2016's Best New Restaurants
The New Hampshire dining scene is expanding — and it's better than ever
The New Hampshire dining scene has never been more promising. New establishments have popped up all over the state, with large new build-outs or small storefronts replacing failed ventures by both adventurous young chefs and seasoned pros. The look is casual for the most part, but the food is serious and local sourcing has gone mainstream. Find Edison bulbs everywhere, along with rustic barn boards, great bar seating and earnest craft cocktails. All we have to do is enjoy!
The Birch on Elm’s seared scallops with parsnip purée and grilled peaches
The Birch on Elm
The interior is eclectic — think Vermont fishing lodge meets London gentleman’s club in the Colonial era — but it’s also cozy and inviting. Step up to the bar to enjoy a variety of interesting craft cocktails amidst green velvet curtains and reclaimed wood. The chef and bartender are both just 24, so look for the hottest concepts in both dining and drinking.
The menu items don’t come with poetic descriptions — rather, find a simple list of the three main tastes in the dish. Plates are offered in three sizes to fit any appetite.
The bar is full-on craft cocktail with all the right equipment and an impressive knowledge base, including staff formerly of Codex in Nashua. The bar top itself is a unique specimen of red oak.
Lunch, Thursday to Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday from 5 to 10:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Dish Not to Miss: Duck confit ravioli with orange brandy and truffle ($16)
931 Elm St.
Pickled vegetables with hazelnuts at The Grazing Room
The Grazing Room
The new owners of the Colby Hill Inn have taken the dining room (now called The Grazing Room) up several notches. They found the property after a wide search for a charming New England inn. Chef/owner Bruce Barnes comes with an incredible culinary background via his own restaurants in New York City (Universal Grill and Harvest) and multi-cultural experience in Washington, DC, where he helped develop the menu at Mitsitam Cafe in the National Museum of the American Indian. Most recently, he was senior executive chef at the World Bank.
Barnes is serious about keeping it local, using nearby sources for everything from eggs and cheeses to poultry. Dishes are exquisitely plated for both the eye and taste buds, and the seasonally-inspired menu changes weekly. Get cooking tips from this seasoned chef at the inn’s monthly cooking classes, and don’t miss local-ingredient-filled mixed drinks and the special Sunday supper menu.
Dinner Wednesday to Sunday
Dish Not to Miss: Chicken and waffles. The brined chicken is sous-vided, then deep-fried and served with sweet potato waffles ($26).
33 The Oaks St.
Meatballs with house-made ricotta at Gale Motor Co. Eatery
Gale Motor Co. Eatery
The flying-wing logo has nothing to do with motorcycles but everything to do with rooting the restaurant’s location in car dealerships of yore. The menu is approachable in size and concept, offering a nice range of dishes including meatballs (pictured), scallops and Reuben rolls in small-plate fashion. The cocktail list is creative, using house-made bitters and infusions.
Lunch and dinner on weekdays, dinner only on Saturday
Dish Not to Miss: Spicy tuna with crispy rice and truffle oil ($9).
36 Lowell St.
Sweet-and-sour chicken at Suna
Chef Scott Ouellette has expanded his empire again, this time in the former One Mile West location. Find Ouellette's Rubbin' Butts BBQ as a main event, along with house meatloaf made with Kobe beef, house-smoked pastrami Reuben and his classic sweet-and-sour calamari. The space has been cozied up, and your server will bring fresh bread to the table in a white paper bag.
Opens at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Dish Not to Miss: Rubbin' Butts nachos with pulled pork on their house chips ($12).
6 Brook Rd.
Rendering by Market Square Architects
This imaginative remodel of a former industrial space on Bridge Street includes glass walls, a glass atrium entrance, contemporary art installations, a roof deck, wall gardens, generous bar space and affordable fine wines. The management wants you to have an exceptional, sensory dining experience in a blissful environment. Save room for dessert — the pastry chef is from France.
Expected to open in early 2017.
55 Bridge St.
Desserts are decadent at the Green Elephant.
Here, you'll find vegetarian and vegan dishes with Thai inspiration. The Green Elephant offers an opportunity to dine with your vegan friend and get a taste of clean eating. You won't miss the meat as the flavor here is turned up to 11. Spices, rich broths and texture make the meal interesting. Desserts are good too, as denial can only go so far.
Lunch and dinner daily.
Dish Not to Miss: Panang curry vegetable and tempeh ($15).
35 Portwalk Pl.
Asian pork sliders at Bar One in Milford.
They've got the gastropub concept down pat — good food in a pleasing environment with plenty of Edison bulbs. The drink list is interesting, including a smoked blackberry and sage margarita. Not to mention that the bloody mary looks like a meal in a glass. Flatbreads are grilled and topped with everything from mac and cheese with charred scallion oil ($12) to pulled pork and fig jam (on the Lucky Duck, $14). Items on the First Bites list are just the right size to set off a few local beers.
Dinner only Wednesday through Saturday, plus Sunday service 12 to 5 p.m.
Dish Not to Miss: Duck confit poutine ($10) has the right curds and tasty gravy.
40 Nashua St.
Tinos' Greek Fisherman's Stew
Authentic Greek with a creative twist includes an ample selection of traditional dishes — moussaka, pastitsio, a saganaki with apricots and cocoa nibs — served with beautiful plating. The room itself is nicely designed, creating an intimate spot. A three-season deck space features a huge fire pit to take off the chill of the evening. The restaurant was built by owner John Tinios as a second-floor addition to The Galley Hatch.
