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Jul 25, 2008 02:19 PM

DREAM meal in Portsmouth NH

If you had 1 meal to have in all of Portsmouth NH where would it be and what would you order. The best and most descriptive replies possible!!

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  1. My boat is back with the builder getting a major project done to it and probably won't make it in this year. I've been on a diet since last August 1.

    My dream meal at the moment would be to take my boat over to the Warren's dock in Kittery and eat my body weight in fried clams. ;)

    21 Replies
    1. re: GeoffD

      My parents live in York and when I visit they always want me to take them out to dinner at Warren's . . . and I do. Since they're locals we walk through the crowd. And I ALWAYS order fried clams. The salad bar rules, as well.

      1. re: GeoffD

        I would take Pesce Blue by a mile. One could have an extraordinary meal of crudo, unbelievable small bites, and wonderful pastas. The outdoor streetside eating area is romantic and fun. Wine selection is improving. No better place in Portsmouth. If you want to hit Kittery, I would avoid Warrens like the plague. Reminds me of a low end Anthony's Pier 4 with simply poor quality fish. The most appetizing part of the salad bar is the sneezeguard.

        Better choices in Kittery are Anneka Jans, and Robert's further up route 1

        1. re: aadesmd

          I'm on the Pesce Blue mailing list. When you're on a diet, getting their emails every week or so is torture. I'll take their seafood risotto du jour, please. In a bucket. ...and don't skimp on the pate.

          ...and no Warren's salad bar for me. I want to maximize the stomach space for the fried clams. ...and then a drive down to Lago's Lone Oak for a large Apple Pie-flavor ice cream. Haven't been there in a year. ;)

          1. re: GeoffD

            I was under the impression that Pesce Blue had closed some time ago.

            1. re: Shooley

              Pesce Blue is my number one choice...
              Fabulous restaurant. No-they did not close. Please do not spread that rumor....
              Also, Ristorante Massimo's is extremely good. Its former name was Anthony's. Heard real good things about Anneka Jans, but never tried it as yet.

              1. re: irwin

                Hi Irwin,
                I am amazed that long-time Hound, such as yourself, has never been to Anneke Jans. Pesce Blue is a very good option but AJ of Kittery is clearly the most consistently excellent restaurant in the area, IMO.


                1. re: Harp00n

                  Thank you Harpoon, and you convinced me give it a whirl...
                  Hopefully we will try to get there in August. I live in Falmouth Maine, so its about 1-hour away, but that is fine, as we love walking around Portsmouth.
                  Thank you for the encouragement.
                  Last Saturday evening, my wife and I went to Robinhood Meeting House in Georgetown (6-miles from Bath) for the first time. I was greatly dissappointed. Service was just ok from a college freshman, no air conditioning, which is really no big deal, but when duck cost $25 and seafood stir-fry cost $30, then you should be comfortable. The fried squid appetizer for $9 was excellent. I expected a duck breast, but got 5 small slices, with a potato pancake, and some vegies, but my wife got the seafood stir-fry for $30. The waitress said it consisted of 6-ounces of seafood, but I really think it was more like 4 ounces. The seafood was 2-scallops, 1-shrimp, and 4 very small pieces of lobster, mixed in with pasta and snow peas. Yes, the duck and stir fry was good, but not good enough for me to get up on the table and sing like I want to do at the White Barn Inn...... The rolls came hot like they supposed to, but the butter came semi-frozen. The place is old----man--real old. Its a old church, with creeping hardwood floors, noisy swinging doors to the kitchen, and real tall ceilings. So with all the waiters and staff walking all the time, the old wood floors makes walking very noisy. The place is spotless, but he pushes wine very very hard, and lists the appropriate wine under each entree. Its easy to spend $100 per couple without booze. I left real disappointed, and will probably not go back, but will concentrate on fine dining in the Ogunquit / Kennenbunkport / Portsmouth area where we have no shortages.
                  Thank you again for your input, and will report back.

                  1. re: irwin

                    Thanks for your response Irwin, and I hope and trust that you'll be pleased.


                    1. re: Harp00n

                      Irwin- we are going to Anneke this weekend and will report. Our past experiences there have been great, except for the noise,
                      Thank you for the report on Robinhood- we were going to go in August but given the distance, I think we will skip it.
                      Have you been to Five Islands recently- love that place and think it is worth the drive!

                    2. re: irwin

                      Irwin, not sure why your review of Robinhood Mtghouse is in a Portsmouth thread but I do feel the need to respond.

