2017's Best New Restaurants
From fine dining to juicy burgers, get ready to discover a whole new culinary landscape
There’s always a great story behind new restaurants. The owners, chefs or chef/owners are brimming with enthusiasm and want nothing more than to bring their passion for dining — in whatever culinary form it takes — to the public. New venues include the finest of dining, traditional flavors from far-flung regions and the ever-popular tavern reimagined to be food-forward. Here we have selected an even dozen for you to try. Dine out tonight!
Editor's Note: Susan Laughlin took a look back at the last 12 years of Best New Restaurants to see which restaurants have survived the times, changed ownership or become entirely new places. Curious to see how New Hampshire's food scene has changed? See her roundup here.
Find amazing, artfully presented dishes served in an intimate dining space. Watch Chef Lee Frank strive for perfection at the chef’s table or gaze at Exeter’s vibrant downtown from the window seats. There’s more opportunity at the bar for those looking for more social interaction. Word is, it gets a little noisy on busy evenings, but don’t let that distract you from the beauty and the balance of flavors of fine dining here.
The menu changes almost daily, but this is one of the few places that offers a multicourse tasting menu.
The dish pictured here is seared duck breast with broccoli purée, roasted turnips and risotto croquettes. Photo by Jennifer Bakos
4 Front St.
(603) 580-1705, otisrestaurant.com
The Covered Bridge Farm Table Restaurant & Bar
Sometimes it takes a village — or at least a TV crew — to shake up a restaurant. After the one-time Country Cow was visited by the crew of “Restaurant: Impossible,” owner Jennifer Leonzi took Chef Irvine’s advice to heart and headed back to culinary school. Now, within her refreshed space, you’ll find inventive local fare along with comfort food, which is the legacy from the Cow. Spacious window seating gives diners a great view, in any season, of the covered Blair Bridge.
Above is the dining room of the revamped Covered Bridge Farm Table, which has a nice mix of cozy rustic touches and modern décor. Photo by Susan Luaghlin
57 Blair Rd.
(603) 536-1331, farmtablenh.com
Designed to bring a complex new layer of dining options to the Queen City, Cabonnay can be hard to define. The multi-concept space occupies an interesting build-out of a boring office building half a block off Elm Street, offering a rooftop deck with gigantic, table lamp-style heaters for an extended season and an upscale bar with a contemporary setting boasting an interesting cocktail and wine program.
Other dining spaces are reminiscent of fine hotel dining with splashes of gold and bronze. Additional layers include rotating art exhibits mounted away from the walls for an airy look and piano and other live music events to add a bit of pleasant auditory sensation.
Of course, the food options are part of the “sensory” playbook too. Find very creative combinations and unusual items on the menu, many presented with a sense of theatre. I could tell you more, but just go — the surprising setting is a part of the fun.
Pictured are braised oysters with greens, pumpkin seeds, crispy shallots and caviar. Photo by Susan Laughlin
55 Bridge St.
(603) 854-9955, cabonnay.com
Thompson House Eatery
Over the years, Jeff and Kate Fournier spent time in Jackson and decided to pull up stakes at their Newton, Massachusetts, restaurant and relocate. With them they brought their fresh and local food philosophies, extending so far as to till the soil on the property to keep the food sourcing to a truly short haul.
They spruced up the interior of the beloved Thompson House Eatery, maintaining the comfortable spaces inside.
The menu, which changes often, starts with classic New England, but like the interior design, is re-envisioned. Add to that the house-made breads and pastas, it’s so good you may want to move to Jackson too.
Pictured is the Thompson House Eatery's all-natural beef sirloin steak with chimichurri and potato purée. Photo by Heath Robbins
193 Main St.
(603) 383-9341, thethompsonhouseeatery.com
Matbah Mediterranean Cuisine
Matbah’s owners (and recent Turkish immigrants) Omar and Cigdem Yasin (pictured above, photo by Susan Laughlin) are delighting diners with beautiful first-class presentations of Middle Eastern dishes — and then there is the amped-up flavor. Find the usual kebabs, adana and kofti in addition to meze plates, tabbouleh, tahini and hummus, and Middle Eastern breads. But there is much more to explore, including falafel with pomegranate sauce, grilled octopus with chickpeas and fennel with a lemon oregano dressing plus daily specials. This is not your usual storefront eatery.
