ in North Hampton at 184 Lafayette Road., where you can pony up to the bar and sit in real saddle seats. Portsmouth Baking Company at 121 Congress Street downtown offers artisan breads, muffins, cupcakes and hearty lunch items until 8 p.m.
Chef James Haller of Blue Strawbery fame is offering a three-course dinner two times a month at the Black Bean in Rollinsford. Call for reservations and Saturday schedule. (603) 740-4555, $35 (BYOB). Cork fee $2.
Chef Stephen Harding is now executive chef at the Portsmouth Hilton Garden Inn at 100 High Street. Harding was the former executive chef at Epoch at the Exeter Inn and the Wolfeboro Inn. Meanwhile, Chef Robert Bean has taken over at Epoch.
Rick's on Mill Pond at 92 Rte. 125 in Kingston, the former Pond View, has a new steakhouse theme along with fresh décor.
Chef Paula Snow has left the Home Hill Inn in Plainfield to relocate in the Seattle area. New innkeepers and chefs are already in place and are continuing her local dining concepts.
LAKES REGION AND NORTH
Windfire Tavern at 1 Hill Road in Franklin opened this winter. They offer wood-fired pizzas.
The Balsams in Dixville Notch has closed. Personnel are waiting for an economic savior or better times. God save the Queen.