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new to NH

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We've just moved from Boston to Strafford, NH. I have been studying the northern NH boards and my expectations are pretty low about restaurant choices in my area. It appears the Nashua/Manchester areas have the most interesting choices but at 1 to 1 1/2 hour driving times, we won't be visiting that area often. Our closest towns are Barnstead, Barrington, Dover, Rochester & Pittsfield. We're 45 east of Concord and expect to be there once or twice a week. We're not big burger/pizza fans and I'm allergic to seafood. We have been visiting this area for over 30 years and generally we have found that in NH that price is a pretty good indicator of quality and we'd rather pay up for quality. Our tastes are very eclectic, we'll try anything but are turned off by bland. One of the WORST meals of my lifetime was at a very inexpensive & apparently popular restaurant at Epsom Circle. We're not expecting to be wowed, but we would like to be satisfied. HELP!!!!!

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  1. You are about 35 minutes from Portsmouth. Lots of choices there. Many are fish-centric like Jumpin' Jays. But there's also Black Trumpet, 106 Kitchen, Cava, and Green Monkey among the more upscale places. Or there's the Portsmouth Brewery which has a good menu as well. Or try the Friendly Toast for breakfast or lunch. I'd encourage you to make a day trip to Portsmouth on a Saturday, just walk around and pick a place for lunch or dinner. You may need reservations at some, but most, particularly at lunch time, are walk-in.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Essex County

      Thanks for the tips. We live on the far side of Parker Mountain right on the Belknap County line so we forget about what's on the other side! I suspect it will be closer to a 45 min. drive from here, but that puts the Portsmouth area into the "reasonable distance" group. Seafood places will work if they offer some meat choices.

      1. re: Essex County

        we live just north of boston and are big fans of Black Trumpet for the quality and eclectic nature of the menu.whenever we come up for a Music Hall performance or film, we book at BT. i always learn something new there. We've had good food at Green Monkey and both hits and misses at Fr Toast. Plse tell me about your experiences at 106 and Cava; i know noth about them. thx!.

      2. Portsmouth has some great restaurants, but Dover just north of it has some good places too (and it's closer!).

        I'd highly recommend the Orchard Street Chop Shop if you're looking for a steakhouse. Top notch food, with some tasty specials, like wild boar and duck confit. There's also Christopher's Third Street Grille, but the only time I've been there was during Dover's Oktoberfest, when they were featuring bratwurst with sauerkraut. I know, it's nothing special, but the bratwurst was tasty and the sauerkraut in particular was divine.

        The Oriental Delight offers an excellent selection of Szechuan Chinese and Japanese cuisine, and makes some fine sushi, with a large selection. They do chinese hot pot too; sadly, no dim sum. The China Yan is pretty standard chinese takeout, unless you really know your chinese food; if you do, they will make it, and it will be very good. There's a Thai place simply called Thai Cuisine. It's good, but nothing standout as far as Thai goes. There's also an Indian place called Taste of India, which is good, but in my opinion slightly overpriced. It's not nearly enough to stop me from going there (you're looking at ~ $15 a plate), but I don't get Indian as often as I'd like.

        Cartelli's offers traditional Italian, as well as sushi for some reason; I'm told it's good, but I could never bring myself to order sushi at an Italian place. I do have to confess, though, I haven't been there since their general manager left to open up her own place, so I'm not sure if it's suffered. Her new restaurant, Patty B's, is rustic Italian- pasta bolognese, veal parmigiana, and so forth. I've only been there once, but I was very happy with my food. La Festa offers great brick oven pizzas; their New York Style is decent (the specialties they offer are all quite tasty), but unfortunately I don't care for the crust.

        Dover has some great pub food options as well. The Brickhouse offers a wide selection of American cuisine that's decent; it's only really a deal on Wednesdays, when they run 40% offf everything if you pay with cash. Then it's a steal. The Farm is focused a bit more on burgers and barbecue, but still covers all the bases; I've only had one dinner there, though, so I can't really give a thorough review. I particularly like Fury's Publick House, which sports a less fleshed out menu, but almost all very good. It's one of the few places around to get a good scotch egg, and they have an array of specialty sauces that are excellent. Another bonus is they have the latest kitchen hours in Dover; it runs until midnight every day except Sunday, when it closes at 10.

