2018’s Best New Restaurants
Over the last year, Food Editor Susan Laughlin traveled the state, searching for notable new restaurants. Find out which ones made her list.
New Hampshire diners have voted with their forks — the white linens are off the tables. Sure, fine dining still survives, but mostly at a destination hotel or inn. New restaurants are evoking a casual-yet-hip atmosphere, and are embracing the current trends of small-plate dining, healthy options and ever-popular pizza and BBQ. Chefs at both pubs and cautiously upscale eateries are exuding a passion for local sourcing and honest, from-scratch cooking. Their bars are well stocked with craft beers on draft, while cocktails are elevated to an art form. It’s all good. There is truly something for everyone this year. Live free and dine out — often.
Table + Tonic
Heather Chase and Russ Van Deursen, owners of The Local Grocer, are featuring their concept of healthy food with an upscale twist in the space next door. Produce is sourced from their own permaculture farm, and breads are made in-house with organic grains and eggs. At the bar, find “Garden-to-Glass” cocktails designed with an herbalist’s skill with herbs and fruits from their Mountain Flower Farm in Intervale. And say “yes” to the kombucha cocktails, while the mocktail menu is creative and perfect for those who would enjoy a thirst-quenching tonic without the booze — think dandelion shrub. The menu caters to all kinds of dietary needs and tastes, offering options such as beet ravioli with cashew cheese for vegans, vegetarian dishes that change with the seasons, and dishes for those who follow a paleo or gluten-free diet. Respect is also given to conscientious omnivores, who will find sustainable seafood and local grass-fed beef. The wholesome feel is further enhanced by plating on rustic, hand-thrown stoneware. Relish in the menu, as dining here takes the guilt level down a few notches.
Dish not to miss: dairy- and gluten-free beet ravioli.
Get there: Closed Tuesday and Wednesday, open at 5 p.m. for dinner. Enjoy their café next door for breakfast and lunch.
3358 White Mountain Hwy., North Conway
(603) 356-6068, tableandtonic.com
Here is a prime example of what’s happening in the New Hampshire food scene. The former Tek-Nique, which was known for elegant dining, was cleared out, from the too-tiny bar to the white tablecloths. In its place is a lively, completely reimagined casual restaurant with a much larger bar — in fact, it’s the focal point. Behind the bar is an impressive draft list featuring 40 craft beers, many of them local. The star of the menu is the brick-oven pizza, but other dishes, such as burgers and larger entrées, are offered too. Families fill the booths lining the walls and the bar is often hopping. Must be the perfect answer to a night out for a breadth of local citizenry.
Dish not to miss: 1750 pizza with the works.
Get there: Open for lunch and dinner, daily and Sunday brunch.
170 Route 101, Bedford
(603) 488-2573, 1750taphouse.com
Editor’s note: Tillie’s is now closed.
The owners of Tillie’s lucked out when they found space a stone’s throw from Keene’s Central Square. Tabatha Eisner and Chef Steve Bentley named the place after Bentley’s great aunt, who ran whiskey from Canada to New Hampshire during Prohibition. The former Tony Clamato’s was classed up with black trim, new lighting and a few church pews for bench seating in the dining area. The whiskey list keeps growing at the comfortable bar, and the area also sports a grand piano. The owners found a good chef in John Rossey, who creates over-the-top comfort food with bacon-wrapped chicken wings coated with a bourbon Moxie glaze, deviled eggs with caviar, upscale housemade gnocchi in a brown butter sage sauce and pork tenderloin with mashed celery root. It’s all very good.
Dish not to miss: Chicken Marengo with quail egg, steamed crawfish and a very citrusy cilantro-lime sauce.
Get there: Closed Monday, lunch Tuesday through Sunday, dinner Tuesday through Saturday, Sunday Brunch.
