2012 Hot New Restaurants

With a recovering economy, it is hard to convince ebullient restaurateurs and top chefs to stand down. There is just too much passion in this industry.

Opening a new restaurant, designing an intriguing interior, sourcing local foods and making a mark on the dining scene is manifest destiny for the truly inspired.

This past year empty spaces were built out, shuttered restaurants found new owners and a new life, while former warehouses and industrial interiors now glow with candlelight. It's a brave new world for those with the key to success.

Congratulations and good luck to all of this year's Hot New Restaurants.

Bon appetit!

*More restaurant news: After the main featured restaurants you'll find more news from New Hampshire's culinary scene including more new openings, places that have closed their doors, dessert spots, management changes and much more.


Stages at One WashingtonChef Evan Hennessy is offering performance cuisine. His new dining room in Dover is part chef showcase and part extraordinary pop-up dining. Running his catering service, Flavor Concepts, is just about a full-time job, and offering one dining experience a month rounds out his schedule nicely. The kitchen here opens to a six-seat bar where guests can watch the show and ask the chefs about what they are doing, which. could be a puzzle. Hennessy has a state-of-the-art kitchen complete with induction burners for instant heat, chamber cryo-vac and thermal immersion circulator for sous-vide slow cooking, liquid nitrogen tanks and he's into molecular gastronomy — so don't expect dull reruns. A small dining area hosts another 24 guests for each pre-defined prix-fixe meal. Each month the focus and menu changes completely. In September there was a local brewers' dinner served with locally sourced foods plated with coriander soil, hand-rolled couscous and wheat froth. Coming on Nov. 17 is "Casablanca, Dinner and a Movie" — an ode to the film released 70 years ago with a Moroccan-inspired menu paired with Prohibition-style cocktails. You must remember this … make a reservation in advance.

Check it out:
Stages at One Washington
One Washington St., Dover
(603) 842-4077
Check website for schedule

Pictured: Orient Express eggplant, whipped caraway honey, Strawbery Banke herbs and flowers, wheat froth, coriander soil and chicken liver mousse.



Tuckaway TavernLike your burgers grilled with fresh-ground beef? No problem at The Tuckaway Tavern, which is attached directly to their store operation, a butchery and specialty market. The market offers fresh house-made sausages, burger ground several times a day and any cut of meat you can think of. Over in the Tavern, find these same items grilled to perfection and stacked on a bun or baked in the oven for Texas meatloaf or BBQ baby back ribs. It's truly a meat-lovers paradise. Thinking smaller, there is a cozy dining space attached to the deli for pre-made dinners, salads and quick sandwiches.

Check it out:
The Tuckaway Tavern and Butchery
58 Rte. 27, Raymond
(603) 244-2431
Open daily for dinner at 4 p.m.
Butchery and Market, daily, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Pictured: Sausage Trio wth cheeses, peppers and grilled bread.


POPPER'S, Newmarket

Poppers"Oink" is the password to localvore dining at John "Popper" Medlin's new restaurant and bar in the mills in Newmarket on a downtown main street that any now-mainstream hippie would appreciate. The converted mill space features tall windows and high-top seating, booths and a long, fully stocked bar. Deli cases filled with Medlin's sausages and charcuterie created in his Dover mill kitchen are available for take-out too. The menu changes frequently with interesting local protein options including the trio of goat shown below. Medlin is proud of his "tail to snout" philosophy, where humanely raised animals are fully used, from the liver for foie gras to duck skin for cracklins to the offal mix for the pâté of the day. Don't think about it too much … it's really great tasting food.

Check it out:
Popper's at the Mill
55 Main St., Newmarket
(603) 292-0110
Lunch, Tuesday to Sunday
Dinner, Thursday to Saturday
Breakfast/Brunch on Sunday until 5 p.m.

Pictured: Trio of Goat with goat Confit, goat pâté and goat charcuterie, all made in-house from locally raised stock.



Napa EastOwner Jo Mahoney took over a large warehouse in an industrial park and invited lighting and interior designers Melissa and Brian Zagorites of Arclight fame to transform a dreary space into a dramatic one. They succeeded. Luscious fabrics cover bar stools and inviting banquette seating. Colorful uplighting fills the 20-foot walls with life. Over-sized columns add drama. The long bar invites you to sit and maybe just taste wines with a cheese or charcuterie plate. With pours as small as two ounces there is a lot to explore. Maybe you don't have to travel to the real Napa —you can find it in a glass here. Sommelier Christopher Riendeau is on hand to offer suggestions for wine pairings. You might need help —there are more than 100 wines available by the glass through a state-of-the-art cuvinet system. Find more than a glass full of wine education here. The separate wine shop offers tastings and wine dinners are held in a beautiful back room. Spotlighted now is Bill Lee's 2008 Spaceman Red Blend. Give it a taste to see if it is a hit or a miss. Dining ranges from small plates of spice-rubbed duck breast to Kobe beef sliders to veal bacon wrapped veal loin. Or keep it simple with hand-stretched pizza or move on to a main plate like the paella shown above. Executive Chef Jeff Sesar spent the last 25 years in Napa, so the virtual visit is not such a stretch.

