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Looking for Good - Great Chow in Manchester, N.H. on 4/8/08

My wife and I will be in Manchester N.H. for an overnighter on Tuesday, 4/8. We've never been here before, so any and all suggestions for a nice dinner will be very much appreciated. My first choice ideally would be a real good Italian rest. I'm not looking for fancy, but top notch food. Could be upscale old school red sauce, or a more modern take. Short of that, any other place where we can get a good meal. Nothing to be excluded.

Thanks!

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  1. Before someone jumps in with the inevitable recommendation for Piccola on Elm Street, let me just say I've yet to be "wowed" there. Even though my only high bar for red-sauce Italian are visits to Boston's North End (since I didn't grow up with the cuisine), I've never been convinced that Piccola measures up -- if you fave spots in NYC happen to be in Little Italy, I'm not so sure Piccola will meet your expectations.

    If anything I'd humbly suggest some restos that are unique to Manchester, especially if you've never been to our fair city!

    What follows are my personal top three. Since I'll venture to guess you're in town for the Bublé show -- I'll rank them by distance from the Verizon Arena:

    Z: (Elm St., about 2-3 blocks away) creative American bistro, upscale without being stuffy, AMAZING lobster risotto (I believe they have a veal bolognese on the menu too if Italian's where your heart's at), creative cocktails and a fun wine list

    Richard's: (Lowell St., about 6 blocks away) very intimate boîte under the stewardship of a very well-lauded duo of chefs, eclectic menu that often shows a strong French tilt, legendary bread basket, home to the best complete meal I've yet to have in Manchester

    Cotton: (Off Commercial St. in the Millyard, two minute drive from the Arena) upscale take on American comfort food, gorgeous setting in the former textile mills, highly-prized booth seating, and a Meatloaf that one never tires of ordering!

    All three of these are chef-driven, owned and operated spots, you couldn't lose with any of them. Wherever you decide on -- be sure to make your reservation early, places get booked up quickly when there's a big draw over at the Arena!

    -----
    Z Food & Drink
    860 Elm St, Manchester, NH 03101

    Richard's Bistro
    36 Lowell St Ste 1, Manchester, NH 03101

    Cotton Restaurant
    75 Arms Street, Manchester, NH 03101

    3 Replies
    1. re: AbeFroman

      Thanks for the recs Abe. Not coming there for the show, just biz in Hooksett the next morning. As far as Little Italy being my go-to in NYC, it's not, by a mile. So if Piccolo doesn't measure up to Little Italy, then I think I'll have to pass on it. The three you list sound very good though. Leaning toward "Z".

      1. re: MagnumWino

        I would add that if you are comming into town for the Buble show. Make reservations. Downtown is swarmed and the good resturants fill quickly

      2. re: AbeFroman

        Have to agree with Abe regarding Piccola (doesn't do it for me). I love Cotton and have been wanting to get to Richards and Z (great reviews on them both).

        If you have time for breakfast in the am - need to hit Arrow Diner (it's an icon in Manch).
        http://www.redarrowdiner.com/right.htm

      3. Picola has very underwhelming food, horrible service...especially by Rosa the owner. I've given them second, third even fifth chances to redeem themselves.
        Try Cotton, Richard's Bistro, or Z are you're best bets. Especially if you are used to the fine cuisine from NYC. You're simply not going to find the quality of restaurants you are used to there, but you will find something half edible here in Manchester.

        1. Another good choice is The Way We Cook, which features Italian & Greek specialities. Accomplished cooking and a beautiful room. A little further north on Elm Street.

          34 Replies
          1. re: whs

            Thanks again for the suggestions everyone. Just got back from Manchester a little while ago. I decided on Cotton for our meal last night. My wife and I wound up having a very nice meal there. Started out with a martini for each of us, she, a Belvedere and me a Beefeater, both made very well. For appetizers, I ordered the bruschetta, and my wife had the crabcakes. Both were delicious. The bruschetta could have fed the both of us, huge portion, but we ate it all up. The tomatoes on the bruschetta were amazingly flavorful, the crabcakes were very good as well. For the main, we both had the 18 oz delmonico steak, both cooked perfectly medium-rare. I had mine with the horseradish cream sauce, which was good, but was hoping for more of a pronounced horseradish bite to it, the kind that sets fire a small fire to inside your nose then runs up to your forehead, but that was minor. My wife had hers with the mushroom port reduction, which was very good. Then for dessert I had the espresso creme brulee (nice) and W had the pistachio gelato, tasty as well, with loads of whole pistachios sprinkled over the top.

