Decided to do a road trip to Portsmouth for an overnight and, as usual, my first order of business was to check out Chowhound. Most posters said to bypass Portsmouth and go to Portland. Unfortunately, I already live in Portland so that wouldn't qualify for a road trip if we were to just stay home so, with a few suggestions in hand, off we went.
Got in town in time for lunch and decided on the Portsmouth Brewery. DW had the special short rib sandwich while I had the fish sandwich. Both came with fries. Both were good, not great but perfectly acceptable pub food. Service and atmosphere were good, as was the beer. Once again, nothing really different with the beer, she had the bock and I had a stout. Both were very drinkable and pretty straightforward, not too complex. Aside from their own brews, they have a selection of Smuttynose as there is a relationship between the two - Smuttynose might own part of the pub? Overall a pretty cool place for a beer or two and an OK bite to eat.
Later, we stopped at Book Bar in the old Custom House building for coffee. This is an interesting place. It's a book store with your typical coffee offerings or you can get a beer. I had never been to such a combination and it seemed a little odd seeing someone on their computer (like a regular coffee shop/bookstore) but sipping a beer. It was different but it worked. Why not sit in a comfy coffee shop and sip a beer? Seemed much more civilized than a bar.
That night we had dinner at the Black Trumpet near the water. It was pretty quiet so we sat at the bar upstairs. We had an excellent meal. Started with a couple of their small plates. I had the pork belly with a sweet (just enough) sauce. Delicious. DW had the mushrooms with kale which she loved. I would have liked it to have more mushrooms and less kale - I could happily live the rest of my life without ever eating kale again. For entrees she had the short ribs with a turnip polenta which was excellent. I had the cassoulet which was served in a very hot skillet and it was great with the flavors getting better with each bite as they melded together. Service was excellent. They have a small but interesting selection of drafts that kept me happy. DW had two different glasses of wine recommended by our bartender/server who gave us tastes before we each settled on choices. Since dessert was not chocolate, i found it forgettable but she liked the pistachio something or other. To sum up, I don't know that I'd travel an hour just to eat here (there are very few places I'd travel that far for) but if I was spending some time in this cool little town this is an excellent place to end the day and would be a really nice addition to ant town/city.
Next morning we followed a recommendation and had breakfast at Colby's which had so much potential but missed on execution. Nice spot in a very old building. I went with the Irish bene. Hash smothered English with poached eggs and hollandaise with home fries. Home fries were great but were lukewarm. Hash was a little dry but had the eggs not been overdone, the runny yolk should have solved that issue. DW had a basic scramble with nice toast from a nearby bakery. Good service and good, bottomless coffee.
Before leaving town we hit Popovers for another coffee and a popover with the maple butter. This was light and delicious.
To sum it up, sure, it ain't Portland and I am a bit spoiled but Portsmouth is a great little walkable town and you can get some really good food there as well. And the shopping is tax free.
Next time you're in Portsmouth, try Street, on Islington Street (or is it avenue?). We were just there last Friday for lunch en route to Vermont and had yet again a great meal. They serve all manner of "street" food from tacos to empanadas to bibimbap, etc. Good stuff. Decent beer and wine selection, and it's reasonably priced. We also go to Rudi's occasionally, for a nice variety of well-prepared food.