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Help! Bored with routine in Manchester, NH

My boyfriend and I go to the same resteraunts over and over. We like them, but I'd love to try something new! This is the current list when we decide, midday, to go out for dinner:

Manchester -
Piccola's (the food isn't always consitant, but we know the bartender and he fills my wine glass extra full)
La Carreta (girl's gotta have her margaritas)
T-Bones (good value, good food, sit in the bar to avoid the craziness of the dining room)

Nashua -
Fody's (James makes all cocktails sing, and their specials are delectable)
SanFransisco Kitchen (fusion heaven, new-ish bar is nice too)

I'd totally go to Concord, but I don't really know what's there (other than Cheers, yuck). We're not flush with cash, so places like Cotton and Micheal Timothy's are lovely, but not in general rotation.

Anyone have any good suggestions in the Nashua-Manchester-Concord range? (or anywhere less than 30 min. from downtown Manch where we live)

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  1. Have you done City Flames Smokehouse on Chestnut st. - I love their ribs, cornbread, actually everything? (and the owners are very nice). If you like good vietnamese - love Golden Bowl on Queen City Ave. For Mexican I love Consuello's Taquaria (I'm really chopping that name up, sorry) - downtown Manch). If you like Greek, I enjoy Brother's for a great gyro, excellent stuffed grape leaves, etc. I like the Thai at Siam Orchid just at the bottom of Queen City Bridge. Great Indian at Gills, although they have been slow and might have closed up (valley st).

    If you really like mexican, still my favorite is in Concord at Hermano's (and killer margaritas).

    Those are mine when I'm not looking to spend too much. I love love love Cactus Jacks on S. Willow Street.

    1 Reply
    1. re: lexpatti

      Thanks, lexpatti! I also love Siam Orchid - should def. add Thai to the regular rotation. I haven't tried City Flames, but looking at the reviews on Chowhound, looks like it should TOTALLY be on the list (plus they're within stumbling home distance - always a plus). And I sure do love me a good margarita - thanks for the head's on Hermano's (who *is* that Hermano guy, anyways??)

    2. My newest favorite is the Firefly Cafe on Concord St., although their entrees start at $18. I have had good luck at Fratello's--it is one of my favorite deck spots in Manch, but not this season. I only like to eat on the deck or upstairs. I love their Portabella Mesclun Salad made with artichokes and roasted red peppers.

      Shaskeen has great mussels and an 8 oz. filet mignon for about $16. Other entrees are cheaper. If you're lucky, an Irish band is playing.

      In Nashua, try the Peddler's Daughter. They have good pub food. In Concord, try eating at the bar upstairs at the Common Man. Rosa's is quite nice, too.

      I, too, love the bartender at Piccola's. I don't like the margaritas at La Carreta--too much sour mix. Casa Blanca's in Bedford are better. I'll see you sometime at the bar at T-Bones!

      4 Replies
      1. re: ChardonnayQueen

        Haven't been to Casa Blanca's yet... how's the food? I order all my margs "Jamacan" - they use lime jc. (like Roses) instead of sour mix. I learned that from a bartender at a Margaritas, but it seems pretty universal.

        1. re: leeapeea

          For the record, Rose's lime cordial* is absolute crap, and is no substitute for lime juice.

          Don't misconstrue this as hating on the 'hound here; I'm just hating on the game. With very few exceptions, NH is still in the cocktail Dark Ages, resplendent with powdered sour mix, Rose's "lime", #4-red maraschino "cherries", and blue curaƧao/Sour Apple Pucker galore -- all of which have been relegated to the dust bin of history at the growing # of establishments that have learned to take their drinks as seriously as their food.

          Ask for fresh lime juice (this does NOT come out of a Rose's bottle or green plastic lime) in your next marg; there's no good reason why they shouldn't have it, unless they take their clientele for fools. Ask them plainly what they have on-hand, and strap on your BS detector to evaluate the staff's response. If a bar trumpeting their cocktails doesn't squeeze their own juices daily, they're just lazy and/or complacent with passing off an inferior product at a ridiculous markup, and IMO don't deserve your cocktail business.

          * As for Rose's, there's only one drink that it conceivably belongs in, the Gimlet. But even that's tenuous: it's only historically accurate, not necessarily better tasting. (The Rose's product was created to withstand transatlantic passage with the British Royal Navy, served with government-issued Plymouth Gin. (The booze was the "spoonful of sugar" to help their scurvy medicine go down.)

          1. re: AbeFroman

            Ain't that the truth brother! I refuse to even own any of that swill in my private home bar. I am sure Rose's Lime and Triple Sec have a place in the world, just not in MY world.

