2015's Best New Restaurants
Here are 12 new restaurants - many of them focusing on local sources - we think you should try right now
The dining scene continues to be redefined by what enterprising chefs really want to do. Several fine dining restaurants have closed, but new concepts — from creative pizza to hyper-local to small plates — are filling in the gaps. Tablecloths are disappearing and the worn patina of rustic wood is considered the perfect touch. Edison bulbs are everywhere, with their retro look casting a warm glow over the scene. And, of course, the words “fresh and local” seem to the be secret passwords to success. Local sourcing is spelled out on blackboards and menus, and physically displayed with pitchforks and plaid. All hail the farmer.
“Lovin’ the Oven”
Chris Normandin (front) with Chef Rob Jean (back, second in from the right) and the PigTale staff
Take two guys with great restaurant pedigrees, add a wood-fired oven and local sourcing, and set in a hip/casual décor, and you get a dinner worth the drive. Chef Rob Jean worked hard to get the pizza crust with just enough chew and snap. On top are a creative selection of cheeses, veggies and artisan proteins — with many components locally sourced or house-made. Drinks are top-notch and made from house infusions and freshly squeezed juices. Open for lunch and dinner.
Dish Not to Miss: Sophia — pizza with grilled chicken, potatoes, pesto, fontina and Parmesan
449 Amherst St.
Mussels and seafood dish at Hayseed. Besides great food, you'll also find a fantastic selection of Smuttynose, Smuttlabs and guest beers on tap.
Hops and a Skip Across
A beautiful new brewing facility deserves a handsome restaurant to offer brews paired with food. Smuttynose Brewing Company opened their Towle Farm Road brewery in Hampton and a few months later finished the restoration of an onsite farmhouse with two levels (sit downstairs after touring the brewery). Beer-friendly cuisine is served alongside Smuttynose brews and a few guest selections, all on tap. Also find Smuttlabs beers — their micro-micro brews. The menu is designed to complement their beer and often is made with it. Open for lunch and dinner.
Dish Not to Miss: Royal grilled cheese — beer-soaked cheese, house pickles, Dijon and caramelized onions on homemade bread with a flight of beer
105 Towle Farm Rd.
Chef Matt Provencher at the Foundry
In the eyes of the Dean Kamen, the force behind this urbane and chic restaurant, Manchester now has a restaurant epicenter. The former Jillian’s and World Sports Grille was given a tasteful, major makeover right down to the bones. Grays and black play foil to a touch of burnt orange in the napkins and walls. Seating is a nice combination of large booths and tables set on slightly raised platform. The lighting is subdued at the perfect level. The separate rectangular bar is roomy and has its own menu.
Kamen gave New Hampshire native Matt Provencher the nod to commandeer a kitchen fit out with all the latest high-tech kitchen essentials. Indeed, even the window shade system is a marvel when they all lower simultaneously with the manager’s touch. This is the new place to be and be seen.
Chef Provencher has been riding the local bus for some time at Martingale Wharf, and Charlie Burke, president of the New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection, was happy to endow this new venture with a Certified Local designation on opening day. Open for dinner only.
Dish Not to Miss: Provencher’s short ribs sealed the deal when Kamen was shopping for a chef. For the bar menu, Provencher brought back his famous poutine with a veal demi-glace.
50 Commercial St.
Applecrest Farm Bistro
Nothing is simple here. Even the house sourdough bread is storied. Executive Chef Patrick Soucy says, “We collect the wild yeast from the orchard and use it to leaven our bread.” A simple dish — the meatloaf — is a delicate blend of Maine beef, sourdough bread crumbs soaked in Contoocook Creamery milk and smoked mozzarella from cows raised on spent beer malt. This is not just wordplay. The dish is phenomenal. Even the rigatoni, a simple pasta entrée, is exalted with house-made pasta and house sausage. For dessert, a riff on cookies and milk was served with a house-made “milk”-flavored ice cream, single-origin chocolate and house-made peanut butter cookie crumble.
The bistro is a new expansion for Applecrest Farm. The buildout includes space for a capacious market displaying produce from the farm, nearby farms and specialty items. There is an open kitchen, separate dining room with fireplace and really nice patio in season. The dinner menu changes seasonally, but in actuality every few days, as the chef reviews his field reports. Applecrest Farm has more than 200 acres dedicated to orchards, berries and a variety of produce with the very ripest headed to the kitchen. Fresh has never been fresher. Local has never been closer.
Also open for lunch and breakfast, cafeteria-style with a casual menu of salad, sandwiches and their house-made sweets.
Dish Not to Miss: “I can’t get past the buttermilk fried oysters,” says owner Todd Wagner. Indeed. Neither should you.
133 Exeter Rd.
Mex to the Max
Mexican burrito with three sauces
The Moreno family taco restaurant went full-size with a new location on West Pearl Street in Nashua. Find great tableside guacamole, piquant salsa, and beans and rice that are not just filler on the plate, but worth savoring.