Check it out:
Napa East Wine Lounge & Shop
12 Murphy Dr., Nashua
(603) 595-9463
Lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday

Pictured: Portuguese Paella with saffron infused arborio rice, scallops, shrimp, clams, mussels, chicken and linguica.



Mint BistroChef/owner Nevillie Pereira has opened three new eateries this year. He has blended the menus from his two Hanover Street restaurants, Ignite and Hooked, and brought them to the new Sizzle Bistro at the Executive Health & Fitness Club near the airport in Manchester. If that is not enough, he also opened Molly's in New Boston with co-owners Carol Sheehan (Red Arrow Diner) and Lou Vaine, who is running the New Boston eatery. The former Kiki's is a beautiful and historic space and the menu is a collaboration of all three principles. The trio is also involved in Divots at the River at the Intervale Country Club. The space boasts a beautiful deck on the Merrimack River in season and banquet space.

Check it out:
Sizzle Bistro
1 Highlander Way, Manchester
at the Executive Health & Sports Club
(603) 232-3344
Lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday
Sunday until 6 p.m.

Molly's Tavern and Restaurant
35 Mont Vernon Rd. (Rte. 13), New Boston
(603) 487-1362
Dinner Daily, lunch Saturday and Sunday

Divots on the River
1491 Front St. (Intervale Country Club)
(603) 232-0665
Open for lunch Monday through Wednesday
Lunch and dinner, Thursday through Saturday
Lunch and dinner, Sunday (brunch, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

Pictured: Neville's famous calamari is now avilable at Ignite, Molly's and Sizzle – each location has a slightly different twist.


BANTAM GRILL, Peterborough

BantamHarris Weldon, the chef/owner of Pearl, has opened another property previously owned by Peterborough restaurateur Dave Chichane. The former Cantine space is now transformed for a quieter dining with an upscale feel. Chef Weldon and his Bantam Grill chef, Bryan Keating, will be focusing on simple but elegant dishes with honest flavors. Weldon was sous chef at Spiaggia in Chicago on Michigan Avenue during their rise to fame with James Beard awards and visits from then-Senator Obama, so expect the flavor twist to be Italian. All pastas will be house-made daily, from the truffle ricotta cavatelli to the butternut squash cappellacci with fried sage. Weldon will be creating from his wheelhouse here, inspired by his classical training at the Culinary Institute of America. He admits to a bit of drift over at Pearl, where the sticky rice is now made from Arborio rice instead of Asian short grain. Here, the drift will be a steady course to approachable fine dining.

Check it out:
Bantam Grill
1 Jaffrey Rd. (Rte. 202), Suite 4, Peterborough
(603) 924-6633
Dinner nightly

Pictured: Cod Aqua Pazza oven-roasted cod with a spicy white wine broth, orzo, thyme and baby greens.


SURF SUSHI, Portsmouth

Surf SushiThis summer the Surf Seafood brand was extended in Portsmouth with Surf Sushi in the same building on Bow Street. Great views of the harbor are visible from just about any seat in the house. The bar is mind-bending with translucent blue glass "trees" that bring in the sparkle of the harbor below. Offerings are simple Asian-inspired sashimi, nigiri and maki rolls to complement the creative and refreshing martini list. Just a great combo when you aren't looking for a rich meal.

Check it out:
Surf Sushi Bar
99 Bow St., Portsmouth
(603) 501-0681
Dinner nightly

Pictured: Tempura Shrimp Roll with avocado, scallion, pea sprouts, cavi-art and sesame with sweet tamari drizzle.


11ELEVEN, Manchester

What happens when you combine the passion of a newly-christened chef and a mid-life career change with the talents and experience of a popular chef? One can hope for great things, but the team will be tested in the small kitchen at the former Richard's Bistro and also former 36 Delux. At age 42, Chef Jeff Dudley graduated from the Cordon Bleu and meanwhile asked Chef Joe Drift of the well-regarded Saffron Bistro in Nashua to lend him his time and talent to get the ship on the right course. Hopefully the duo will be dynamic. 11eleven will open in mid-October.

