While Boston is brimming with hundreds of restaurants, our neighbor to the north has culinary gems of its own. New Hampshire boasts numerous award-winning restaurants that are the perfect excuses for taking a weekend get-away. We’ve listed some of our favorite eateries, so read on to find out where to go and what to do during your foodie excursions.
Blue Mermaid Island Grill
Portsmouth’s Blue Mermaid Island Grill boasts award-winning Caribbean-inspired cuisine. The unique Sunday brunch, lunch, and dinner menus feature gluten-free and vegetarian selections along with plenty to satisfy the most carnivorous palate. Its deck is the perfect spot to sip refreshing margaritas, tropical drinks, and locally brewed beers while listening to live local bands.
The menu includes buttery, to-die-for Lobster and Roasted Corn Chowder (cup $5.50/bowl $7.75), Plantain Encrusted Cod ($20.99), and the Blue Mermaid Salad, a spicy mix of greens, tropical fruit, and lemon pepper vinaigrette ($7.99).
The restaurant was featured on the Food Network show “Rachel Ray’s Tasty Travels,” and its awards include Best Fusion Cuisine and one of the Best Seafood Restaurants (New Hampshire Magazine), Portsmouth’s Best Kept Secret (TASTE Magazine), and the Great Ate rating from the Phantom Gourmet as the Phantom’s favorite choice for summertime dining.
What to do in Portsmouth
In addition to its array of cute boutiques and delicious restaurants, Portsmouth is home to the Redhook Brewery, where a tour is just $1, the Strawbery Banke living museum, the Albacore Museum, and the picturesque Isles of Shoals. For a complete listing of things to do in Portsmouth, visit www.PortsmouthNH.com.
Dubbed “hip” by the New York Times, named One of the Ten Best Neighborhood Restaurants in the Northeast by Bon Appetit Magazine, and home to the Best Martinis in New Hampshire for five years in a row, Cotton is the perfect choice for a romantic night out.
Choose from the menu’s simple, unpretentious cuisine, such as the Bistro Steak with mashed potatoes and seasonal veggies ($22), Butternut Squash Ravioli with toasted hazelnuts ($15.50), and Maine Lobster Ravioli with a sherried lobster creme ($21). Even more difficult will be choosing from their gigantic wine list, with over 40 wines available by the glass.
What to do in Manchester
Take a free tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, get your intellectual fix at the Currier Museum of Art, home to the works of such legends as Monet, O’Keefe, and Picasso, or spend a day at the family-friendly SEE Science Center. Visit www.10best.com/Manchester,NH for more information.
This quaint town is home to the Acqua Bistro, a homey yet upscale spot that features local and seasonal ingredients. It was given the Best in NH award five times for Best Sweet Treats, Best Alfresco Dining, Best Brunch Escape, Best Bistro-Style Pizza, and Best Brunch in the region.
Inspired by the chef’s broad international repertoi, the menu features a great variety, including Smoked Salmon Pizza with caramelized onions, fennel, capers, and goat cheese creme fraiche ($18), Stuffed Quail with couscous and dried fruit ($15), and a Golden Beet Salad with sun-dried tomato butter, arugula, and goat cheese ($11).
What to do in Peterborough
See a show at the Peterborough Players, or visit the Mariposa Museum. Families will enjoy skiing at the nearby town of Bennington’s Crotched Mountain. Relax and grab a drink at Harlow’s Pub, a hippie hot spot with live music and funky decorations.
Don’t come to Peterborough planning to party, though–it’s cute, but it’s quiet.
Want a lot of variety but want to spend only a little money? Stella Blu offers ethnic-themed tapas and small plates from $5 to $16. Choose from the Little Italy, Asia Town, Latin Quarter, and Main St. USA menus, which feature Lamb Lollipops with roasted plums and blood orange syrup ($16), Arancini, which are fried risotto balls stuffed with prosciutto and cheese ($8), and cheesy Shrimp ‘n Grits ($10).
Stella Blu’s food is plated like works of art, and its atmosphere is hip yet inviting. The Hippo Press awarded it the Best New Eatery in Nashua, Best Bar Menu in Nashua, Best Bartender in Nashua, and Best Cocktail in Nashua. It was a New Hampshire Magazine’s Editor’s Pick in 2009.
What to do in Nashua
Leave that pesky sales tax behind and shop at the million-square-foot Pheasant Lane Mall, see a performance by the Nashua Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, or visit the Stonyfield Farm Yogurt Factory in nearby Londonderry. Go to www.nashuachamber.com/visitors/todo.htm for more ideas.
The Barley House Restaurant and Tavern
Concord’s Barley House earned national recognition when it debuted its “Huckaburger,” made with bison, baby spinach, sprouts, tomato, and a fried pickle, in honor of former Arkansas and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. It was featured in TIME Magazine and the Wall Street Journal, and it was talked about on “Good Morning America” and MTV, to name a few. This big burger is just one reason to eat at the Barley House, which was voted home to New Hampshire’s best burger by New Hampshire Magazine in 2009.
While listening to live Irish music, munch on something unique, like their Blarney Puffs, fried dumplings with cheddar cheese, scallions, and potato with a Guinness cheese sauce ($6.99), some traditional pub food, like their Guinness Beef Stew ($13.99), or one of their famous burgers, such as the Coffee BBQ Bacon Bison Burger, made with New Hampshire-raised bison ($9.99). Even vegetarians will find something delicious, from their Roasted Veggie Pizza ($11.99) to their Parmesan Portabella Pasta ($13.99).
What to do in Concord
Get a history lesson in the state’s capital at the Museum of New Hampshire History, take the kids and visit the Silk Farm Wildlife Sanctuary and Audubon Center or the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium, or see a show at the Capitol Center for the Arts.