Best of NH 2012 American and Seafood Restaurants

In this section you'll find the juiciest steaks, the most comforting mac and cheese, creamy clam chowder, finger-licking barbecue, romantic dining, crispy french fries, bursting lobster rolls and much more.

Readers' Poll
*Editor's Picks

*Après Ski Salad: The Shovel Handle Pub at Whitney's Inn in Jackson is popular with the ski crowd, but it's worth heading there year-round for Joyce's Salad. A signature dish, this hearty salad is your choice of grilled lamb or chicken atop greens, Vermont goat cheese, roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes, grilled potatoes and topped with walnuts. You can also substitute salmon for an extra $3.

KC's Rib Shack in Manchester

Barbecue: If you're looking for an authentic barbecue restaurant, KC's Rib Shack in Manchester is the place to go. Try the QQ Pladda to get a taste of everything they offer.

*Best Country Store Dining: The perfect setting of the Harrisville Country Store in postcard-perfect Harrisville could be a stage set. The whole town is pretty darn charming and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Locals gather here to find general merchandise and excellent locally sourced meals, including a fully stocked to-go section.

*Brisket: Interesting fact – the Oyler Barbecue Pit at Goody Cole's Smokehouse in Brentwood, fueled by 100 percent hickory wood, is capable of holding 1,200 pounds of meat. Though there's quite a list of down-home Southern-style dishes to choose from, don't pass up the beef brisket that's smoked low and slow for 12 hours. Get it on a sandwich with a side and a pickle or just have your half pound of meat on a plate served with two sides and cornbread.

Butcher Shop: Mr. Steer Meats in Londonderry sells everything from specialty meats, imported deli items and cheese to wines, produce and European-style breads.

Butcher Shop (National Chain): The Meat House, which has New Hampshire locations in Stratham, Bedford, Dover, Pembroke and Portsmouth with one set to open in Stratham soon, stocks only the finest cuts of beef, lamb, veal, chicken, turkey and more.

Chicken Fingers: The slightly sweet and always moist chicken fingers at the Puritan Backroom in Manchester are a local legend.

Children's Menu: Manchester's '50s-style Airport Diner will please even your pickiest eater with its menu of childhood staples like hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Children's Menu (Local Chain): T-BONES, which has locations all over New Hampshire, has a kids' menu that ranges from salmon to chicken fingers. It even offers alcohol-free mocktails like the Roy Rogers and Shirley Temples.

Children's Menu (National Chain): Friendly's has a children's menu large enough to rival the main menu, but if all else fails, the huge selection of ice cream will put a smile on your little one's face.

Chili: The chili at Loaf and Ladle in Exeter is just one of the delicious choices that they offer. Great to warm you up after a full day of shopping downtown.

Chili (National Chain): You might not expect the chili to be great at a fast food restaurant, but Wendy's proves that wrong. Served fresh and hot every time, it's a great meal when you're on the go.

Clam Chowder: Treat yourself to some of the best clam chowder on the Seacoast at the venerable Old Salt in Hampton.

Clam Chowder (Regional Chain): Located in Dover and Concord, Newick's Lobster House serves rich and creamy clam chowder that you just can't get enough of. Beautiful views of the ocean all around you at the Dover location.

Crab Cakes: The hip Jumpin' Jay's in Portsmouth has some of the best fresh seafood around and their light and fluffy crab cakes are no exception.

Crab Cakes (Local Chain): Curl up next to the fire at a cozy table and enjoy delicious crab cakes at The Common Man, with locations all around New Hampshire.

The Copper Door in Bedford

*Crab Cake Appetizer: It's not easy to find Maryland-style crab cakes – big lumps of crab with a zing of spiciness – in NH, but we've located some. The Copper Door, a new-ish restaurant in Bedford, has crab cakes that rival any south of the Mason-Dixon line. A bit of lambs lettuce, dried cranberry and creole aioli added – they've got it just right.

*Crackers: Watch out – these thin, crisp flatbread crisps are addictive. Craquelins in Concord bakes up a variety of flavors with a slow fermentation that allows the seeds to imbed into the dough. A few flavors do not have seeds, including the sugar and cinnamon. Eat them alone or pair with spreads or cheese. Available online and at a variety of farmers markets.

Fine Dining Restaurant: The Hanover Street Chophouse in Manchester has a nearly unparalleled steak menu, as well as fresh fish, shellfish and many varieties of wine.

*Free Form Seafood Lasagna: Seafood lasagna is turned upside down and inside out at upscale Tek-Nique in Bedford. Fresh, house-made wide noodles are intertwined with shrimp, scallops, Maine crab and lobster, all brought together in harmony with a lobster cream sauce and finished with a touch of micro greens. It's a delight to enjoy a familiar dish that has been reinvented and elevated to new heights.

Fried Clams: BYOB after a long day at the beach at Brown's Lobster Pound in Seabrook and get a taste of true New England seafood with fresh fried clams.

French Fries: Boardwalk Fries on Hampton Beach is a seasonal, open-air, cash-only takeout joint where locals and tourists can't get enough of the piping hot fries. (603) 926-6325

French Fries (National Chain): You can't go to Five Guys without trying their famous fries. Overflowing the bag, these french fries never disappoint.

Hamburger: Enjoy the Dublin Burger's signature peppercorn flavor at The Barley House in Concord.

Hamburger (Local chain): Get your burger just the way you want it at T-BONES Great American Eatery at one of their many local locations: Bedford, Derry, Hudson, Laconia or Salem. Don't forget to try the homemade potato chips!

Hamburger (National Chain): Five Guys isn't just another fast-food restaurant. At every location throughout the nation, freshly cooked burgers and pick-your-own toppings separate this one from the rest.