Dinner nightly and Sunday brunch.
Dish Not to Miss: John's signature lollypop lamb chops ($21.95), and don't forget a side order of the herb-roasted potatoes ($4.50).
325 Lafayette Rd.
Taverne on the Square
Triple-chocolate cake with chocolate ganache at Taverne on the Square
The former New Socials Bar and Grill location has been revitalized by opening up the space and putting an ever-so-slight French twist on the menu.
Lunch and dinner daily.
Dish Not to Miss: Taverne Wings ($10.99) offered with a variety of sauces.
2 Pleasant St.
Other Notable Openings
- Latham House Tavern, Lyme. Former British Beer Company Executive Chef James Gibney is spreading his wings at this new casual tavern near Hanover offering great comfort food and local beers.
- Dixie Blues Restaurant and Bar, Manchester. The owner/chef team from the former BluAqua is building out the shuttered Ted Herbert's Music Mart on Elm Street. They will bring a casual menu from south of the Mason-Dixon Line with plenty of barbecue and New Orleans influence with a creative twist. Scheduled to open in December.
- Maza Mediterranean Grill, Nashua. Fast casual Mediterranean spot for shawarma, kebabs, tabbouleh and more served from the counter.
- Oak House, Newmarket. A casual menu done in high style features smoked meats, and a drink list includes enlightened cocktails and drafts from Deciduous Brewing Company and North Country Hard Cider.
- Veranda Martini Bar & Grille, Manchester. A fusion of Old World and New World flavors with a nice cozy bar offering tempting drinks.
- The Skinny Pancake, Hanover. Creperie and more offering healthy options. (See our review for more.)
- Friendly Red's Tavern, Windham. Comfort food with a friendly bar.
- Smokeshow Barbeque, Concord. The taste of Texas in a strip mall location.
- Local Moose Cafe, Manchester. Emphasis on fresh and local for breakfast and lunch only.
- Eastern Burger Company, Stratham. Spinoff of Sonny's Tavern in Dover, mainly selling their beloved burgers.
- Covered Bridge Farm Table, Campton. In the aftermath of a Robert Irvine visit, the owner went to culinary school to set it right. Lovely locaiton.
- Roots Cafe, Hooksett. Josh and Amber Enright have brought fresh and local fare for breakfast and lunch to the historic Robie's Country Store.
- Buckley's Bakery & Cafe, Merrimack. Find breads, sandiwches, pastries, sushi, soups and even hot main dishes. Lunch has never had so many options.
- The Crazy Goat, Concord. Menu makeover by the owners of Old Europe Mediterranean Fine Dining. Interior looks the same, but the menu, still true to their Balkan heritage, is more home-style with grilled sausages, burgers, steaks and goat cheese.
- Matty's Pub & Eatery, Manchester. Former Clam King/Ipswich Clambake has lots of televisions for game day and a decent poutine.
- Willie Jewell's Old School Bar-B-Q, Nashua. This is the first New England franchise locaiton.
- Unity Cafe, Manchester. Beautiful space in the Sundial Center opened by Keri Laman of Tidewater Catering Group with nice breakfast and lunch options.
- CC&D's Kitchen Market, Keene. Fitzwilliam pit master Charlie Pini of "Charcoal Charlie" PRoductions has joined forces with Denise Meadows of Free Range Chick Catering. Together they are bringing from-scratch cooking back to Keene's North End for grab-and-go meals.
- The New Woodshed, Moultonborough. Rising from the ashes, this romantic spot harks back to its former self wit ha restored rough-hewn barn interior. Famous for their prime rib.
- The Beal House, Littleton. New owners Chef Adam Alderin and Lori Alderin recently purchased The Beal house and have brought chef-driven cuisine to the North Country. Adam is bringing locally-sourced and seasonal fare to their American tavern.
The new Giorgio's off Exit 5 in Manchester
The former Unum's space was given an Indian makeover with similar menu to the Manchester location, including the generous lunch buffet. Open for lunch and dinner, closed Monday. 47 E. Pearl St., Nashua. (603) 864-8586; tajindia.co
Restaurant similar to the Salem location will open in Portsmouth in spring of 2017. A full market store will come later.
Giorgio's Ristorante & Bar
Beautiful renovation inside and out has transformed a bleak landscape just off Manchester's Exit 5 into an airy space with a roomy and attractive bar area. Same menu as other Giorgio's locations. Try a grapefruit cocktail — the juice is squeezed right at the bar. Lunch and dinner daily. 270 Granite St., Manchester. (603) 232-3323; giorgios.com
Pasquale's Ristorante and Pizzeria
Authentic Neapolitan brick oven pizza and fine Italian foods are now offered by Chef Pasquale Celone in Londonderry as well as Candia. Lunch and dinner Thursday through Sunday. pasqualebrickovenpizzeria.com
Durbar Square Restaurant
Base Camp Cafe in Hanover has a new sister restaurant in Portsmouth at the former Michelle's on Market Square. They both feature authentic Nepalese cuisine, from steamy momos to chicken or vegan chhoila to wild boar ribs to gundruk soup, a 500-year-old homeopathic tradition to cure what ails you. Open daily for lunch and dinner. durbarsquarerestaurant.com