9 Court St., Keene
(603) 354-3214, Facebook
Salt & Lime
Good, honest food doesn’t always need expensive trappings. Issac Kaufman, chef and owner at Salt & Lime, sources local hormone-free pork to make his own sausages, the main event, at his mobile food truck parked on Emerald Street. For $10, he offers a choice of several sausages on grilled buns, including the house special with sauerkraut and mustard, and Rick’s Link with smoked paprika bacon crumble, slaw, crushed potato chips and vinegar aioli. The sausage combinations are a meeting point for fancy and favorite ingredients off the greatest hits list, balanced with, hmm … salt, fat and acid. He named it Salt & Lime for the two ingredients that enhance just about any dish, and now serve as the backbone of his aioli and mustard sauces that compliment the meats.
Dish not to miss: sausage of your choice and/or street fries featuring farmer’s cheese, crumbled sausage, fresh herbs and a vinegar aioli.
Get there: Open weekdays for lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
73 Emerald St., Keene
(603) 355-7068, saltandlimenh.com
Raleigh Wine Bar & Eatery
All it took was a wine appreciation course in college for proprietor Nimi Idnani to rethink her career plans. Ever since, the 31-year-old has been traveling and studying wine and hopes to eventually attain Master of Wines level. At Raleigh, a modern, bright white space with large windows offering views of Memorial Bridge, Idnani works with her chef, Jeremy Glover, planning exquisite bites that pair perfectly with her wine collection of about 80 carefully selected bottles — many naturally produced — from Alsace to Germany to the Loire Valley. There is also a nice selection of wines by the glass, focusing on complexity. Find more than cheeses and charcuterie, as the menu changes often, offering a short selection of clever entrées, a foie gras with streaks of cocoa appetizer and a blue fin toro tuna tartare covered with thinly sliced cucumber dusted with baby basil flowers. There is even a goat dish, which surely has a wine to match.
Dish not to miss: soft boiled egg appetizer blended with spices, all carefully returned to the shell and topped with trout roe.
Get there: Opens at 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday with a brunch menu.
67 State St., Portsmouth
(603) 427-8459, raleighwinebar.com
Lure Bar and Kitchen
A new partnership has taken over the former Banana Republic retail space, presenting another dining option in Portsmouth. They plan to focus on seafood, small, shareable plates, and offer a modest raw bar along with tinned seafood — such as squid in ink and smoked sardines from Spain — for a tapas feel. Chef Brendan Levin, formerly the chef at 3S Artspace, encourages folks to sit and nibble, as that’s the way he likes to eat. With a focus on an intriguing dining menu, also expect to see a nice selection of white and sparkling wines, while a variety of gins and gin cocktails will highlight the spirit offerings. Beverage manager Megan McNeil is crafting many of the ingredients, including bitters and tonic. The space centers on a large, white marble bar and a reclaimed wood accent wall, both fostering a casual beach atmosphere. Flip flops welcome!
Dish not to miss: charcuterie plate with a glass of Cava. As of press time in early October, Lure Bar and Kitchen was scheduled to open later in the month.
Get there: Opens at 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday; bar opens at 4:30 p.m. with light snacks.
100 Market St., Portsmouth
Ore Nell’s Barbecue
Hop just over the border to Badger’s Island to find food from the Lone Star State. It’s all about Texas here as Houston native Chef Will Myska pays tribute to his home state with dry-rub BBQ, a brisket sandwich served with Texas napkins (white bread) and a legendary banana pudding, all offered with local craft brews and Texas’ Shiner beer. The name is also an ode to Myska’s grandmother and cooking inspiration, Ore Nell, now in her early 90s. The former Blind Pig Provisions space was a perfect fit, as it already had the traditional look of a BBQ joint with galvanized steel and pine walls. But Ore Nell’s is more than tradition. Sure, you can order brisket and ribs by the pound with your choice of the usual sides, but specials are Myska’s road to fame with beautifully executed Korean ribs, beef short ribs with tomato jam and his take on Frito pie — hey, Frito-Lay is headquartered in Dallas. The dish was a staple for public schools for years.
Dish not to miss: Myska’s cornbread with jalapeño, cheddar and De Arbol honey and those succulent Korean ribs.
Get there: Open for lunch and dinner at 11:30 a.m. Thursday though Sunday, dinner only 4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday.