                      If you were expecting a White Barn Inn experience then I am not surprised at your disappointment (although the WBI is a lot more than $100 a couple).

                      I find the pricepoints in line with (or lower than) comparable "fine dining" in Portland, Camden, Bar Harbor, etc.

                      I have always found the food to be well prepared, with emphasis on locally sourced fish/produce. I think the menu is too large for the kitchen but it does offer lots of choices. I have found the portions suitable. The chef is not trying to be "super-creative", just putting out well executed dishes.

                      The atmosphere in the renovated church does have its drawbacks. Yes it can be stuffy in the heat of Summer. And yes there may be inexperienced servers in the "touristy" busy season. (We prefer sitting upstairs where there are fewer tables and potentially quieter).

                      Listing suggested wine pairings w/ menu items seems innocuous and hardly "pushy" so I'm curious what else made you feel "pressured" to order wine. I have generally found the experienced servers very knowledgeable about their list and also curious to learn more.

                      So emilief, I agree that RFMH is not a destination from Boston/So. Maine during height of season, but I encourage you to try it when in the area or as a destination in Spring/Fall.

                      1. re: HDinCentralME

                        I will answer the RFMH question for you HD,
                        Some time ago, probably a year, I'd expressed surprise that irwin hadn't been there as of then. The same as I did further North on this post regarding Anneke Jans. Irwin, with class, was giving me a personal side-bar report that my rec for RFMF didn't turn out to be "all that", for him at least. No recriminations and, OBTW, I still trust you enough to take another of your recs for Anneke Jans. A very classy Hound, that irwin :-0).

                        Now, your comments dove-tail perfectly with my feeling about "The 'Hood" exactly but I may have been guilty of not explaining the less is more nature of this great, yes great restaurant! I didn't respond to irwin point for point because I was a victim of Portsmouth Posting Fatigue, at the time :-(

                        All the best,

                  1. re: mcel215

                    I'm so glad to be corrected on that. I love Pesce Blue.

                    1. re: Shooley

                      I feel obliged to disagree on this one. My wife and I, along with another couple, tried Pesce Blue last weekend. We had a variety of dishes ranging from mediocre to downright awful. The pasta in the linguine vongole was overcooked to the point of being mushy, as was all the pasta that night, and the dish itself was extremely bland, with only the faint taste of chili. The other members of our party had the same comments - bland and flavorless food. One of our DC's exclaimed "This tastes like diet food!" Its possible that this is the best that Portsmouth has to offer, but that is just evidence of the dismal restaurant scene here. It seems to be a tourist trap, not a place for chowhounds. Even with $4.00 gas, I'll make the trip to the North End for Italian seafood.

                      1. re: terrystu

                        Sorry to hear you had a bad meal. Cliff, the owner, is exceedingly responsive. Did you express your displeasure at the time?

                        I agree that the Portsmouth restaurant scene is pathetic, but I have never had a bad meal here. It is so ever better than the crowded tourist laden outposts in the North End

                        1. re: aadesmd


                          While Portsmouth is no Boston; I certainly wouldn't call the dining scene pathetic. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a town of similar size population (only 20K) in New England with a greater collection of good restaurants. As mentioned, Pesce Blue and Massimo, the Dunaway, Dolphin Striker, 100 Club, Green Monkey, Brasso, Black Trumpet, Library. None of those places will bring comparisons to a Number 9 Park or Espalier, but you could do a heck of lot worse.

                          1. re: negrazer

                            You are correct, negrazer, none of those places compare to No. 9 Park or Espalier, but the majority of your list does bring comparisons to Olive Garden or Red Lobster.
                            Unfortunately, many locals accept mediocre food because that is the norm in this area. Its all what you get used to, I suppose.

                            1. re: terrystu


                              again, name a town in New England of Portsmouth's size with better dining? Portland is three times the size, but I wouldn't rate it three times better. Is it better? Sure, but not that much.

                              Suggesting that the restaurants I mentioned are comparable to Olive Garden or Red Lobster is downright foolish. But to each their own. You're entitled to your opinion, I'm entitled to mine. It must be tough living life being so difficult to please.

                              1. re: negrazer

                                I can appreciate your thoughts, but its not at all tough. "difficult to please" simply describes a discriminating diner, which is, after all, what this board is all about. If everyone were easy to please, there would be very few fine restaurants.

                                1. re: negrazer

                                  Good response negrazer! I think it's interesting, too, when someone shoots everything down without identifying the places that set such a high standard, without simply comparing the offerings of a town like Portsmouth to Boston, which just doesn't mean anything. Of course Portsmouth has average restaurants but it also has a nice selection of very good ones considering its size.