Check it out:
36 Lowell St., Manchester
(603) 218-3353
Dinner Tuesday through Saturday



Martingale WharfMartingale Wharf restaurant is a beautiful space for dining with large windows and a huge deck just above water level in Portsmouth harbor. You can almost touch the fishing vessels as they pass by. Chef Matt Provencher has taken the helm and brought in the best staff to support the vision of the ultimate dining experience on the Seacoast. The deck has its own casual menu and the season is extended with heaters and firepits. The dining room proper offers interesting salads including Piscataqua Wedge ($11), nicely caramelized scallops fresh from day boats and a 48-hour braised short rib ($27) served medium rare because of low-temp sous-vide cooking.

Check it out:
Martingale Wharf
99 Bow St., Portsmouth
(603) 431-0901
Lunch and dinner daily

Pictured: Piscataqua Wedge with Maytag blue cheese dressing, candied bacon, baby tomatoes and marinated red onion.



Demeters Steakhouse It’s hard to believe this steakhouse space was once a car dealership. The straight lines of the construction have given the room a modern feel, but the use of rich woods and segmented dining spaces gives it cozy comfort. Chef Morrgan Machado uses Brandt prime beef from Colorado, raised sustainably and known for its excellence flavor. Yes, the prices are high ($38 to $49 for beef dishes), but the quality of the beef and the trim justify it. Prime natural beef is hard to find outside of a good steakhouse. The grill menu offers starters and sandwiches including an 8-ounce prime beef burger for $14. Free range chicken ($28) and fresh seafood are also offered ($30 to $32). Machado has done his research to make sure the dining experience is perfect, from the bread basket with a flavorful French baguette to the over-the-top house-baked desserts. Hello, I can hear that chocolate cake calling again.

Check it out:
Demeters Steakhouse
3612 Lafayette Rd., Portsmouth
(603) 766-0001
Dinner nightly

Pictured: Beef carpaccio.



Demeters SteakhouseJames Kersch likes his food to be healthy. As the owner of the Healthy Buffalo in Chichester he recently opened the Hungry Buffalo in Loudon, serving buffalo and other game meats known to have lower fat and hence less heart-clogging cholesterol. (He claims his own cholesterol numbers have dropped significantly.) The menu is well-stocked with exotic game meats —everything from alligator to elk to wild boar. Specials may include kangaroo, rabbit or ostrich. These lower-fat-content proteins, especially buffalo (sourced from South Dakota), have to be cooked right and Kersch says that means low and slow. Basically, he braises the meats in a roaster that is sealed very tight. Meatballs are not beef but Misty Knoll chicken, and even the BBQ sauces are sugar-free. What beef he offers comes from the grass-fed Scottish Highlander beef at Miles-Smith Farm just down the road. Other health-inspired menu items include gluten-free and no-sugar desserts. Don’t bother to dress up. The restaurant has a very casual atmosphere … think paper placemats imprinted with septic tank advertising. Kersch hopes to welcome families with his reasonable prices and home-cooked healthy fare.

Check it out:
The Hungry Buffalo
58 Rte. 129, Loudon
(603) 798-3737
Lunch and dinner daily

Pictured: Memphis-style BBQ buffalo brisket Reuben with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing.



Demeters Steakhouse Chef Kevin Halligan, owner of the Laconia Village Bakery, is back on his game with the Local Eatery in the former Black Cat Café location in Laconia's charming train station. Stepping up to the plate with a locally inspired menu, everything is made from scratch and a bit of local soul. The menu will change frequently to reflect the seasons so considering past entrées, like seared diver scallops with crispy pork belly and bacon-parsley salad, tostados made with local dried and milled red corn, hamburgers and tiny meatloaves wrapped in bacon, Laconians could be in for a treat. For his lobster ravioli, Halligan purchases the local lobster out of Portsmouth to support local fishermen. Consider dessert here —after all, the chef has a strong bakery background. The dining room only holds 32 guests, so reservations are strongly suggested. The Local Eatery has since been certified local by the New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection.

Check it out:
Local Eatery
21 Veterans Sq., Laconia
(603) 527-8007
Dinner Tuesday through Saturday

Pictured: Local burger with cheddar, frieg egg, lettuce and tomato on a brioche bun and fries.


WebExtra: More Restaurant News

Restaurants have closed and opened throughout the state. Chefs have moved to other venues and new concepts are being tried. Here is the scoop for restaurant news that took place in the last 12 months. Keep up to date on changes in the scene by subscribing to the email news letter Cuisine E-Buzz sent out monthly.