2 Badgers Island West, Kittery
(207) 703-2340, orenellsbbq.com
Boards and Brews
The menu here is fairly limited (mostly snacks and sandwiches plus two larger plates, turkey dinner or short rib mac and cheese), but the spot is less about eating and more about gathering in a communal atmosphere while drinking beer and playing board games. Actually, it’s a lot of fun. Groups — from families to teens to millennials — may spend the evening at tables or even in a semi-private room to conquer Chutes and Ladders or Dungeons & Dragons. The only TV in the place is tuned to a YouTube board game channel, limiting distraction from conversation and good laughs. There is a $5 game charge, but game recommendations from their library of more than 1,000 games and a seat at the table for the evening is worth the coin of our realm.
Not-to-miss game: Timeline, to play at the bar with a friend, followed by the brownie sundae, which is pretty decadent.
Get there: Open daily for lunch to 11 p.m. and later on Friday and Saturday.
941 Elm St., Manchester
(603) 785-9721, boardsandbrewsnh.com
Cornerstone Artisanal Pizza & Craft Beer
This is so much more than another pizza joint. The old Frank Jones Brew Yard buildings have been renovated over the past couple of years into a hip center for businesses of all sorts. Cornerstone is located inside a multi-use building, and features the original brick walls and a few mechanical contraptions, now just wall art. Cornerstone was started in Ogunquit, Maine, but this location has expanded the menu beyond their tasty wood-oven pizza to main dishes featuring duck breast or seafood, sticky ribs apps and interesting sandwiches piled with butternut squash. Enjoy it all in this multilevel inviting space. Chef Andrew Morin has been given the reins to up the ante, plus find a nice selection of craft brews on tap.
Dish not to miss: The duck entrée of the day
Get there: Open at 11:30 a.m. daily for lunch and dinner.
110 Brewery Ln., Portsmouth
(603) 294-0965, cornerstoneportsmouth.com
The Carriage House
Louie’s in Portsmouth was a diner’s dream with great Northern Italian food and perfect service. Smoke damage from a nearby fire forced the restaurant to close, but the team behind Louie’s found a new home. They looked to Rye and The Carriage House, which was nearing the end of a fine run. They made an offer, and now co-owners James Woodhouse and RJ Joyce, along with partner Chef Brett Cavanna, have adapted to this new location. The space was opened and updated with neutral whites and charcoal. The cozy second floor bar offers views to “Ocean TV,” as it were, with beach volleyball, surfers and gulls providing content. The short-but-sweet menu features fresh seafood, from local oysters to flounder tartare to caviar. With a respectful nod, the team offers nightly blue plate specials spun from the old Carriage House menu: liver and onions, prime rib and fried fish. You’ll only find a few Italian dishes, maybe a farfalle Bolognese with roasted tomatoes, to slyly suggest, “We have not forgotten Louie’s; we shall return.”
Dish not to miss: pan-seared scallops and the Parker House rolls with rosemary and sea salt.
Get there: Open for dinner at 5 p.m., brunch on Sunday at 11 a.m.
2263 Ocean Blvd., Rye
(603) 964-8251, carriagehouserye.com
Once the sous chef at the Local Eatery in Laconia, Kaylon Sweet now manages his own spot in the former Coe House/Lavinia’s in Center Harbor. The interior was beautifully redone a number of years ago, and little was changed to disturb it. A great feature are the two bars, one upstairs and one down, that offer convivial meeting spots for casual dining, while the sophisticated rooms with French wallpaper suggest a place for a more relaxed meal. Sweet focuses on Italian food, his personal favorite, as he trained, in part, at the Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence. All pastas are housemade, including a sausage ravioli with meatballs and braised pork with artichoke ravioli. Even the pizza, hot from the wood-fired oven, is given a special touch and served on a wooden board. Pastry Chef Bella Price is a wizard with panna cotta and gelato, packing the flavors of the season into the dessert course, while bar manager Andy McClure creates his own bitters, shrubs and even a Pernod-style liqueur for building inventive cocktails.