Hot Dog: Gilley's is just a small shack hidden in downtown Portsmouth, but it's also home of the best hot dog and late-night food around.

Hotel Restaurant: Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle has three different restaurants on its grounds, but the Wentworth Dining Hall is especially well-known for its harbor views, frescoed ceiling and upscale dining experience.

*Kobe Sliders: The menu is short at the River Road Tavern in Bedford, but what they have hits the spot with a cold beer. Fortunately the beer list is long. The engaging interior offers space to mingle or be single.

Lobster Roll: The Beach Plum ice cream stands in North Hampton across from the beach and in Portsmouth, bring people from all over to try their delicious foot-long lobster roll.

Lobster Roll (Regional Chain): If you're looking for a casual, go-to place for some delicious lobster, The Lobster Boat Restaurant, with many convenient locations, is just the place.

Local Cheesemaker: The Sandwich Creamery in Sandwich makes cheeses like cheddar, brie, coulommier, jersey jack and caerphilly by hand in small batches.

Locally Sourced Menu: Nearly all of the ingredients used at Republic in Manchester come from New England farms, many of which are in New Hampshire. Republic is even a Certified Local Farm-to-Restaurant location.

*Macaroni and Cheese: Depending on how you look at it, knowing that there is creamy and oh-so-satisfying macaroni and cheese all ready to go and waiting for you at the Extra Touch Gourmet Café is either the best news or the worst news. The café, located at the New Hampshire NeuroSpine Institute in Bedford, offers a large menu of meals besides mac and cheese (but why would you order anything else?) that you can heat at home, bring back to the office or enjoy right there in the cozy dining area.

New Restaurant: The moment you walk through the namesake copper door at Bedford's Copper Door Restaurant, you'll be just as impressed with the high ceilings and forged steel details as with the upscale comfort food.

Onion Rings: Definitely make Clam Haven in Derry a summer tradition for you and your family – the giant battered onion rings are to die for!

Onion Rings (Local Chain): Start off a great meal with T-BONES' signature tower of hand-battered onion rings.

Onion Rings (Regional Chain): Enjoy a great seafood meal paired with delicious onion rings at Weathervane in one of their many locations throughout New Hampshire.

Outdoor Dining (Local Chain): With a large deck perched on the edge of Claremont's Sugar River, The Common Man is the perfect place for a summer's evening dinner.

*Pulled Pork: The Farm Bar and Grille in Dover and Manchester isn't really a BBQ joint, but the pulled pork is smoky, juicy and piled high on top of a fresh Virgilio's Bakery bun. Try the giant pulled pork burrito with cheddar cheese, guacamole, coleslaw and sour cream. The pulled pork quesadilla comes drizzled in their tangy BBQ sauce and is topped with homemade salsa.

Mint Bistro in Manchester

*Restaurant Revamp: Mint Bistro in Manchester is back and better than ever. The popular restaurant closed temporarily for renovations that include the addition of an excellent sushi bar and a new look that channels the cosmopolitan feel of New York City while remaining comfortable and completely inviting. The contemporary fusion menu is much improved too with a wide but well-considered selection of tapas, seafood, pasta and meat dishes. A nice wine list with many reasonably priced bottles and an inventive cocktail list are also offered.

Romantic Restaurant: Dinner for two has never been better than at the Bedford Village Inn in Bedford. A venue that is no stranger to weddings, proposals and rehearsal dinners, it's the perfect place to bring your better half.

*Seafood Pie Florentine: Yes, it's called the Pasta Loft, but we think you should bypass the carbs and head straight for the seafood section of the menu. The Seafood Pie Florentine at either the Milford or Hampstead location is stuffed with large gulf shrimp, scallops, haddock and lobster that all gets baked in a spinach and herb cheese sauce and is topped with seasoned bread crumbs to finish. This warm, savory dish is extremely satisfying without being overly rich.

Seafood Restaurant: Get the experience of eating in the big city without having to worry about the hustle and bustle at Surf Restaurant in Nashua and Portsmouth. Try a house specialty like the New England Seafood Dinner or order from the always fresh raw bar.

Seafood Restaurant (Regional Chain): Located in two convenient locations on the Seacoast and in central New Hampshire, Newick's is a great place to go for freshly cooked tasty seafood.

Soup: The soup at Loaf and Ladle in Exeter is made from scratch and their specials are always changing.

Soup (National Chain): Panera Bread is a go-to favorite for soups. Their broccoli cheddar is even better in one of their freshly baked bread bowls.

Steakhouse: Whether you're going out for a special occasion or just looking for a top-notch steak in an elegant atmosphere with wonderful service, Hanover Street Chophouse in Manchester will meet expectations.

Steakhouse (National Chain): LongHorn Steakhouse is one of the best steakhouse chains around. With its almost cabin-like atmosphere, it's very relaxing and always serves delicious food for the whole family.

*Steak Tips: Have it your way at the new Tuckaway Tavern & Butchery in Raymond. Take home marinated steak tips from the butcher shop or meander to the rustic tavern and have them grilled on the spot. I'll have a Smuttynose with that.

*Unique Children's Menu: If eating healthy is important to you, it's tough to take your children to a restaurant where the standard fare is usually not-so-healthy. Now you have an option. Burtons Grill in Nashua now offers {B} Choosy, a new children's menu and concept to give kids unlimited options for food that is portioned and served according to the newest guidelines for nutrition.

Wings: Whether you like your wings a little sweet or a little spicy, Wing-itz in Portsmouth has just the right sauce.

Wings (Local Chain): Try not to get too messy with T-BONES' fall-off-the-bone wings! At all of their locations, they aim to please.

Categories: Best of NH Winners