866 Elm St.
(603) 232-4066, matbahcuisine.com
Murphy’s Taproom & Carriage House
Manchester-based Murphy’s Taproom has upped the ante at their new build-out at the old Weathervane location.
Find a tastefully appointed space with a capacious bar, outdoor patio, a series of smaller rooms for private dining and a new menu, featuring dishes that pair well with beer, including all-meat crab cakes, Scotch eggs and a lamb Shepard’s pie.
Cocktails are interesting and the beer list, though not overwhelming, is more than adequate and represents many local beers.
The adjoining Carriage House can accommodate 240 for events.
Pictured are crab cakes from Murphy’s Taproom & Carriage House. Photo by Susan Laughlin
393 Route 101
(603) 488-5975, murphystaproom.com
Chapel + Main
The bounty of great community dining is spilling over from Kittery, Maine. Black Birch enthusiasts will be happy to find another low-key but high-quality venue, which, like The Black Birch, is located in a nondescript building, this one just off Central Avenue. At Chapel + Main, you’ll find an array of small plate offerings that are perfect with a pint or one of the always-interesting cocktails. Classic favorites such as pan-seared scallops or chicken noodle soup are prepared with extra love by Executive Chef Skye Bonney, the former sous chef at The Black Birch. Pictured is Chapel + Main's lobster risoto. Photo by Susan Laughlin
83 Main St.
(603) 842-5170, chapelandmain.com
Revival Kitchen & Bar
Chef Cory Fletcher now has his own restaurant. After coming up in the ranks, first through Baldwin’s on Elm, 55 Main Street, Colby Hill Inn and the Centennial Hotel, he’s more than ready to roll in the former Sunny’s space. Find a nice selection of local cheeses, while the inviting menu of New England favorites is taken to the next level. Think scallops steamed in beer with kielbasa or pan-roasted Vernon Family Farm chicken with garden herb jelly. This is also one of the few restaurants where you can find rabbit on the menu on a regular basis.
Pictured is the rabbit cassoulet. Photo by Susan Laughlin
11 Depot St.
(603) 715-5723, revivalkitchennh.com
Yes, it’s true – The Pointe is technically on the Maine side of the border, but New Hampshire Seacoast residents have, to a degree, adopted Kittery and Badgers Island as a part of the region. This is the perfect place to dine on a beautiful summer evening with views of the harbor (and New Hampshire across the way!) with excellent seafood on your plate, but the river still looks good all year-round — on nice sunny winter days, the heat lamps can add a bit of warmth to the view. Find beautiful presentations and a unique experience on this working seaport. The Pointe may close during the worst of the winter season, so, when the snow flies, make sure to call or check the website before heading out.
31 Badgers Island West
(207) 703-2987, thepointerestaurant.com
Nibblesworth Wood Fire Grill
The former Blue Mermaid space has been re-envisioned by newcomers Jenny and Tom Nelson as a wood-fired grill-centric eatery offering approachable dining in a very historic space and neighborhood, near the newly developed Portwalk Place neighborhood. Jenny will draw from her Polish background, her experience in Asian restaurants and French technique to create a greatly varied food perspective. Find popcorn heated in rendered bacon fat, poutine with an IPA gravy, smoked pork chops with a peach reduction and even a new take on pierogi, plus other diversions and riffs on classic New England cuisine.
409 The Hill
(603) 427-8022, nibblesworth.com
Other Notable Openings
Taverns and Bars
It’s hard to beat the good times at a bar where there is always plenty of space at the rail for one more. The atmosphere is lively, usually loud, and you are often elbow-to-elbow with your newly minted friends. Plus, these are no longer just watering holes — the food is now the reason to pull up a stool.
The Crown Tavern, photo by Susan Laughlin
99 Hanover St., Manchester
In creating this bar concept, Hanover Street Chophouse owner Steven Clutter wanted a casual place that he and his wife could frequent, so you can bet it is up to snuff. The renovation of a former theater is beautifully done with tile work, booth seating and spacious off-the-street outdoor seating, plus all menu items are under $20. The long bar will soon be the place to be in Manchester.