Dish not to miss: meatballs and ravioli, a fall-inspired panna cotta and Professor Plum cocktail while dining in the cupola atop the building. Reserve it and tip well, as it’s three flights up.
Get there: Open for dinner 5 p.m., closed Monday, while brunch on Sunday is a new option.
18 Main St., Center Harbor
(603) 250-8007, osteriapoggio.com
Editor’s note: Casey and Amy La Rue are no longer at The Hancock Inn Dining Room.
The Hancock Inn Dining Room
It would be hard to say that dining at The Hancock Inn is new since it’s been serving the public since 1789, but the guardians of such a historic venue change over the years, bringing new influences with them. Jarvis and Marcia Coffin took possession in 2011, and first set about refurbishing the guest rooms and dealing with necessary maintenance. This past spring, they focused on the culinary side of things, overhauling the dining room menu by bringing in husband-and-wife duo Casey and Amy La Rue, now executive chef and pastry chef, respectively, after a nationwide search. Each is highly trained in the culinary arts and also worked with the likes of Ken Oringer, Daniel Boulud and Michelin’s Chef of the Century, the late Joël Robuchon. Now situated in the heart of pastureland and artisan producers, the couple has taken locally sourced directly to the menu. Casey makes cultured butter with Connolly Brothers Farm milk, and lamb is sustainably raised down the road at Mayfair Farm in Harrisville. Amy adds a layer of richness with her exquisitely plated desserts and beautiful breads. The dining room menu is presented as a tasting menu with several choices for each course. Find on-trend, artistic presentation on each plate, but better yet, delightful flavor. The tasting menu is $48, and the grand tasting is $85. Old favorites, including the Yankee pot roast, remain available in the Fox Tavern.
Dish not to miss: the whole roasted Cavendish quail
Get there: Dinner at 5:30 Tuesday through Saturday.
33 Main St., Hancock
(603) 525-3318, hancockinn.com
The third in Prohibition-style bars produced by the clever Liu Vaine is on point with period furnishing and the feel of a secret speakeasy, while the staff is dressed for the part. The room is dark and sounds of the Jazz Age are in the air — maybe even live ragtime piano. There is always a trick to gain entry, so look on Yelp or answer the riddle. Hint — pick up the phone. But don’t worry, they won’t leave you hanging if there is room inside. And coming soon, you can actually have your hair cut in the foyer on occasion. As they say, “Come in for a cut, and leave with a buzz.” Also coming soon is a whiskey bar, which will be located in the renovated downstairs space. No reservations taken, but you can waitlist.
Drink and dish not to miss: French 75, meatloaf burger and an over-the-top brioche donut
Get there: 90 Low Ave., Eagle Square, Concord
(603) 856-7520, Facebook
Editor’s note: Whiskey & Wine is under new ownership.
Whiskey & Wine
Earlier this year, chef David Spagnuolo and restaurateur Stacey Murphy rebranded their Manchester restaurant, Gale Motor Co., as Noodle Bar. Soon after, they sold Noodles to focus on their newest restaurant, Whiskey & Wine in Concord’s revamped Remi’s Block. Not uncoincidentally, the tapas-style offerings include greatest hits from the Gale and Noodle menus and 40 or more brands of whiskies — bourbon, rye and scotch. Look for special wine dinners too, while Murphy continues to blend up nice cocktails with her housemade ingredients.
Dish not to miss: Tonkutsu Ramen.
Get there: Open at 4 p.m. except on Sunday.
148 N. Main St., Concord
(603) 715-8575, restaurantji.com
More New Restaurants
North End Bistro
1361 Elm St., Manchester
The former The Way We Cook spot has new ownership, but continues the tradition with Italian-American fare.
(603) 232-3527, Facebook
246 Main St., Tilton
Offering authentic Tex-Mex dishes.
(603) 729-0062, Facebook
Cielito Mexican Restaurant
50 S. Main St., Bristol
Tableside guacamole, olé!