Seacoast News

The new Thirsty Moose Tap House at 21 Congress St. in Portsmouth is offering 116 beers on tap. The old Muddy River and Foobar space has been refreshed with new paint. Several large screen TVs are in place for the coming football season. Entertainment is planned for the downstairs lounge.

Fleet Street in Portsmouth will have a new gelato shop with the opening of Dolce Freddo Gelato with other locations in Newburyport and Methuen. More yogurt news, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt is open at 218 State St. offering self-serve yogurt with 16 tap flavors. The national chain has more than 200 other outlets across the country.

Bodhi Thai Bistro opened in the former Sakurabana space at 40 Pleasant St. in Portsmouth.

The Yankee Fisherman's Cooperative has opened a retail store in Seabrook across from the docks. The outlet sells the catches of the day that were brought in directly from the fisherman that morning.

Jay McSharry closed 106 Kitchen and Bar in Portsmouth and opened Moxy with chef/partner Matt Louis in the same location. Louis was formerly at the Wentworth By the Sea Hotel and was part of the team from the French Laundry that came to NYC with Keller to open Per Se.

New in Hampton, The Community Oven offers flatbread pizzas, chicken wings and chicken and beef kabobs. They have 16 beers on tap including Blue Lobster Brew, a new brewery next door. Find them on Facebook.

Bai Cha Thai is a new Thai restaurant at 442 Lafayette Rd. in Hampton. (603) 929-1110

Chef Ron Boucher has opened Savory Square Bistro at his culinary school in Hampton. The restaurant is open Wednesday through Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Sunday for Brunch, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Menu is fine dining with a French influence. Call (603) 926-2202 or email info@chezboucher.com for reservations.

Locals Restaurant & Pub has opened in North Hampton at 215 Lafayette Rd. in the former Wings Your Way space.

The Drift Away Restaurant in North Hampton has closed. Other shuttered restaurants include 36 Delux in Manchester (now under new ownership as 11Eleven. See story above for more information abou this new restaurant). Fresh Local in Newington has ceased operation.

Street's Bier Garten opened this summer in the parking lot across from the Rosa (closed) in Portsmouth. In the same building, which was a former gas station, is Roly's English Fudge serving some of the best gelato and sorbetto around.

Portsmouth Book and Bar, a new bookstore, café and wine bar is opening in October serving small plates, local craft beers and great wines. They are located in the historic Customs house on Pleasant Street.

The Chef's Table, formerly on State Street in Portsmouth, has moved to 19 Hanson St. in Rochester.

Blue Moon Evolution in Exeter (8 Clifford St.) was certified local by the New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection.

Manchester News

The British Beer Company opened in Manchester in June. You can find live music Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. The Massachusetts chain specializes in pub food and beer from the UK. They also offer popular US beers and a selection from local microbreweries. 1071 S. Willow St.

Two new bakeries opened on Elm Street in Manchester. Baked Cafe specializes in sweets, lunch service and will be open evenings serving alcohol, while Finesse Pastries (968 Elm St.) offers French pastries, tarts and breads. An Italian Bakery is also planning to open on Elm. Meanwhile, Sweet Retreat at 90 Dow Street has closed. That space was taken over by Dyn Inc. as a cafe for employees only with Chef Kevin Donahue (formerly of XO) at the helm.

Congratulations to Amy Labelle of Labelle Winery in Amherst for taking top honors for their Three KIngs fruit wine at the Big E. Six of their other wines came home as winners, too. Their new winery building on Rte. 101 in Amherst is expected to be open very soon (End of October).

The Fresh Market, a national high-end grocery chain, is open on South River Road in Bedford near Marshalls. You have to love the classical music background while you fondle the tomatoes.

Cotton is the fifth restaurant to achieve certified local status from the NH Farm to Restaurant Connection.

Villagio Ristorante has opened at 677 Hooksett Rd. in Manchester offering authentic Italian dishes, including house-made pastas. (603) 627-2424

Two fine dining restaurants in Manchester have shuttered their doors. Eden Restaurant and Lounge, which had recently moved to Brown Avenue, and Z Food and Drink on Elm Street both closed.

BLM Catering in Manchester has closed. Owner Brad Lichter is moving back the Washington, D.C., area to be near family.

The Sugar Mommy, Jenny Cheifetz, is selling fresh-made cupcakes, cookies and other sweets from her customized van. Gone Baking is usually on Commercial Street near the Mill Woman statue (near 123 Commercial St.) during lunch hours. Find her locations and offerings of the day on Facebook.

Shorty's Grill made an appearance in an old Shorty Mexican Grill spot in Bedford. Just recently the format was changed back to Shorty's Mexican Grill.