The renovation of the former Crane restaurant put the feng shui where it should be — at the bar. The bar is now more spacious and the booth seating is comfortable with just the right Mexican touch. Find authentic Mexican food from Colima, Mexico, with chicken tacos and a burrito to match the flag of Mexico. House margaritas, $5 all day on Wednesdays. Open for lunch and dinner.
Dish Not to Miss: Grilled sausage, marinated chicken, steak and shrimp served in a molcajete (lava bowl)
116 W. Pearl St.
The former Common Man restaurant was stripped of its Yankee outfittings and laid bare to showcase an extensive Japanese menu. Choices include soba and udon noodles, teriyaki bento boxes, sushi, special maki rolls and tempura selections. Also, find 28 appetizer selections, including ginger-battered chicken nuggets, ahiru (shredded roasted duck) and fried oysters. Presentations include orchids and LED lights on occasion. Service is fantastic. Find a tiny bar for solitude with a Singapore Sling. Open for lunch and dinner.
Dish Not to Miss: Domo roll with shrimp tempura, cucumber, whole eel and caviar
96 State St.
The Franklin Oyster House
In the Raw
Chef Matt Louis and restaurateur Jay McSharry joined forces to bring fresh, local oysters to the Portsmouth scene. The cozy room is abuzz with locals savoring the oysters, crudo and creative cocktails. Or get crazy with the pig’s head terrine, blood sausage or goat croquettes. Discover how good food can be — even the funky parts. Open for dinner only.
Dish Not to Miss: An ice-cold plate of fresh oysters from Great Bay
148 Fleet St.
Are you an oyster fan? If yes, then check out our guide to great (and often local) oysters.
Revolution Taproom & Grill
Beer and Belly
Chef Dale Raymond
This nicely remodeled space in downtown Rochester is commanding attention for its gastro-pub goodness. It’s nice to have local beers on tap, but a savory component fits the bill nicely when done with creativity and care. There’s something about the feng shui of the bar and surrounding seats that make it a pleasant place to sit a spell. Feel the frenzy when busy or relax when quit. Pool tables and games are available in the upstairs lounge. Open for lunch and dinner.
Dish Not to Miss: Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon/stout marmalade. For more substance, try the 14-ounce pork porterhouse with shaved fennel and corn pudding.
61 N. Main St.
Far East Flavors
Indian cuisine is all about the balance of freshly ground and toasted spices, and Taj delivers with flavorful and aromatic dishes for an authentic taste of India. The savory spiced sauces are enriched with cashews, cream and fruit, and are an accompaniment to lamb, vegetables and biryani (rice). Naan roti and other breads are all house made. Chef Rakesh Kumar has brought the flavors from his successful South Portland, Maine, restaurant to downtown Manchester. Just be sure, if you ask for it hotly spiced, there is a fire extinguisher nearby. Open for lunch (buffet) and dinner.
Dish Not to Miss: Mixed grill for a feast of chicken tandoori, lamb kababs, chicken tikka and seekh kabab. Also, the lunch buffet is an easy way to sample many dishes.
967 Elm St., Manchester
tajindia.co, (603) 606-2677
Sea to Table
Lovely new multimillion-dollar build near the traffic circle in Rye on Rte. 1A with light and bright décor to remind you of the sea with colors of the ocean and a lighted jellyfish tank. An inviting bar and stone fireplace alcove are the perfect place to relax after a day on the Seacoast. Parking is easy and the expansive patio is equipped to extend the season. Find fresh fish, oysters and their award-winning chowder. Open for lunch and dinner.
Dish Not to Miss: Catch of day lunch salad or dinner entrée. Save room for the dessert of the day too.
5 Pioneer Rd.
Elegant swordfish entrée
CR’s The Restaurant
Restaurateur Chuck Rolecek has taken several pages from his former C.R. Sparks in Bedford to keep his brand alive. Find the same chef who opened Sparks, the same checkered tablecloths and the same colorful prints on the wall for a beautiful update of the former Bontà location. Space and menu are upscale and the starters include a foie gras ravioli. Sparks fans can expect a version of the lamb shank on the fall/winter menu. The welcoming bar, with separate menu, was expanded and features creative and classic cocktails along with a nice wine selection. Open for lunch and dinner.
Dish Not to Miss: Porcini-crusted beef tenderloin, served with mashed potatoes and asparagus
287 Exeter Rd., Hampton
crstherestaurant.com, (603) 929-7972
Funktion Spirits & Spoonfuls
Small Plates and Cocktails
Downtown Manchester location in the former narrow Dos Amigos storefront offers classic drinks and small plates perfect for sharing or sampling. Offerings range from baked goat cheese with marinara to chicken lemongrass skewers to a spicy soba noodle bowl. There are plenty of choices for vegetarians with nice salads and dishes where potatoes are treated with respect. Asian meatballs, hanger steak and brisket are offered in small plate size, too. Their Sunday brunch sports a Bloody Mary bar with all the fixings. Live entertainment is scheduled. Open for lunch, Sunday brunch and dinner.