                                  1. re: saffron10

                                    saffron, I couldn't disagree more. When I go out to dinner, I don't judge the food on some sort of a curve based on the population of the city. I just want a good meal. I've lived in portsmouth most of my life, and even though I am no gourmet or expert, the restaurant scene here is just awful. Unfortunatley this situation isn't likely to improve as long as posters like yourself have such low expectations.

            2. I DO think Portland is, in fact, 3 times better that Portsmouth food wise. Portland has a much more diverse selection of top-end and lower-end eateries, along with a good number of bakeries, markets, bookstores, brewpubs and so on. When we refer to Indian in Portsmouth, everyone raves about Shalimar. It’s ok, but really nothing to rave about. Portland has five Indian restaurants to Portsmouth’s one, three Greek restaurants to Portsmouth’s one (recently opened Café Nostimo) and so on. You don’t believe me, just refer to this list:

              Portsmouth is a very small pond with a number of higher end places (big fish) that are very trendy due to that fact that Portsmouth patrons lack a certain degree of culinary sophistication. That this NE board tends to focus on the same eight or so restaurants in Portsmouth is because there is nothing else to talk about. And yes, many of these places are good, but not great restaurants due to the fact that diners in and around Portsmouth have not been exposed to great food and do not require it to be so. Is Massimo’s comparable to Olive Garden? No. Is it overpriced? Yes. Can you get the same quality of Italian food and service at a fraction of the price in NYC or Boston? Yes. I think the main problem with many eateries in Portsmouth (and the surrounding area) is consistency in both food and service along with a lack of sophisticated diners that demand better for their $$.

              14 Replies
              1. re: bewley

                Definitely great points regarding Portland having a strong edge regarding ethnic foods bewley. I'll concede that and feel a bit foolish for not looking at the big picture. Admittedly, I tend to only look at white table cloth establishments when qualifying dining and that's a fault.

                As for price/value .....I tend to disagree. Perhaps I'm 'unsophisticated', but I've done enough dining in both towns where as an example you'll see the same Wolfe Neck farm or Brandt beef on a menu in Boston for $40 to $50+ dollars that can be had in Portsmouth in the $28-$34 range and prepared just as nice. The service maybe less refined no doubt, but you tell me which restaurant is trying to rip someone off more? That's not taking into consideration the $12 glass of house wine in Boston that can be had for $8 in a Portsmouth restaurant nor the $25 you'll have to spend on parking plus a $10 valet tip. think about it.

                Perhaps I'm pushing this a bit far, I just get a tad annoyed by folks like terystu who come off like a judge on iron chef and lay such harsh opinions on very good restaurants in comparing them to chain establishments. That's bush league if you ask me. I wonder if such people are so vocal in person to the chefs in that town or they simply hide behind a keyboard.

                1. re: negrazer

                  You spend $25.00 in a parking lot, and then valet park also? What do you do, drive 2 cars to dinner? lol
                  We dine regularly in fine Boston establishments where we park on the street for free, typically pay $8.00 for a nice house wine, and enjoy wonderful entrees in your $28-34.00 price range. First rate chefs simply do not exist in Portsmouth because the restaurants here simply appeal to tourists who may or may not ever return. They do not really need to rely on local word of mouth. Please take note, negrazer, I have confined my critique to restaurants, which is the sole purpose of this board, and have not hurled personal insults toward you. I would appreciate it if you could extend the same courtesy in the future. BTW, since you don't like me using my keyboard, please let me know if there is some other way to post here. Thank you for your consideration.

                  1. re: terrystu

                    take it for what you will. I was critiquing your harsh critique, not you as a person. We'll have to agree to disagree. Mary Dumont should have left the Dunaway for McDonald's instead of Harvest. How foolish of them to hire a second (or is it third rate?) chef from Portsmouth. :rollseyes:

                    I would consider Portsmouth to be a good stepping ground for young talent to master their craft before moving on to positions of more acclaim in the larger metro areas. Wouldn't surprise me at all to see some of the other locals 'make it' in the big city. Also wouldn't suprise me at all to see some of the big city chefs 'retire' to a place like Portsmouth if they can come up with a concept that makes money as lets face it, it's a far more difficult challenge in a town like Portsmouth that is busy four nights a week, six months out of the year than Boston, which cranks year round 7 days a week at a good spot. That in itself is the bigger challenge in drawing chefs in my opinion than the 'unsophisticated diners'.