Richard Tango Lowry fulfilled a dream and opened his own chocolate shop, Dancing Lion Chocolates, on Elm Street in Manchester.

Milltown Market on Elm Street opened by Jane Beaulieu closed recently. Jane's daughter Amber Grogan closed Jewell and the Beanstalk to work with Josh Enright at Seed to Stalk Cafe located in Bedford Farms. That cafe also closed and Enright was last seen in the kitchen at Republic on Elm Street.

Manchester local Alex Lambroulis opened the Gyro Spot (1073 Elm St.) featuring traditional pork and chicken Greek gyros, plus other Greek favorites based on his family's recipes. Also serving beer. Open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Masa Japanese Steakhouse opened at 1704 S. Willow Street offering sushi and hibachi tables.

Southern NH News

Tuscan Kitchen in Salem has opened Tuscan Market, offering pre-made gourmet-to-go selections, imported cheeses and more. The gelato is reason enough to visit this artisanal food market. Find a butcher shop, full bakery with Italian breads and pastries and more. In addition there is a cafe to enjoy other foods from the kitchen.

The Chatterbox Cafe in Windham is open evenings with a tapas and cocktail menu.

Nashua Area

The Cozy Tea Cart has moved from a residential neighborhood to 104A Route 13, Brookline. They are serving tea and pastries.

YoshiMaMa opened in a strip mall off of Amherst St. this past spring offering sushi and Japanese entrees.

O'Brien's and McKenzie's Retaurant and Bar opened on Main Street in Downtown Nashua. The latter serves Scottish food and has entertainment several nights a week.

Gabi's Smoke Shack is open at Nashua Harley Davidson, on the corner of Route 101A and Continental Boulevard from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. daily, and on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings when the motorcycle store is open later and holding Thursday night rides. Owner Anthony Martino is originally from Houston, Tex., and is a regular at the Rock'n Ribfest, held annually in Merrimack.

Turkish restaurant in Hudson, Mavi Bistro, closed its doors last month.

Burtons Grill, a small chain based mostly in Mass., opened at the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua. Serving contemporary American dishes.

Brookstone Grill in Derry at the golf course closed restaurant operations. Well before the closure head chef David Smith went on to work at 900 Degrees. He was recently spotted in the kitchen at the Common Man restaurant in Windham. Chef Kevin Riley had taken over from Smith at Brookstone, but has gone on to the executive chef position at Bonta in North Hampton.

MT's Local Kitchen and Wine Bar
(212 Main St., Nashua) has been certified local by the NH Farm to Restaurant Connection.

Concord and North

Margarita Grill in Glen also achieved certified local status from the NH Farm to Restaurant Connection.

Congratulations to David Eyler of Miller's Café and Bakery in Littleton for being put on the map for best sandwiches in 50 states by Food Network Magazine. (Gee, I wonder who nominated him.) His winning sandwich combines tandoori bread and Yankee pot roast, raw onions, fresh green apples and a bit of horseradish.

Terra on Main in Bethlehem closed in November and reopened shortly after as Root with the same chef, Rich Larcam and the same locally sourced theme.

The Inn on Main in Wolfeboro (formerly the Lakeview Inn) is welcoming the public as a bed and breakfast and a new bistro, offering fare featuring fresh ingredients from local farms and purveyors. The property includes an event venue in the renovated barn with seating for up to 250 guests.

Western NH

3 Guys Basement Barbecue opened in Hanover (5 South Main St.) serving American barbecue that's smoked using their own dry rub method. The sauces, including house-made ketchup, are all made onsite to various degrees of hotness. Ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible. Also featuring a full bar, sandwich menu and interesting starters such as grits and poutine. Open until 1 a.m. Monday-Saturday and until 12 a.m. Sunday.

The Comeback of Frozen Yogurt

Yogurt seems to be having a big comeback with the Pinkberry success. New franchise yogurt shop Yogurt in Love is opening in downtown Nashua in the former Cookies By Design location at 142 Main St. A TCBY is opening in Bedford at 5 Kilton Rd. (Remember them from the '80s?) Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt is open at 218 State St. in Portsmouth offering self-serve yogurt with 16 tap flavors.

Let Them Eat Cupcakes

New cupcakeries continued to open throughout 2012, including the Cupcake Conspiracy in Merrimack, Cupcakes 101 in Bedford and Lovin' Cupcakes and Cannolies in Nashua. Swan's Chocolates in Merrimack added a line of intriguing cupcakes. One of the first, Shabby Chic in Windham, just changed their name to SophistiCakes. Others include NH Cupcakes in Manchester for delivery only.

WebExtra: More Photos


Categories: Hot New Restaurants