Bonfire Restaurant & Country Bar
950 Elm St., Manchester
While not exactly fine dining, you can have a fine time at Bonfire. In the country-themed space, you can sit on a saddle, swing on a chair or gather on old ski lift seats. During nice weather, the front is opened to the sidewalk with bar seats perfect for people watching. In keeping with the country theme, you’ll be drinking out of red plastic Solo cups with special shapes for martinis and margaritas. Downstairs has its own bar and plenty of game action with cornhole, darts and more. Live country music and more acts will fill the bill. Oh, then there’s the free bacon happy hour until 7 p.m. Next door is the releated Torched Pizza.
801 Islington St., Portsmouth
The folks from Street have brought their worldly expertise to the pizza lover’s world. Find pizzas with a variety of crusts (NY-style, cauliflower and gluten-free). Inventive toppings include Korean cheesesteak. The new build-out includes a bar with an international bistro menu.
Hemingway’s Food & Drinks
69 Water St., Exeter
Hemingway’s has a great downstairs hangout serving succulent tapas and New England favorites with a flair, along with tasty cocktails.
56 Main Street Bar & Grill
56 Main St., Enfield
Featuring a pub menu and entertainment
168 Milford St., Milford
This casual spot is located in the former Chapanga’s space and offers a pub menu.
Rick’s Food & Spirits
143 Main St., Kingston
Both the space and menu were updated by local favorite chef Rick Korn. Find classic American favorites and an interesting cocktail and beer list.
Cooper’s Hill Public House
6 School St., Peterborough
This Irish-inspired pub is located in the former Marzano’s Trattoria space with a mission to source local. They also offer more than 140 whiskeys.
Ember Wood Fired Grill
1 Orchard St., Dover
Ember is in the former Orchard Street Chop Shop space. The new owners bring a focus to weekend dining upstairs, plus a mid-week bar scene downstairs with interesting cocktails.
The Railpenny Tavern
8 Exeter Rd., Epping
A nice gastropub with unusual offerings such as the popcorn cauliflower appetizer.
Tailgate Tavern & Marketplace
28 Portsmouth Ave., Stratham
The Tailgate is a friendly neighborhood bar with a menu of sandwiches, burgers, steaks and, of course, wings. Also find a few surprising items such as tempura fried cauliflower and shrimp scampi.
The Crazy Goat Bar & Grill
76 N. Main St., Concord
Flavors of the former Old Europe restaurant are offered in a more casual atmosphere. Dishes prepared by the chef/owner are not typical bar fare, and are Balkan-inspired and quite interesting.
Old School Bar & Grill
49 Range Rd., Windham
Serving “old school” favorites such as prime rib and steak tips.
At Tuscan Kitchen in Portsmouth, photo by Susan Laughlin
581 Lafayette Rd., Portsmouth
This is another expansive restaurant and market by owner Joe Faro. It’s a beautifully appointed space, and the seating is ever so inviting. Find the same menu as the other locations (Salem and Burlington, Massachusetts), but with a little more seafood offered here. A long bar beckons patrons to sample really nice red wines, including the Tuscan Kitchen’s own Super Tuscan. They’re not done yet — another property is opening in Boston’s Seaport district soon.
136 Marketplace Blvd., Rochester
Everyone loves the ambiance, outdoor dining and affordable food at 110 Grill.
2600 Lafayette Rd., Portsmouth and 440 Middlesex Rd., Tyngsboro, Massachusetts
Mac and cheese the way it should be — gooey and buttery. Choose from many versions at this fast-serve eatery that first opened in Manchester.
10 Jenkins Ct., Durham
Lexie’s continues to bring you burgers piled high with a huge variety of toppings.
3 Veterans Memorial Hwy., Salem
This popular Derry and Windham breakfast and lunch spot takes their poodle skirts down the road.
41 S. Broadway, Salem
The sumptuous Bedford restaurant brings their successful brand to the south. Expected to open in the late fall.
87 Nashua Rd., Londonderry
Pasquale’s has closed its Candia location and reopened in Londonderry. They continue to serve traditional southern Italian dishes and wood-fired-grilled pizzas.
238 Indian Brook Rd., Dover
This super-nice breakfast and lunch eatery is rapidly expanding. The young owners recently opened their largest location to date in Dover. Other locations include Hooksett, New London and Concord.
Thirsty Moose Taphouse
72 Portsmouth Ave., Exeter
The Thirsty Moose takes its largest-number-of-beers-on-tap theme to Exeter. This will be their fourth location, soon to join Manchester, Portsmouth and Dover.
Ikko Japanese Sushi & Steakhouse
This Dover Asian restaurant will open a new eatery on Lafayette Road in Portsmouth.
