Dueling pianos and cocktails

Full disclosure: I live in Manchester. In fact, I live right downtown in the epicenter of awesome things to do in Manchester. As such, I struggled with covering my back yard for this piece since I'm out and about in it nearly every night. (If you've ever spotted the girl pushing an all-white kitten in a pink pet stroller, that's me. I'm up there with such downtown staples as the Thumbs Up Cowboy and Carlito the Flower Guy.) But I couldn't neglect writing about Manchester simply because I live there, could I? After all, I have to live somewhere in NH.

After much internal debate, the logical solution seemed to be to build my evening around something I had always wanted to do in Manchester but never actually had: the dueling piano show at Boynton's Taproom. WARNING: This show sells out weeks in advance. Don't think you can just hop over to Boynton's after dinner; this is something you need to plan for. But we'll get to that in a minute.

Since the show didn't start until 8 p.m., my date and I eased into our evening by walking a couple blocks from my place to Firefly American Bistro & Bar, which I admit I've been to many times before (it's basically my "Cheers") for a cocktail and an app. I say this with complete authority: If you're looking for the best cocktails in Manchester, Firefly is the place. And the calamari appetizer we shared may just be the best as well. If you're a girl or a guy with a high estrogen count, order the BloodOrange Cosmo or Cool Blue Bellini. If you're a guy or a girl with a high testosterone count, try the Sidecar for Him.

For dinner, we walked towards the water to Cotton Restaurant, which was a couple of mill buildings over from our ultimate destination. We were seated in the corner booth adjacent to the bar, which allowed us to see and be seen, Brown Derby-style. Although Cotton has a nice selection of comfort food entrées, which you get to eat in a sexy environment, my favorite thing to do is order a bottle of wine from their reasonably priced list and order a bevy of apps. Their baked goat cheese appetizer, which is a tomato-y dip served with yumalicious bread and their pan-seared scallop appetizer over greens with pistachios and blue cheese are to die for. My favorite server, Scooter (yes, that's her real name), is always charming and right on point. On a weekend, be sure to make reservations.

After a short walk, we slid into Boynton's just a touch late and found our seats at the bar, which may just offer the best seats in the house. The show was in full swing with a room full of birthdays and anniversaries being celebrated. And to my surprise, Boynton's has Hoegarden on tap! There are three performers that rotate, singing requests that audience members scribble down and bravely walk up on stage to deposit on one of the pianos.

After the show, we walked back towards Elm Street, Manchester's version of Main Street, and stopped in Planet Marshmallow, which is across the street from the Palace Theatre on Hanover, for some dessert (EDIT NOTE: Planet Marshmallow has since closed). For $4 each we were able to make our own S'mores by roasting a variety of their homemade marshmallows over a pu pu platter flame. This café and bakery also serves the best coffee in Manchester – again, I say this with authority – and beer and wine until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. I can't imagine a better way to end an evening out than with a glass of Prosecco and freshly made S'mores, or any other place in NH that I can do it in.