            Nice atmosphere and very good, friendly service, in a nice setting. All in all, a very enjoyable meal. Thanks again for the info. Hopefully, we'll have the occasion to be in Manchester again sometime, would love to try some of the other places mentioned.

            Also, lexpatti, we took your advice and had a good breakfast at the Red Arrow Diner this morning before heading home. I assume it was featured once on FoodTv's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, sine we spotted a framed, autographed photo of Guy Fieri's smiling face up on the wall.

            1. re: MagnumWino

              So glad you enjoyed your visit to Manch. It continues to grow with new and exciting dining options with the new BallPark and Verizon Ctr in town.

              1. re: lexpatti

                lexpatti, we did enjoy our visit very much. A shame we couldn't spend more time in your city, looks like a great place with a load of restaurants. We really want to try the pizza place "900 Degrees". What are your thoughts? We may actually be back up there in a couple of weeks.

                1. re: MagnumWino

                  I am a fellow Manchurian, and I can tell you right now I was not happy with the experience I had a 900 degrees. If you want really good pizza in Manchester there is this place called Ferrari on So. Willow, it is unbelievable! 900 is great if you want to hang out and pay way too much for a way too small pizza and lousy service. The Pizza is good, but not nearly as good as Ferrari HALF the price.

                  Now, I love good food, Richard's, Cotton, Gil's... but when it comes to comfort food, I don't want pretentious, I just want old fashioned goodness at a good price.

                  1. re: gryphonskeeper

                    Thanks gryphon for the low-down on 900. I will follow your advice. I'm just a sucker for anyplace with a wood burning oven.

                    1. re: MagnumWino

                      You can try it if you like that type of experience, don't avoid it just because I don't care for burnt crust, some do! Give both a try and see which hit's that spot for you.

                  2. re: MagnumWino

                    I actually haven't been to this one yet. What are your other likes for food, there is a nice mix of great ethnic food in Manch. too. I'm actually from the Lowell/Andover Ma. area but business is in Manch so I continue to learn as well from my chowhound buddies. :-)
                    Gill's - awesome indian
                    Golden Bowl - excellent vietnamese
                    Yuki Asian Grill - love love love the sushi
                    Siam Orchid - great thai
                    Belmont Hall - great comfort food
                    there are a couple great mexican - El Mexicano Jr (but be careful in this neighborhood) and Consuelos Taqueria

                    There are a couple that I've been dieing to try: Z and something like Bonaventure (hearing wonderful things)

                    1. re: lexpatti

                      Omg I just discovered Belmont Hall recently and decided to enter the reward program there. They have wonderful homestyle food and it is not nearly as crowded and dingy as the Red Arrow.The owners are sisters so the food is very similar but I have to give the lead to Belmont Hall. Also, there is a place called Rita Mae's on the west side of town right next to Catholic Medical Center, they have single best onion rings I have ever had! Thin thin thin and crisp, light as air and here is the best part, not greasy!

                      1. re: gryphonskeeper

                        Lala's Hungarian on Elm St--a Hungarian slant on comfort food, good place for lunch.

                        1. re: qianning

                          I thought Lala's closed, we love that place discovered it early winter but heard they closed up.

                          1. re: lexpatti

                            Lala's is gone? Oh no! I have to admit my Manchester runs have been limited this winter...sometimes its hard to know when info is out of date...thanks for the up-date.

                            1. re: qianning

                              Fear not -- LaLa's is still alive and well!

                              1. re: AbeFroman

                                Kewl!! Don't know where I heard that, did they move or still on Elm St.?

                                1. re: lexpatti

                                  LaLa's is still downtown on Elm Street -- right where they've always been, I believe.

                        2. re: gryphonskeeper

                          Why have I not heard of Belmont Hall? Where is it, what is food like, prices, atmosophere? Favorite dishes?

                          1. re: starvinginNH

                            I just discovered it too (although long time ago went for work meetings). It's tucked in a residential neighboorhood on Belmont St. off Valley. Very good comfort food, like diner type. Everyone seems to know each other. Hubby loved their meatloaf, I can't remember what I've had but always loved it. Prices are great, excellent value - nothing gourmetish, just good homestyle food.

                            1. re: starvinginNH

                              It is the sister restaurant of The Red Arrow (The sister of teh owner of the Red Arrow owns it, and the menus are almost the same)

                              I liked it when I went, but they do nickle and dime you for everything, like if you ask for extra syrup, its $1.50 for a tiny serving of syrup, not even enough for one pancake... so when I asked for 3 extra syrups, you guessed it, they charged me $4.50 for about four ounces of syrup... unreal.