Dish Not to Miss: Spicy noodle bowl for a light, but satisfying meal
931 Elm St., Manchester
funktionspirits.com, (603) 782-5365
What’s New or Improved or, Sadly, Closed
- Peace Restaurant in Goffstown with Nigerian/American cuisine.
- Unbridled Chocolates closed after a brief move to Colony Mill in Keene.
- Joe’s at the Grove in Peterborough has closed, but the related Monadnock Oil & Vinegar Co. remains open.
- Red Sauce Ristorante in Nashua on Amherst Street has closed.
- Local Delights Café, just off of Main Street, has closed in Nashua.
- Also in Nashua, Unums, the restaurant with a fabulous curved marble bar and upscale dining, was sold to the Executive Chef Sergio Metes and later closed.
- Villa Banca on Main Street closed and the former bank building was opened late this summer as another Fratello’s Italian Grille.
- Louie’s has opened in Portsmouth in the former Green Monkey space at 86 Pleasant St. in Portsmouth. The restaurant — billed as rustic, inventive Italian cuisine — is related to Gigi’s in York.
- Row 34 is open at 5 Portwalk Place in Portsmouth. This area has recently been developed and boasts other restaurants, including British Beer Company and BRGR Bar.
- Café Mirabelle was re-envisioned as Bridge Street Bistrot & Wine Bar at the same Bridge Street location.
- New World Chinese Restaurant has opened at 57 Palm St. in the former Estabrook Grill space.
- Dave Chang, owner of Thousand Crane formerly at 90 West Pearl St. in Nashua, has moved the restaurant across the street into a smaller location. It is now called Crane Restaurant and offers a similar menu, including a sushi buffet on Wednesdays.
- 110 Grill, a small New England chain, has opened near the new Marriott Residence Inn off of Amherst Street in Nashua. Find it at 27 Trafalgar Square.
- Not Your Average Joe’s is open at 221 Daniel Webster Hwy. in Nashua. Not Your Average Joe’s Executive Chef Jeff Tenner was previously chef and partner at Lindbergh’s Crossing in Portsmouth and the owner and chef of Ciento in Portsmouth. He has been the executive chef for Not Your Average Joe’s since August 2013. The restaurant is part of a New England and beyond chain.
- Codex, a speakeasy-style bar, is open in Nashua on W. Pearl Street. Related to 815 in Manchester.
- The 815 Speakeasy is open in the lounge space above Piccola’s Italia Ristorante at 815 Elm St. in Manchester. A password is needed for entry. Follow their social media accounts for the secret word of the week (@815nh, Facebook and Instagram) or inquire at N’awlins Grille across the street.
- Queen’s Pub and Grille will open soon at 641 Elm St. with drinks, pub food and entertainment almost every night.
- Bayona Café opened in the Jefferson Mill in Manchester with creative lunches and meals to go.
- The Dugout (sports bar) and 1 OAK (One of A Kind) are open in Manchester on Elm Street.
- Loafin’ Life Bakery has opened at 79 Manchester St. in Manchester.
- Central Ale House at 23 Central Ave., Manchester, boasts a pour-your-own beer wall. Their outside space offers a projection screen for sporting events.
- Thirsty Moose Taphouse (Portsmouth and Dover) is opening another location on 795 Elm St., Manchester, with an over-the-top on-tap selection. thirstymoosetaphouse.com
- Pho Golden Bowl has reopened at 12 Lake Ave. in Manchester with their flavorful pho bowls and other touches of Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines.
- Michael Buckley has purchased the Swan Chocolate building next to his Buckley’s Great Steaks in Merrimack for additional parking and a bakery commissary. The building will also house a bakery with retail items to go.
Lakes Region/Heading North
- The Common Man is offering a variety of casual dining options in the gorgeous new northbound and southbound welcome centers in Hooksett off of I-93. Also find a fully stocked New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets on both sides. In addition, Cider Bellies will be selling fresh, hot cider doughnuts from their truck on the northbound side.
- Griddle in the Middle (where you cook your own pancakes on a griddle in the middle of the table) has opened for dinner as the Lobster Shack and BBQ in the former JB Scoops at 56 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith. (603) 677-7171
- Christmas Island Steakhouse, an institution in Laconia, has been renovated and reopened.
- Wolfe Den American Bistro opened in the former Strawberry Patch at 50 Main St. in Wolfeboro offering fresh seafood, upscale burgers and more.
- The iconic Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill has been totally rebuilt and open for extended hours through the season until March.
- Bailiwicks Fine Restaurant & Martini Bar in Littleton has moved from the lower level of the Thayer Hotel to Parker’s Marketplace at 106 Main St.
- Scott Ouellette’s new restaurant, Canoe, opened in Bedford near Target, featuring offerings from both his Canoe and O Steaks & Seafood restaurants in an upscale environment.
- Hobbs Tavern & Brewing Co. is open in West Ossipee in a historic farmhouse on Rte. 16 with an interesting menu and brews.
- The Holy Grail has opened its second location in another Catholic church. The Holy Grail of the Lakes is in Laconia at 12 Veterans Square.