                    1. re: negrazer

                      Please don’t misinterpret my “unsophisticated” diner reference. This doesn’t typically apply to anyone that takes the time to read and/or post on Chowhound. But it’s not a bad thing to expect more in value and quality and it’s easier to be more demanding when you have something else to compare it to. I will also add that many of the “critical” posters on Chowhound tend to be current or former restaurant workers themselves.

                      And yes, the Dunaway WAS Mary Dumont; when she left it wasn’t the same.

                      I also don’t think restaurants are trying to rip people off with high prices, but I do think Portsmouth prices (and rents) tend to be on the higher end of things.

                      OK, for the original poster, I would go to Black Trumpet Bistro and this is what I’d have off the menu:

                      Chef’s Meze Plate: a daily assortment of three little dishes in one 13.

                      Chilled Melon and Almond Gazpacho with Maine crabmeat and pea shoot oil 11.

                      Pan-roasted Halibut served with a chanterelle, pattypan and walnut ragout, topped with peach-pepper jelly 28

                      Royal Almond Olive Oil Cake with pistachio whip and pecan praline 8.

                      And with all that I'd enjoy a bottle of 2006 Muga, Rioja (rosé) 34.

                    2. re: terrystu

                      Terry, I've valet-parked in Boston where it cost $25, it was not free. The $25 is what the valet has to pay the lot where they bring your car (or so I assumed). It's a bit more than bringing it to the lot yourself, as you're paying for the convenience of pulling right up to the door of the restaurant.

                      I'm not familiar w/the Portsmouth dining scene, but I think 8 fairly decent restaurants in a town of 20k people is nothing to sneeze at.

                    3. re: negrazer

                      We agree to disagree. Pesce Blue is as good as anything in Boston, and if you are a member and can afford it, the Hundred Club can be wonderful, especially on the deck.

                      Then everything falls apart. Black Trumpet overcooked my steak, is claustrophobic, and the wine list looks like it was chosen by the Martingetti rep. Massimo's good, but way overpriced and somewhat stuffy and formal. Jumping Jay's cooked my scallops to near death. The waitress stated the tourists like it that way. The Dunaway is done- food has been average with terribly small portions. The places I like? Flatbread pizza and downstairs at the gaslight for pizza, Izzy's for frozen yogurt, and the Golden Egg for breakfast.

                      Even Chinese, Thai and Japanese venues fall far short. What is even more depressing is that the food critic for the local papers believes in ultimate grade inflation.

                      1. re: aadesmd

                        How would you compare Pesce Blue to Michael Timothy's or Surf in Nashua, or Richard's Bistro or Cotton in Manchester?

                        1. re: whs

                          While I disagree about Pesce Blue, since the experience of my friends and myself was so bad, I do agree with the rest of your points. The overall Portsmouth dining experience is quite dismal, except for the places you mention, all of which I have tried and enjoyed. To that list I would add The Friendly Toast, where I have had many creative and enjoyable breakfasts in a fun, funky atmosphere. I should add that I really miss Lindbergs Crossing, the only place in portsmouth I have gotten consistently fine meals.

                          1. re: terrystu

                            Actually, the last time I ate at that location it was Lindbergs Crossing, not Black Trumpet. I just assumed it would be the same given the fact the chef remained as new owner. I'm sorry to hear it may not be as good as before . . .

                            1. re: bewley

                              Thank you JaneRI, exactly my point on valet in Boston. I wasn't making it up.

                              And exactly my point regarding quality. I've asked a couple of times in this thread for people to name a town of Portsmouth's size in New England with better dining. So far, no response. I stand by my point that for it's size, I think Portsmouth has about as good of a dining scene as one can find in New England. It's not Boston, Providence, Portland etc,.....but it's still pretty darn good in my book.

                              1. re: negrazer

                                I didn't realize Portmouth was so small - 20k? I'll compare RI towns of that size and give you a number of restaurants that would be discussed on these boards:

                                Bristol - 3
                                Coventry - 0
                                Lincoln - 2
                                Smithfield - 0
                                Westerly - 1
                                West Warwick - 0

                                1. re: JaneRI

                                  Jane, I live in portsmouth and work in Boston. I stay in town at least one night a week for dinner. I have NEVER paid anything like $25.00 for parking. I don't dispute that is is possible, but it represents the rare extreme. Even when a restaurant offers valet, I often park a block or two away for free (owing to my inate cheapness). I realize this all varies by neighborhood, but if you paid $25.00 for parking PLUS an eight or ten dollar valet charge, you got ripped off.

