Best of NH 2017 Pizzerias and Ethnic Food Restaurants

Editor's Pick for rustic northern Italian dining, Louie's. Photo by Susan Laughlin

Paella: A cozy café in Wilton is the surprising home base for native Peruvian Jorge Arrunategui. His steaming, fragrant paella gained fame at the Concord Arts Market and the Milford Pumpkin Festival, where he would serve it from a huge pan. Now you can get this colorful and healthy dish any time at his friendly Sky Bridge Café.

Fusion Dish: The Cuban egg roll’s crunchy shell is filled with roasted pork, smoked ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickle with a mustard dip on the side. This delectable dish is just one of the inventive small plates available at Gale Motor Co. Eatery in Manchester. Chef/owner David Spagnuolo has mastered the art of making downsized versions of popular dishes. Think duck confit dumplings with luxardo cherry demi-glace or a petite osso buco that won’t break the bank or your belt.

Upscale Thai: It’s not that Chang Thai Café in Littleton skips out on the traditional dishes that you love, but those dishes (think pad Thai or drunken noodles) are created with just a dash of contemporary flair. The menu — a nice mix of classic favorites done right with a few unexpected items — keeps things interesting. Start the meal with fried calamari, crispy tofu or classic spring rolls and then get a little adventurous with entrées such as the Thai basil softshell crab or tamarind duck. If it’s curry you crave, then there are 10 varieties from the usual green and red to massaman avocado curry with black tiger shrimp.

Rustic Northern Italian Dining: Just about everything is perfect at Louie’s in Portsmouth, from the subdued lighting to the attentive and knowledgeable service to the balance of flavor in each and every dish. Find a perfect charcuterie plate with rich pâtés and imported cheeses, and, for appetizers, their deep-fried cauliflower is legendary and the duck minestrone is deeply flavored. You’ll know after just one bite. Promise.

Turkish Cuisine: Until late last year, Hillsborough’s Mediterrano was the state’s only dedicated Turkish restaurant. Omar Yasin expanded our Ottoman appetites in November when, just three months after moving here from Turkey, he opened Matbah Mediterranean Cuisine. The authentic Middle Eastern menu at this downtown Manchester spot is full of small dishes that combine into flavorful feasts, from green-tinted falafel and grilled octopus to kebabs and even baklava.

Jamaican Cuisine: The banks of the Connecticut River are feeling a lot more like the shores of the Caribbean, thanks to Sunshine Cook Shop in Claremont. The teensy Pleasant Street spot serves up all kinds of Jamaican goodies, from oxtail to fried plantains, but the real star is the jerk chicken. Grab some of the 15-month-old eatery’s artfully seasoned creations for wings that are infinitely more intriguing than your standard sports bar fare.

Bánh Mì: Though they call theirs the “Phnom Penh sandwich,” the signature dish at Phnom Penh Sandwich Station is a classic and delicious example of this Southeast Asian sammy. The Lebanon food-truck-turned-restaurant stuffs their fresh-baked bread with all the standard toppings and then lets you choose your filling. The six options include lemongrass beef, ginger garlic pork and grilled tofu with spicy soy and sesame sauce.

Nepali Marketplace: Sure, you could pick up some frozen tikka masala from your neighborhood Market Basket — but we’d recommend making your next international night a little more authentic. Concord’s Katmandu Bazaar offers groceries from all over Africa and Asia, from their produce aisle stocked with yucca and Indian long squash to their stores of international junk food and pantry staples like brown rice and palm oil. Nepali fare forms the backbone of the business, though a full-service restaurant in the back of the shop supplements the flavors of the Indian subcontinent available on shelves.

Taco Tuesday: Jonny Boston’s International in Newmarket is beloved for its fusion street food with international flavors, from a báhn mì and souvlaki to burgers and burritos. An especially tasty deal takes place every week on Taco Tuesday, where you can get great food at a great price — three tacos (chicken, pork or black bean) for $7.

Shawarma Pizza: WOW Fried Chicken & Subs on Depot Street in Concord is most famous for their crisp and tasty fried chicken, but owner Maher Abbas takes pride in his traditional versions of some Middle Eastern specialties like lamb and rice. For a unique cross-cultural treat, try the shawarma pizza, an Iraqi comfort food that’s not well-known in the US, but is savory and satisfying with a layer of richly seasoned ground beef on a thin chewy crust.

Rodizio Night: At rodizio night at The Little Grille in Littleton, the prime item is primo Brazilian barbecue, gorgeous cuts of steak, pork and marinated chicken served straight off the skewer. Take a moment to appreciate the astonishing new murals that cover the walls, all painted by local (but internationally renowned) artist Rick Hunt.

Empanadas: The baked empanadas at Cáceres Argentinian Grill & Poncho Pub in Hillsborough are the perfect bite to start a meal. If you are really lucky, Chef Roy Cáceres, a member of the folk group Los 4Rumbus in Argentina before he landed in Hillsborough, will offer a song, especially if a tango group milonga is planned.

Categories: Best of NH Winners