            And on a personal note, While I was in Mexico City, they used these tiny limes, they called "limons" they are about the size of a quarter and so darn juicy! I wish I could find them around here because they made the best Margarita I have ever tasted in my life.

          2. re: leeapeea

            One reason I don't go to Shortys any more is that they absolutely refuse to make a marg from scratch! Any mex restaurant that doesn't accommodate a request for freshness in the drinks should be crossed off the list!

        2. Sounds like a cocktail is a prerequisite:

          Nashua try YouYou Bistro, Surf, Cucina Toscana, Takumi,or Stella Blu. Manchester maybe Z Bistro. Concord has Hermanos, but not much else except Granite, which is pricey.

          10 Replies
          1. re: whs

            I agree with pretty much all of whs's Nashua suggestions except for Surf (which, for no good reason, I have yet to visit). I also second the earlier suggestion of Peddler's Daughter ... which, along with YouYou, are probably your best bets if money is a significant limitation.

            Also in downtown Nashua, Black Orchid is quite good, but on the $$$ side.

            If you like Indian food, India Palace in Manchester or Nashua is a good bet. The lunch buffet is a good way to familiarize yourself with Indian cuisine if it's new to you.

            In Merrimack, Florence's offers great Italian fare and Tortilla Flat has an interesting array of Mexican dishes in a quaint setting.

            If you're willing to travel back roads, Lucia's Tavola in teensy Brookline offers phenomenal Italian food, and probably just squeaks in under your 30-minute limit from downtown Manchester. If you go, be sure to order something made with the homemade pasta. I can't recommend this place highly enough -- well worth the trip.

            1. re: tunamelt

              I would not recommend Tortilla Flat in Merrimack. I've never been able to find anything spicy on their menu and their salsa and chips are horrible. Also, the last time my girlfriend and I ate there, she found a sharp chunk of aluminium in her refried beans about the size of a marble.

              I'm not sure if it is 30 minutes from Manchester but we also like Amigo's Mexican Cantina http://www.amigosmilford.com/ on Rte 13 in Milford NH, right next to the oval. They serve decent tex-mex along with good margaritas and always have local beer on tap. Check out their hot sauces if you like heat. I just noticed that they are opening another Amigos in Merrimack at 75 DW Hwy in March of this year.

              In Manchester, I would recommend Lala's Hungarian Pastries on Elm St. They have excellent goulash and chicken schnitzel and their pastries are amazing.

              1. re: TimW

                Ohhh, I forgot about LaLa's - love that place too.

                1. re: TimW

                  Milford's a little far, but we have friends in that area, so it's a great excuse to head down and try Amigo's. Thanks, Tim!

              2. re: whs

                I've never even *heard* of You You Bistro! Thanks for the tip!
                I found Z's to be... missing the mark. The initial concept was there, but the menue doesn't change, the food isn't always worth the price (because they prepare things that play on seasonal food's particular flavors). I should go back and check out the cocktails, tho...

                1. re: leeapeea

                  YouYou is decent, but multiple co-workers (long-time Nashuans) always told me Takumi wins out between the two, though I never got a chance to visit before we moved.

                  As for places we used to visit regularly and STILL do when I'm back home, Z is our favorite in Manchester. The comment on their menu being static doesn't square with our experience at all; I've spotted something different on the menu on almost every visit I can recount. A server told us once that aside from a limited handful of dishes (I distinctly remember he called them "sacred cows", ha!), Tom (chef-owner) likes to keep things as seasonal as possible.

                  1. re: AbeFroman

                    New(ish) item is veal cheek stew--very good. The duck meatballs were better conceptually than on the plate.

                    1. re: whs

                      when we were in earlier this week, noticed the the duck meatballs are now on the flatbread. When we were talking to Tom he was saying that he was never quite happy with the meatball entree, and that several regulars were asking him to put back the original duck dish. Also the veal cheeks are now a stroganoff style over pasta, loooked tasty andd will defintley be ordering on my next visit.

                    2. re: AbeFroman

                      Takumi definitely outshines YouYou, but for about two to three times the price ... and the OP cited cost as a factor ...

                      1. re: tunamelt

                        We had some great sushi and sashimi at Moritomo in Concord over the weekend. Very fresh--also loved the tako sunomono (octopus in vinaigrette).

                2. A few weeks ago, we headed to Cactus Jacks to discover an hour plus wait, so took a shot in the dark and ended up up the road at Yuki Japanese Grill (http://yukijapanesegrill.com/). Half of our group was new to / wary of Japanese food, but everyone ended up liking what they had. The sushi was good (although I didn't order anything "exotic" to keep the newbies calm) and the grill chef was competent and highly entertaining. Not even too busy on a Saturday night and not expensive. A nice "find."