                              1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                I never knew that, wow - you sure!!! One of my customers is a waitress there, I'll have to drill her. There are 3 diners down in Lowell, chelmsford and Tyngsboro that are all sisters too.

                                1. re: lexpatti

                                  Yep, I asked the waitress at Belmont why the menu was strikingly similiar and she said "Oh the owners are sisters"! So I asked the waitress at Arrow, and she confirmed it. They both have the same loyalty reward card offering too, spend $100 get $5 off. Not really a huge savings but it is nice.

                          2. re: lexpatti

                            Hi lex,
                            That is a great list you have there. While Italian cuisine is my first love, we love all the other cuisines you have listed, especially all of the Asian. And one of our favs is a big steaming bowl of pho. Would the Golden Bowl have such an offering? I would say Mexican is at the bottom of the list, like it, but don't normally seek it out. Real good Indian, Thai and sushi on the other hand is right up our alley. Good to know it's all available up there. THANKS!!

                            1. re: MagnumWino

                              Yes, everyone raves about the Pho at Golden Bowl - I usually get bun and LOVE their salt and pepper pork chops (Thanks whs).

                              If you love asian cuisine - you should stop into the Lowell area (king of asian).

                            2. re: lexpatti

                              Benvenuto's perhaps? Italian/Lebanese on Hanover St?

                              Keep Z near the top of your list; considering your tastes -- especially your affinity for Cotton -- I think you'd love it!

                              1. re: AbeFroman

                                That's it, Abe - Thank you. I'm dieing for a great falafel and heard this place is great, amongs many other great things on the menu.
                                http://www.yelp.com/biz/benvenutos-ma...

                                Says it's italian, greek and mediterrainian - works for me!!!

                                1. re: lexpatti

                                  The pho at Golden Bowl is very good--get the one with the tripe and tendon--the chewy bits are fantastic! Say hello to Jenny--she's the world's happiest waitress.

                                  lexpatti--you have got to try the lobster risotto at Z--your diet will hate you but what the hell, consider it CH research.

                                  1. re: whs

                                    Soon sooon soon!! I love a good risotto. Have you done Paris yet?? You are about to, or just got back, right?

                                    1. re: lexpatti

                                      Lex, I am with you on the Pho, and if you like Thai try Lakorn Thai in Manchester on So. Main. They have some of the best Thai around!

                                      1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                        Gkeeper, Haven't been to that one, great!!! Love new food finds. :-) Wish I could eat out all the time, well - aside from my own cooking.

                                        1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                          I've only done take-out once at Lakorn Thai, but I loved the "drunken noodles" and would recommend it to those who enjoy a healthy amount of heat in their dish!

                                        2. re: lexpatti

                                          Just got back--I've posted a little bit on the France board. Did not make it to Hidden Kitchen--too many restaurants, too little time.

                                          1. re: whs

                                            I'm surprised no one has mentioned Cafe Momo for interesting, and to-die-for-delicious, ethnic food. This is great for all you vegetarians out there. Nepali food makes my heart skip a beat. Plus, they make one hell of a mojito, the perfect compliment for their spicier dishes. Here's their link ...
                                            I wish Ethiopian food was closer than a trip to Boston ... Oh well!

                                            -----
                                            Cafe Momo
                                            1065 Hanover St, Manchester, NH 03104

                                            1. re: grub_a_dub_dub

                                              Cafe Momo is fabulous! When they added that second room on the right as you go in a while back it helped a lot because it was tiny before. Nice spices, more dry and grilled (than creamy sauces like Northern Indian food, although Indian spices would be the closest thing most people know in US).

                                              And I really miss that African place near the NH border in White River Jct, VT -- it wasn't Ethiopian but similar, more W African with soul food brunch on Sun. :(

                                        3. re: whs

                                          Ohh Lobster Risotto! gonna give that a try.

                                      1. re: edinaeats

                                        I did not really like Benvenuto's ... Probably because when I went, there was a long black hair in my grilled veggie wrap... that was a huge turn off for me, I won't return. a fellow chowhound was with me (I don't want to mention her username without her permission, but if she wants she can say who she is) was with me that afternoon. While her wrap was great and "hairless" mine was mediocre and hairy. IF I ever did go, I would order the felafel wrap like she did.

                            3. Just got back from Siam Orchid on 581 Second St Manchester NH 603-647-5547
                              Great Food had the fried soft shell crab for an app and a spicy seafood dish for my main dish. Good service and an extensive menu.