                                  1. re: derekj

                                    No one said anything about a valet charge - I believe he said he chose to tip that amount (I didn't after being asked to pay a $25 charge). Maybe weeknights are different? This was a Saturday night in summer on Hanover St. Normally as a RI'er I recoil from paid parking....but I was w/my BFF who was about 7 mo pg at the was enough she was foregoing booze, I wasn't going to ask her to walk for blocks. And as this is north end, there is no free street parking w/in a block or two (for non-res)

                  2. I have been away from N.H. for quite a few years. Lived in Bedford when in N.H. and was frequently in Portsmouth. Apparently the Blue Strawberry is defunct?!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: qbdave

                      I am normally just a lurker on this site, I love the insight into restaurants to help in my decision-making. However I am posting to correct a bit of mis-information which is being spread here by a certain poster. The city of Portsmouth has a very small footprint, so the 20K figure vastly underestimates the true local population. I do volunteer work for the Chamber of Commerce and the actual population of metropolitan Portsmouth, including surrounding towns from which Portsmouth restaurants would draw business, is well over 260,000. This does not include a very sizable tourist population, which would have to be added for any reasonable comparison.

                      1. re: kamac

                        "the actual population of metropolitan Portsmouth, including surrounding towns from which Portsmouth restaurants would draw business, is well over 260,000"

                        I agree w/the part about the tourist population, but the statement above...wouldn't that pretty much apply to any city/town?

                        1. re: JaneRI

                          Actually, no, but its a good question. Portsmouth is quite unique in that it is surrounded by many small towns of very high population density, for which it is considered the marketing and commercial center. I make my living doing marketing/population studies, and we enjoy a very unusual situation here in Portsmouth. Its very good for Portsmouth businesses, I might add. Thank you for your question.

                      2. re: qbdave

                        Blue Strawberry has been closed for many years. It became Lindbergs Crossing and now Black Trumpet.

                      3. Ogunquit Maine

                        As of the 2000 census its population was 1226 ppl.

                        Has per capita more restaurants than Portsmouth (and some of them excellent).

                        98 Provence is one of the finest dining establishments on the Seacoast.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: bewley

                          You'll get no argument from me on 98 Provence. Arrows speaks for itself, though it's a bit over the top for my general liking. I don't want to feel like I should be wearing a jacket to be accepted. The food is great. Certainly other good options in Ogunquit, MC's, Five-O, Front Porch etc, but I wouldn't rate any of them above the offerings in Portsmouth.

                          Perhaps we should meet at 98 or Arrows for dinner sometime in Frebruary? Oh...wait a minute. No discredit to those two fine establishments that yes I would rate better than anything in Portsmouth, but while some hibernate in the winter, I still enjoy going out to eat.

                          Alas, I won't argue any further regarding my stance on Portsmouth. The saying goes, one man's trash is anothers treasure. If some wish to refer to Portsmouth's scene as pathetic, so be it; that means more available seats in a restaurant for me and one less person I have to listen to cussing out a waiter saying the food and service sucks. I personally feel VERY fortunate to have the option of driving a half hour there for a good meal instead of an hour and fifteen to either Portland or Boston when I desire a good meal. This couldn't ring true further given the gas prices today. Luckily, 90% of my experiences in Portsmouth have been positive.

                          Happy chowing everyone, whatever town / restaurant turns you on.

                          1. re: negrazer

                            90% of your dining experiences in portsmouth have been positive?
                            That can only mean you are very easy to please!

                            1. re: whalestail

                              yup 90%

                              It's the life of an 'unsophisticated diner' ya know

                              perhaps I should aspire to be more critical and feeling let down all the time by too high of expectations. Maybe it's people like me that are cause for Portsmouth's dining scene being so 'pathetic'. It's people like me who 'accept' Portsmouth's dining for what it is that prevent it from achieving it's true potential. If it weren't for 'unsophisticated' diners like me, Barbara Lynch and Todd English would've set up shop years ago in town I'm sure.

                     sorry folks. Perhaps it's best I stop dining there, stop giving the businesses my money and make way for the naysayers to dine and teach the hard working chefs in that town what true dining is all about.

                              what time is it? 11:30 PM. Guess it's time for me to go. The late night window at Wendy's is only open another half hour.......too da loo

                        2. Mussels, Lobster and a cold beer, while sitting on the deck of the Oar House!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mcel215

                            Glad you agree with me, negrazer!