                  1. What about Richard's Bistro and their dinner special @ 20? the bread basket alone is worth the trip. We went for lunch on Monday after trying to go to two others that were closed, grrrrr. And we weren't expecting to spend much, lunch on the run is what it should have been. I did stick to the $5 lunch (and was extremely happy) - risotto, spinach and chicken - AND all that fabulous bread. Hubby on the other hand had to get something off the regular menu and a cup of soup. Still, with tip was $35.00

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: lexpatti

                      Lex.... now I want bread! Wasn't that basket alone worth the cost?

                      1. re: gryphonskeeper

                        No Kidding, thanks for turning me on to this wonderful bread basket. I could easily go for a cup of soup and this bread!! Although it's tough, because everythign is very good.

                        1. re: gryphonskeeper

                          And when you go to the coast, you will love Latitudes at Wentworth by the Sea - again worth the trip for the breadbasket.

                      2. Have you tried Bedford Village Inn in Bedford? They have a very nice looking dining room but we ate in the Tavern, which is more laid back. The food was good - I had the Tap Room sliders and they were cooked perfectly. The herb-parmesan french fries were also very tasty. For an app, we tried the antipasto and I was impressed, especially with the dried salame, which is no small feat b/c I'm Italian and I'm very critical. The only thing I didn't like was a mushroom soup special. It had a weird dried porcini flavor, it was way too thick, and the brown color was completely unappetizing. It had some fried leeks on top which only made it taste weirder. Anyway, the Tavern prices are reasonable and I'd definitely go back.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: spicypadthai

                          BVI has also opened a wine bar upstairs with small plates--have not tried it. Any feedback?

                        2. Our Manchetser routine:

                          Favorite Asian food right now is Cafe Momo. Good honest food, just different enough to keep our attention. We are so bored with mediocre Chinese food around here, although there is a time a place for greasy pupu platters and Scorpion Bowls at Aloha.

                          Loving the BBQ at City Flame, great Memphis style, dry rubbed and good smoke. My only complaint is that they close to early during the week. (we are late eaters).

                          Z is a frequent stop for us. Always good, always fresh, have the best cocktails in town and the food is always top notch. Were in earlier this week and they have a 3 course dinner for 2 for $50 which was quite the deal.

                          For pizza we are big fans of Annula's on Chestnut St. Great and consistant Greek style pie. 900 degrees has been all right, defintely a better spot to eat in at.

                          Billy's Sport's Bar for good honest pub fare has never let us down.

                          Cotton is old time fav. We like to go in and hang on the night's Dwyane is working the bar. Alwyas satisfies my meatloaf jones.

                          We gave up on anything Italian in Manchester. Always dissapointed. The GF makes an mean pasta already.

                          What we really like since comming back to Manch are the options that never were here before and that mediocre isn't good enough anymore.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: viva manchvegas

                            Great posts everyone, and a topic I love. I live in Concord but Concord doesn't have much I like, so anything about Manchester is probably the most helpful! Definitely agree that my faves are City Flame, Golden Bowl, Lala's, Conquelo's Taqueria, Siam Orchid (okay, they do have a branch in Concord too so perhaps Concord has one good place!).

                            I exaggerate because Concord is boring restaurant scene for a state capital but....
                            Actually Concord does have some good lunch places like Madeleines (excellent quality quiches, homemade soup, sandwiches, ham&cheese croissant, tomato feta basil croissant, and amazing pastries).
                            Bistro Rustica with good European style and quality panini, soup, sandwiches, salads, baked good.
                            Elizabeth's Kitchen Mediterranean, Greek (she now runs the state capital dining cafe too). I posted on this place one time a while back.
                            Still In A Pinch Cafe is good lunch with sandwich, quiche, soup, panini, brownie bars cookies but best at their new location at 2 Pillsbury St which is bigger and brighter nice tmosphere. The Pleasant St In a Pinch original location's food somehow has gone downhill, preparation or flavor I can't quite pin it down.

                            Angelina's and Don Giovanni's are good for more upscale Italian dinner. Granite restaurant is really good although pricy.
                            Cafe Indigo vegan food that even meat eaters will love, for lunch and Sunday brunch (I just posted on this).
                            Barley House is good, just not my personal favorite, but many people like it so worth checking out if Original Poster likes TBones, Fody's. Plus is a bar as well as restaurant and sometimes live music.
                            If you want a cheap dive with old school good burgers and beer go to Gaslighter.
                            House of India in Concord is really not bad, I just have really high standards with Indian food since I cook it well at home, and not all their dishes excite me. But some do, and it's worth eating there. The lassi yogurt shake drinks there are fun to try.