(603) 744-2044, cielitomexicanrestaurant.com
9 Madbury Rd., Durham
Serving bowls of greens and grains with an international “street food” flair in a fast/casual atmosphere near UNH.
(603) 397-5539, nomads.kitchen
Moko Japanese Steakhouse
2060 Woodbury Ave. Newington
Hibachi tables, sushi, etc.
(603) 374-7000, mokohibachi.com
Sakura Asian Bistro
166 Daniel Webster Hwy. Nashua
Specializing in Japanese dishes, sushi and sashimi.
(603) 589-9815, sakuranashua.com
Smoke and Cream
44 Market St.
Find small-batch ice cream and a full range of BBQ along with beer, wine and spirits.
(603) 841-5901, smokeandcreamnh.com
254 Wallace Rd., Bedford
Freshly made pastas with choice of sauces and other add-ons in a fast/casual atmosphere.
(603) 488-2463, table8pasta.com
Peter Christian’s Tavern
195 Main St., New London
New London’s favorite hangout is re-opened in a totally renovated building after a very long time sitting on the sidelines.
(603) 526-4042, peterchristiansnh.com
292 Route 101, Amherst
Featuring an authentic Mexican-style menu in the former BluAqua space in Salzburg Square.
Little Brother’s Burger Company
420 Main St., New London
A gourmet burger restaurant created by the management of Millstone at 74 Main Restaurant. Opening soon in the former Cataleya’s Caribbean Bar & Grill space.
173 Hanover St., Manchester
(603) 623-3000, Facebook
Buba Noodle Bar
36 Lowell St., Manchester
Located in the former Gale Motor Co./Noodle Bar space, Trumin Nguyen and his family offer authentic Vietnamese food, Asian fusion dishes and pho. (603) 935-7864, Facebook
Expansions and Upgrades
875 Elm St., Manchester
This beautiful new location, their 16th in four years, features a large bar, plenty of booth seating and a secluded patio out back with a fire pit.
(603) 836-1150, 110grill.com
75 Portsmouth Ave., Exeter
Fast/casual café featuring healthy Hawaiian poke bowls.
(603) 319-8234, ohana.kitchen
Barrio, 3S Artspace
319 Vaughn St., Portsmouth
Taco shop serving up tacos, tequila and whiskey.
(603) 766-3330, 3sarts.org/barrio-restaurant
The Barley House Seacoast
43 Lafayette Rd., North Hampton
This popular Concord restaurant takes their great burgers and beer to the Seacoast.
(603) 379-9161, seacoast.thebarleyhouse.com
107 State St. (upstairs), Portsmouth
The former Red Door is now a new cocktail lounge, throwing it back to the ’50s and ’60s with classic cocktails with nibbles to eat.
(603) 294-9941, theniceportsmouth.com
Gauchos Churrascaria Brazilian Steak House
6 Elm St., Nashua
This Brazilian restaurant in Manchester, featuring meats cut from skewers, has expanded to Nashua with its prix-fixe-only menu and lunch buffet. Crêpes are not available at this location.
(603) 881-3663, gauchosbraziliansteakhouse.com
Pleasant Street Grille
62 Pleasant St., Concord
Small eatery to open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Former Shorty’s, Bedford
Mum is the word on what Great NH Restaurants (T-BONES, Cactus Jack’s, Copper Door, etc.) will do with this space in 2019.
Dixie Blu, Manchester
Expected November opening. Featuring the Cajun cuisine of Chef Chris Noble, formerly of bluAqua. Opening in the former Ted Herbert Music store on Elm Street.
968 Elm St., Manchester
As of press time in early October, it was expected to open later in the month. From the folks at Birch on Elm comes a ramen eatery in the former Finesse Pastries location. Facebook
Rambling House, Nashua
Expected late spring opening
The former Timber Grille spot on Water Street is being totally transformed with post-and-beam construction, a patio and additional rooftop deck that will offer views of the Nashua River. The restaurant will offer farm-to-table dining sourced from their own farm. A brewery, Talespinner, will be located on the bottom level. ourramblinghouse.com