        That should be enough to get you started; there's a fair number of little places I'd recommend if you're looking for a quick bite, but I wouldn't really recommend specially making the trip to Dover for them. Something to keep an eye out for is the Restaurant Weeks both Dover and Portsmouth feature. They feature 3-course prix fixe meals (all are 16.95 for lunch, and 29.95 for dinner) at most of the better restaurants, and the Portsmouth event includes some places from the greater seacoast area, including the Chop Shop. Portsmouth's event has also been bi-annual in recent years, so you have two shots. The next week they're doing it is March 22-31; it'll be a great chance to get out there and see what some of these restaurants can do.

        Hope this was helpful, and I apologize if it's a bit too long. There's a lot of good places kicking around the Seacoast, though. With the exception of Thai Cuisine and China Yan, all the restaurants listed here have their regular menu available somewhere online, so you can take a look and decide which place sounds the best to you. Welcome to the area!

        2 Replies
        1. re: OckhamsFolly

          Thanks for the Dover recommendations. I have been to the Chop Shop & Christopher's and have been quite satisfied. Chop shop used to have a carrot cake to die for, but it wasn't on the menu on my last visit (Sept. 2011) and the meal wasn't as good as previously. I seem to remember a meal at Cartelli's a few years back. I'm particularly interested in your ideas for Asian & other "ethnic" cuisines. Considering how deep in the woods we are Dover doesn't seem too far. We are closer to Rochester (about 20 min.) but I have never heard a word about restaurants there. What about Dante's in Barrington? I appreciate the thoroughness of your posting!

          1. re: melachap

            No problem. I'm pretty much a homebody; if I'm not going out in Dover or Portsmouth, I usually decide it's easier to just cook myself, so I don't really know about Dante's. As far as the ethnic food goes, most of the restaurants in Dover aren't so much great examples of the cuisine as they are solid choices, especially if you like Thai, Indian, etc. I would not describe Taste of India, for example, as a great Indian place that you have to try, but it's good Indian and I like Indian food, and if you do too, you won't be disappointed. If you're going ethnic in Dover, I'd say the best of the bunch is the Oriental Delight.

            At the Chop Shop, unfortunately the meals suffer when the head chef isn't in. I'll usually ask them if Koz is in the kitchen, and if they say he has the night off, I'll go with something safe. Almost all of my middling meals at the Chop were mostly my fault, though. I sometimes get wrapped up in what he has on special without really thinking about how the things I'm ordering will go together. The unhappiest I've ever been leaving there was when Koz informed me they wouldn't be able to keep the ostrich steak in stock anymore. I loved that entree.

            The truth is, most of the restaurants around Dover are good, some are great, but that's always through the filter of "for Dover, NH." The Chop, for instance, would probably be a mid-range steakhouse in most real urban areas with the menu he currently has, although maybe a little higher now that he's started dry-aging his own steaks. However, the Dover restaurant scene is better than pretty much any other city I've been to with 30k people and no real reason to go to it (Dover doesn't get nearly the tourist traffic Portsmouth does, for instance). You're probably not going to find your new favorite restaurant ever, but you will find some places that you'll keep going back to.

        2. I think it's always a toss-up. Your location is definitely a plus in that you can always head to the Lakes Region and North Conway just as easy as Portsmouth and/or Concord. Wolfeboro has some nice places that get good reviews and North Conway as well. The problem with any New England rural area tends to be a lack of good ethnic places to eat, unfortunately. If you're willing to drive to South Berwick or Kittery, there's good places there as well. Or go spend a weekend in Montreal!

          1. I'm not too familiar with that part of the state, but Concord has a few good choices:
            Siam Orchid for Thai, Hermanos for Mexican, Cheers pub. Also don't miss Cafe Momo in Manchester - Nepaleese food in a tiny mom & pop environment.

            1 Reply
            1. re: zootsi

              We love Cafe Momo, great family, great food!