142 Congress St., Portsmouth
With an extensive selection of burgers and fries, this Hampton hotspot brings its vibe, which is twanged with a bit of country music, to Portsmouth.
Umami, photo by Susan Laughlin
284 1st New Hampshire Turnpike, Northwood
Umami’s blackboard of burger choices lists unusual combinations, and it takes some studying to make a choice. The variety of burger additions includes kimchi, Thai chili paste, pickled onions, local farm eggs, cabbage and more, all served on a potato roll — this usually makes quite the handful. The hippie-rustic décor adds to the feeling that there is a lot of love poured into this enterprise. The café also has other choices, including salads, breakfast dishes and Sunday brunch, all with local sourcing.
Wicked Fresh Craft Burgers
19 Barnes Rd., North Conway
With a pedigree that includes the award-winning White Mountain Cupcakery and stints at White Mountain Cider Company, this family enterprise is doing it right with hamburgers “smashed” on the grill for a nice sear and accompanied by hand-cut fries tossed with herbs grown in the dining space itself.
Hop + Grind
17 Madbury Rd., Durham
The folks at Tuckaway Tavern in Raymond are taking their fresh-ground burgers to UNH students, along with decadent fries finished in beef tallow. Wash it all down with one of the great local beers on tap.
DeBernardo’s Restaurant & Catering
175 Main St., Epping
DeBernardo’s, which is well-loved by locals, offers Southern Italian favorites, including pizza.
Cresh’s Italian Country Kitchen
2190 White Mountain. Hwy., North Conway
This interesting menu offers the Italian dishes you love plus plenty you’ll want to discover.
321 Nashua St., Milford
From the chef at the Riverhouse Café on Milford’s oval comes this take on classic Italian cooking, offering all the usual suspects with a fresh and local theme. Oh, those desserts look beautiful.
Healthy Does It
Milk & Honey Juicery + Café, photo by Jocelyn Van Saun
Milk & Honey Juicery + Café
889 Elm St., Manchester
The latest effort by Liu Vaine makes eating healthy very compelling. Find freshly squeezed juices in a variety of healthy colors, each packed with phytonutrients. Yes, colors — everything here is ordered by hue. Nut milk smoothies and vegan breakfast and lunch bowls round out the menu in this downtown café. Read more here.
235 Hanover St., Manchester
Chef Tom Puskarich has created a healthy and clean theme for the menu at Restoration. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Find fresh juices, inventive sandwiches, egg dishes and more. There’s really nice terrace seating alongside the building for the warmer months. It’s maybe just a block farther from Elm Street than you may want to walk, but please do. There’s a lot of love going into the menu here.
Earth’s Harvest Kitchen & Juicery
835 Central Ave., Dover
George Bezanson, the Earth’s Harvest chef, has a great pedigree, having opened Mint Bistro and Bridge Café in Manchester and Pressed Café in Nashua. At his latest, the food is delicious, beautiful and healthy.
The Flight Center
97 Main St., Nashua
This is a beer lover’s heaven, offering a huge draft list of craft beers from around the state and good food to wash it all down. There’s also an on-site bottle shop.
The Fig and the Olive
246 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack
This is a small café offering fresh baked goods and a short menu of savories for lunch or a light dinner.
Fezziwig’s Food & Fountain
112 State St., Portsmouth
An ice cream shop and café that offers plenty of Old World charm with old-fashioned milkshakes and tasty savory items in a whimsical setting that’s perfect for a cup of tea or coffee and maybe a bit more — all part of the Pickwick’s Mercantile fantasy.
Raleigh Wine Bar + Market
67 State St., Portsmouth
Soon-to-open wine bar and gourmet market that will have a takeout menu.
Rambling House in Nashua, which will occupy the former Timber Grille space at 57 Factory St., is scheduled to open early next year. The long, three-level space is being redefined by enclosing the outdoor patio and adding ample rooftop dining. The rooftop and areas of the dining room will offer views of the Nashua River. The menu will be locally inspired with much produce from their own farm, part of The Nature of Things group in Nashua. A brewery is being planned for the lower level.
Chuck’s BARbershop in Concord's Eagle Square will be a Prohibition-style bar similar to CodeX in Nashua and 815 in Manchester. Chuck’s will specialize in recreating drinks of the past with a great historical vibe. Facebook. No opening date was announced at press time.