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dover, nh, with 2 kids

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I'll be staying in Dover this Thursday and Friday with a 7 y.o. and a 5 y.o. and will be looking for dinner each night. I used to live in the area many years ago and know that much has changed, and I'd like to stay away from chains. My kids aren't super adventurous but we all appreciate quality over the Sysco frozen stuff. A couple things to note: we'll be tired from going to the beach/visiting friends near Lake Winnipesauke, so casual but efficient service is ideal. Also, we'll be heading to Portsmouth over the weekend so I'm focusing on Dover and a 15-minute radius during the week.

With that being said, I'm considering the 15-minute drive out to Dante's in Barrington on Thursday evening because I remember it was more than decent for casual Italian in a welcoming space. I looked up The Spaghetti Stain for something closer but it got horrible reviews online.

For Friday's dinner, I'm thinking about La Festa (going on the earlier side because I imagine it gets crowded on a Friday night) but also glanced at the Farm Bar and Grille website, which sounded basic but good.

Other thoughts are picking up something to go at Terra Cotta Pasta or venturing out to the UNH dairy bar for a sandwich and a cone. Is Oriental Delight a step above standard Americanized greasy, gloppy Chinese food, or should I not even consider it? If I feel energized enough to try to go somewhere for a glass of wine and a good meal while the kids have some options as well (standard hot dog/chicken tenders with fries are fine), is that a possibility among all of the sports pub-type places that seem to be prevalent?

Any thoughts or other suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance.

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  1. Want to report back in case anyone else is ever in my boat. We did go to Dante's in Barrington the first night (a beautiful 15-minute drive from Dover). The parking lot was packed but we chose to sit in the dining room, where there were only three other occupied tables. (For families, I'd choose the lounge, since I was the youngest by about 20 years and felt like the other patrons and some of the servers were giving my kids the stink eye even though they were fine. Maybe I was just self-conscious....) There's also an outdoor patio that was half full. Kids got homemade breaded chicken tenders, standard steak fries seasoned with salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese (one kid loved it, the other not so much), and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and pizzelle for $6.99 per meal--not a bad deal. I got veal parm ($16) with fresh linguini ($1.50 extra). Huge portion with lots of chunky tomatoes in the sauce, pasta was fine though not worth the extra charge, and two veal cutlets were tender but not as crunchy as I was hoping given the description of being coated in panko. Glass of house chianti was serviceable. Best part of the meal was the sliced bread and the delicious dipping oil/balsamic with chunks of sliced garlic. Service was scattered but pleasant. Overall, I'd give the experience a solid B.

    Next night's dinner was at La Festa, where we arrived at 5:30. