Hot New Restaurants
It's been another tough year for our local restaurant industry with several fine dining restaurants closing and everyone else tightening ship. New concepts are being considered and more than a few excellent chefs are opening casual restaurants, where good food with a twist is the draw. Barbecue to gourmet pizza to locally sourced products are at the heart of a few of these new establishments. The food is good, but the white tablecloth and hovering server are gone. Yet, there are a few restaurateurs who are not willing to throw in the white linen napkin. Here's hoping that great food and good service will never go unappreciated.
Aiming for perfection
Located in the former Dunaway Restaurant on the grounds of Strawbery Banke, the owner of Mombo, Dede Cadieux, has a lot to prove in this historic spot. And the start is good. The space was re-envisioned with a longer bar, now topped with green quartz and warmer colors throughout enliven the space. A collection of Russian paintings grace the walls, courtesy of Cadieux's husband Brian, who is a collector. She brought in Executive Chef Matt King, who has an international background. He and Executive Sous Chef Nick Gough source locally or internationally to help sustain worthy producers. Pastry Chef Jennifer Woods brings her experience from Blue Sky in York where she worked with Lydia Shire. Woods bakes fresh breads daily and creates stunning desserts worth the calories. The all-star team invents creative presentations. It's all here, beautiful artwork and décor, attractive servers and food worthy of a "King."
Hot Dish: The Kobe steak with compound butter ($32)
Cool Drink: McIntosh Martini Vermont with Gold Vodka shaken with apple purée and infused with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove, topped with cranberry juice and served with a raw sugar rim ($11)
Wednesday through Sunday for dinner, lunch Thursday through Saturday
66 Marcy St., Portsmouth, (603) 433-2340, www.momborestaurant.com
Listening and learning
After the second attempt at reviving the Molly Stark Tavern in New Boston failed, local residents were left without an evening meeting place. Local Kirsten Montgomery did something about it and did it right. Now Kiki's and the Gravity Tavern (an homage to the Gravity Research Foundation that was sited in the building, see page 14 for more information) has a fresh face. The endearing barn-board interior was cleaned up, the bar area spruced up and nice details like the rustic twig handrails added. It's a new start for the historic 1840s structure.
Chef Jason Seavey, former sous chef at the Bedford Village Inn, is adding a upscale twist to the menu with a mindful eye to keep the regulars happy. Bob's Baseball steak is a nice cut, small in size and served with mashed potatoes and carrots. Bob, often seated at the bar, made the request for a smaller portion and it fits the bill ($12) when you don't want to make a huge commitment to beef. Other smaller-fare choices include creative grilled flat breads ($10-$12) and crispy duck wings ($9). Fresh artisan bread comes from the nearby Good Loaf and the dessert tray is loaded with cakes and tortes from a local baker without an excessive sweet tooth. The pumpkin Charlotte was perfect and beautifully presented. Brunch on Sunday offers lavender-scented pancakes. How cool is that?
Hot Dish: The Autumn Crusted Pork Chop, served with a flamed sprig of rosemary ($22)
Cool Drink: Fall martini with Elijah Craig Bourbon, maple syrup and lemon Juice ($9)
Open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner Sunday Brunch until 2 p.m.
35 Mont Vernon Rd., New Boston, (603) 487-2011, kikisnewboston.com
Café and community
Longtime restaurateurs Edward Aloise and Claudia Rippee had the Milltowne Grille at the airport under control – they were ready to open a new restaurant, this time motivated by a serious commitment to farm-to-table sourcing. Now, as the ground goes fallow, local sources listed on the blackboard continue with farm-fresh eggs, Miles Smith Farm organic beef and fresh fish. Ed also gets creative with grains, offering a Mediterranean flair with faro and hand-rolled cous cous. The couple's commitment to "community" keeps the door open all day for fresh house-made pastries or omelets in the morning to grass-fed beef burgers for lunch to small interesting plates or full entrées for dinner. All breads are house-made, too.
Hot Dish: The daily specials ($9 to $22) where Ed's menu is market driven
Cool Drink: Moroccan Old Fashioned ($8)
Open seven days a week from 8 a.m to 8 or 9 p.m. 1069 Elm St., Manchester
(603) 666-3723, www.republiccafe.com
It takes two
This is not the first time Eddie Sargent, chef/owner, and Brett Henderson, managing partner, have worked together, but for the first time the restaurant is all theirs. Twenty-five years ago the two met at the Granite Bar and Grill in Manchester. Now they have rehabbed the former McMenemy's (which was the former Molly Malone's) in Portsmouth, keeping the bar upstairs and christening it the Rip Tide Bar and Grille with its own pub menu. Downstairs, the Chef's Table offers white-tablecloth dining with value. All meals include a choice of salad and soup. Chef Sargent shops locally for products and cooks up something for everyone, from osso bucco to a unique take on homemade ravioli to Angus prime rib.
Hot Dish: Old-fashioned prime rib served on Fridays through Sundays ($24 to $28)
Cool Drink: Tides infusions – any of the several spirit and local fruit infusions macerating on the back bar ($7.50 to $9)
Open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch, dinner seven days a week.
177 State St., Portsmouth, (603) 319-8451, chefstableatportsmouth.com
Rustic Leaf Bistro
A seed takes root
Former owners of the well-loved Seedling Café in Nashua have given an upscale twist to healthy and local vegetables. Using grains and organic produce, Chef/owner Josh Enright could make the Geico Caveman a vegetarian. He adds a bit of pomp and circumstance to organic produce, giving it a flair and flavor worthy of white-tablecloth dining. Other proteins include fresh seafood and pork, but you won't find beef on the menu. You won't even miss it. Look for the caboose that will be transformed into a bar sometime this fall.
Hot Dish: Pumpkin encrusted salmon with quinoa ($18.95)
Cool Drink: Organic wines ($7 to $8.50)
Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday
15 Elm St., Milford, (603) 672-1556, therusticleaf.com
106 Kitchen & Bar
Portsmouth restaurateur Jay McSharry reads trends well. He sold The Dunaway, a fine dining restaurant, a while back and recently opened this casual, hip spot that is more bar than restaurant. And that is how folks like it these days. McSharry has ordered up a New Orleans twist to the menu. You'll find oyster po boys, cornbread, seafood gumbo with fresh okra and a few other tips of the hat to the South including fried chicken nights on Mondays. For $3 you can order "snacks" of collard greens, house-pickled vegetables or fries with gravy. Kitchen is open until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturdays for a late-night nosh.
Hot Dish: Seafood gumbo ($18)
Cool Drink: Ginger Lemon Martini ($10)
Open for dinner seven days a week
106 Penhallow St., Portsmouth, (603) 319-8178, www.106kitchen.com
A gem of a place
When a husband and wife open a joint venture you can be sure both will have some say in the outcome.
Raymond Simanson has traveled the world and likes to golf; his wife, Leslie, enjoys jewelry and gemstones. So there you have it: A restaurant featuring tapas-style dining with an attached driving range and a gift shop to boot. On a nice day you can find the parking lot full of golf carts. They're not golfers, just residents of South Down or Long Bay Point who travel via cart the half mile or so to dine.
The tapas-style dining was inspired by Simanson's travels. He discovered interesting flavors abroad and enjoyed sampling small bites. Plus, he feels people are looking for smaller portions and the tapas menu is the perfect vehicle.
Local sourcing is also important to Simanson. His chef has a farm garden and this summer fresh produce was all over the menu. His pigs were fed scraps from the restaurant and now they are all over the menu, too. Look for a cider-brined pork with candied onions on fresh house-made naan.
Drinks are sourced locally – pears and Concord grapes from the property have added authentic flavor to the martini list.
Hot Dish: Calamari with a gluten-free rice-panko breading ($10)
Cool Drink: Chai Tea Martini ($10-$14)
Open Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
2075 Parade Rd., Laconia, (603) 528-3057, www.tavern27.com
Same name, same location, but now under the management of Chef/owner Mark diCicco. His grandmother's name was Lucia, so he kept the name of the former restaurant. Chef diCicco cooks up authentic fare using local ingredients when possible. The menu has Italian names with English descriptions from the simple Aglio e Olio ($10) to the fresh-made dolci of the day.
Hot Dish: Alfredo sauce made with triple rich butter and fresh grated Reggiano parmesan ($13) with house-made gnocchi for $4 more
Cool Drink: The wine list is short but offers Italian and California wines.
181 Route 13, Brookline, (603) 249-9134, www.luciastavola.com
Bavaria German Restaurant
Sprechen sie Deutsch?
Get your wurst and sauerkraut fix at this new authentic German eatery in Hooksett. The easy part is choosing your meal, the entire menu looks worthy; the hardest part is finding the entrance, which is around the back.
The restaurant in a former pizza location is now ultra clean with a gleaming blue and white interior. Your hostess, Monika Berger, is the owner and her husband, Anton, is in the kitchen cooking the same dishes he prepared in their 200-seat restaurant in Bavaria. Only now the ingredients are imported.
Hot Dish: Münchner Wurstplatte with sauerkraut ($13.80)
Cool Drink: Löwenbräu in 12-ounce glass ($4.50)
Open for lunch Friday through Sunday, dinner Tuesday through Sunday
1461 Hooksett Rd., Hooksett, Willows Shopping Plaza, (603) 836-5280, www.bavaria-nh.com
Homestead of Merrimack
The old Silos Steakhouse has been transformed into a Homestead Restaurant, repainted in the signature yellow. The old New England feel has been retained, but a new lounge with u-shaped bar was sited in the loft area. Comfy couches and old memorabilia help create an inviting space. Two fireplaces and a deck were added and the porch area was painted in white for a brighter look. Menu is the same as the Bristol operation. Find entertainment in the lounge Thursdays through Saturdays.
Hot Dish: California chicken (dinner menu, $16.99)
Cool Drink: Bloody Mary ($5)
Open seven days a week from 11:30 to 9 p.m. week days, 10 p.m. weekends, dinner menu starts at 4 p.m. every day.
Sunday Brunch 10 a..m. to 2 p.m.
641 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, (603) 424-2750, www.homesteadnh.com
New and Improved Restaurants
The past year has been a real challenge to local restaurants. Some have shifted gears, offering lower-priced menu items or added special theme nights, and more than a few have closed. On the upside several great chefs have opened new ventures with a renewed focus on comfort food in a casual atmosphere. For every fine dining restaurant that has closed and been replaced by a run-of-the-mill pizza joint, there is some creative thinking out there that satisfies the appetite without costing a day's wage.
The biggest dining experience loss in Manchester was the closing of C.R. Sparks in Bedford. The attractive building was recently leveled to make way for a car dealership. The bad economy actually gave this restaurant an extra year of life, as the dealership leased the property back to Chuck Rolocek last year to delay going foward with new construction. Rolocek worked with many local restaurateurs, including Michael Buckley, to see that all his Sparks personnel were placed in new jobs. Not all is gone; a few Sparks menu favorites are available for lunch at Hanover Street Chophouse.
The Commercial Street Fishery closing was also a big loss to the area. Owner Pam Kelley is keeping her hand in the business by tending bar at Z Food and Drink at 860 Elm St. Chef/owner Tom Puskarich expanded the restaurant and bar area last January.
Chef David Smith of Loafers and Brookstone fame is now in the kitchen at 900 Degrees (50 Dow Street) expanding the menu beyond wood-fired pizza and salad.
Claudia Rippee and Ed Aloise, owners of Milltowne Grille at the Manchester Airport, opened Republic at 1069 Elm St., offering diners a congenial settings for breakfast, lunch and dinner with an emphasis on local sourcing.
Wings Your Way opened at 1181 Elm St. offering their iconic wings and a variety of other "messy" meals from the Big Lebowski nacho bowl to a smothered chicken entrée.
A new Homestead Restaurant is in the former Silo's Steakhouse building in Merrimack (641 Daniel Webster Hwy.). The former slanted red silo is now straight and painted a creamy yellow.
J's Tavern in Milford on the Oval, located on the lower level of the Red Arrow Diner, finished a deck expansion that features dining cantilevered over the river. Some of the happiest fish in town hover beneath that railing.
Chef Peter Agostinelli has left the Bedford Village Inn (2 Olde Bedford Way) and was replaced by Earl Anthony Morse with experience as executive chef at the Portland Harbor Hotel and the White Barn in Maine (a rare five-star venue). A graduate of the CIA, he also completed a pastry apprenticeship in Belgium.
Manchester's Circa 1906 opened in a former convenience store at 1362 River Rd. The Chef/owner Michael Lewco had been in the restaurant business for 25 years and was looking for a different format. He sells prepared paninis, salads, pot pies, quiches, stews, etc., and offers a variety of locally made cheese, ice cream and other dairy products along with convenience store essentials.
Elisha's Restaurant in Milford has closed after 35 years. A new owner will be refurbishing the building and opening late in the year under a new name.
Fast food established a stronger foothold on Elm Street in Manchester with the Pattie Shack at 1073 Elm St. offering burgers and wings, and Portland Pie Co. in the old Merrimack Restaurant on Elm Street offering their pizza, sandwiches, salads and more.
A new Chipotle Mexican Grill is being planned for a Manchester location. This in addition to the Nashua location near Barnes and Noble on Daniel Webster Highway that opened last year and one in North Andover.
Chef Bobby Will has joined Unums in Nashua (49 E. Pearl St.) offering a new restaurant menu and an all-new bar menu with emphasis on local sourcing and fresh tastes. His Jonah crab appetizer is fabulous. The restaurant continues its Wine Down Wednesdays by opening fine bottles of wine for tastings.
Dave Chang sold his Manchester Thousand Crane restaurant (new owners kept the name) and moved Thousand Crane II into the old Jasmine space in Nashua (116 W. Pearl St.).
The Black Orchid in Nashua closed and beloved bartender Joey Zontini is now tending bar at Stella Blu. The former chef at the Black Orchid, Rich Girard, opened Café Europa at 182 Main St. in Nashua bringing a gourmet touch to a simple café open for lunch and dinner.
In the former Black Orchid spot is the New Amsterdam Bar & Lounge, a pub-style establishment catering to the after-work, evening and sporting-event crowds.
Seedling Café owners Josh and Danielle Enright sold their Water Street café and opened a fine dining restaurant in the former French Bistro in Milford (15 Elm St.) They are focusing on wholesome food and local sourcing. Ice cream at the stand in back is from Walpole Creamery.
A new wood-fired pizza place is scheduled to open in Nashua in December. Visit www.crushpizza.com for details.
Chef Ted McCormack, formerly at Flag Hill Winery and the Three Chimneys Inn, both fine dining venues, has started his own operation, the Harvesting Hermit. He is creating catering, breakfast and lunch menus using ingredients in season. His lunch items are available at the tiny train station, Toot Sweet Pastry Shoppe behind Chez Boucher French Cooking School at 32 Depot Sq. in Hampton. Toot Sweet's opening pastry chef, Leander Krulis, left for Kittery, but the macarons she instituted remain available.
Bontà in Hampton (287 Exeter Rd.) is now under the direction of restaurateur Bruno Marini of Boston, who brings years of experience running high-end Boston eateries. Chef Andy Rose is still onboard creating really nice artisan breads. Bontà is located at 287 Exeter Rd. and is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to close. For reservations call (603) 929-7972.
Chef James Haller of Blue Strawbery fame will be offering a 3-course dinner two times a month at the Black Bean in Rollinsford (76 Front St.) Seating at 7 p.m. on two Saturdays a month. Reservations only and remember to bring your own wine or beer. (603) 740-4555, $35
Saunders at Rye Harbor has closed for good after 38 years. The site has been approved for four new homes and an easement for public access.
Taste of Portsmouth opened at 515 Middle St., serving gourmet cheese, beer, wine, cured meats and prepared foods. (603) 319-8140
Portsmouth area chef Evan Hennessey started Flavor Concepts, a catering service with foods sourced from local organic farms in season. (603) 781-1386
Roundabout Diner at the Route 1 Bypass in Portsmouth was opened by the previous owners of the Muddy River Smokehouse. It's a '50s-style diner complete with checkerboard floor and mac n' cheese and other diner specialties but with a twist. Meanwhile the old Muddy River Smokehouse became Portside Seafood but was quickly closed in July.
Eddie B's Comfort Food & BBQ (165 Deer St.) was opened by the former owner of Bella Luna, Ed Barton. Meanwhile a former Bella Luna employee purchased the property and reopened it as Bella Sol (10 Market St.).
Sean Hopkins purchased the old Lobster Tail in Hampstead (416 Emerson Ave.) and anointed it Lobster Q, adding a healthy dose of house-smoked dishes to the casual seafood menu.
Lexie's Joint opened in the former Mojo's BBQ spot at 212 Islington St. in Portmouth offering burgers with a long list of fixings, milkshakes, beer and wine.Mojo's moved to a larger venue at 95 Brewery Lane.
McMenemy's Irish Pub on State Street closed shortly after The Common Man Portsmouth and Ri Ra opened last year. Brett Henderson and his longtime friend and chef Ed Sargent have opened the Chef's Table in that spot (177 State St.) with a separate bar called the Rip Tide Bar and Grill on the second floor and white-tablecloth dining downstairs. Homemade soup and a choice of a variety of salads are offered with every entrée for a prix-fixe menu of sorts.
Fury's Publick House opened in the former Biddy Mulligan's in Dover (1 Washington St.) with an Irish-pub concept offering a creative menu – consider the Bucket o' Bacon served with a half pound of bacon, bittersweet chocolate, smoked gouda cheese and a fruit compote.
Chef Cory Fletcher left the Colby Hill Inn for an opportunity at the renowned Granite Restaurant at The Centennial (96 Pleasant St.). O Restaurant is reported to be opening before the end of the year next to the Red River Theatres at 11 S. Main St.
The Woodbound Inn in Rindge (247 Woodbound Rd.) has been sold by the Givens and the inn and restaurant, now called the Woodbound Restaurant, is open under new management.
In Peterborough, Pearl Restaurant and Oyster Bar (1 Jaffrey Rd.) has been sold by Dave Chicane but continues to operate with the same Asian-inspired sensibilities.
Chef Sven Green of Twelve Pine fame has opened the Granite Grill Diner in Fitzwilliam at the corner of Rtes. 119 and 12, the former site of Casey Jay's. The Granite Grill Diner is a modern foodie diner with authentic wood-smoked barbecue. Many menu items are smoked, including the prime rib.
The Crown and Thistle Restaurant at the Fitzwilliam Inn was christened the Cheshire Tavern. The pub now hosts a variety of entertainment acts, but Chef Rachel Crocker maintains her local emphasis and seasonal menus.
The Pit Stop Smokehouse opened in Westmoreland at 1041 Rte. 12.
Lakes Region and North
The Inn at Danbury took to the road with their bright yellow Schnitzel & Giggles wurst wagon, taking all your German favorites to local fairs. Congratulations to Chef Bob Graf for winning a blue ribbon for concession food at the Cheshire Fair, their first outing.
The MeltAway Creamery opened in Tilton (490 Laconia Rd.) offering homemade soups and sandwiches on house-made bread. The venue is a replica Victorian home.
The Shaker Table at Canterbury Village was renamed Greenwood's in a determined vision to evoke the Shaker spirit on the menu and encourage communal dining.
The Bob House, on Route 25 in Moultonborough (520 Whittier Hwy.), occupies the previous home of Grill 25, and before that Copperfields. Chef/owner Bob Bourque and his wife Patricia have created a welcoming casual family dining experience; the décor emphasizing the charms offered by life on Lake Winnipesaukee.
Bayside Grille has replaced 51 Mill Street in Wolfeboro. The new owners also own the iconic Pine Cone restaurant, a locals' favorite. On Main Street, Downtown Grille Café opened in the former Hall's Pharmacy building (33 S. Main St.). Windows overlook the town docks and Cate Park. Service is by order at the front counter and food is served on plastic.
Burrito Me opened in the old train station in Laconia (9 Veterans Sq.)serving Mission-style burritos.
The Littleton Diner (170 W. Main St.) was named a Best Breakfast by the Food Network magazine. Their pancake flour comes from the nearby Littleton Grist Mill and New Hampshire maple syrup goes on top of their buckwheat pancakes. (Sorry, Polly.)
Gusanoz Mexican Restaurant in Lebanon (410 Miracle Mile) has opened another outlet in the Powerhouse Mall. Plus, they has added fast-food-style burgers. Revolutionary Burger copies the iconic In-N-Out Burger in California serving burgers, hand-cut fries and milkshakes only available by takeout from the back door of Gusanoz or local delivery.
Morano Gelato is operating out of Rosey Jekes Café at 15 Lebanon St. in Hanover offering a variety of creative flavors.
Salt Hill Pub folks opened another location, this time at 7 Lebanon St. in Hanover. Like their other locations in Newport and Lebanon, the venue will have an active live entertainment schedule.
Doug Langevin, chef /owner of Bistro Nouveau in Grantham, continues his concept of innovative food for a great value at New Socials Bar and Grille in Claremont (2 Pleasant St.). He remodeled a space he once occupied before he moved to Grantham. NH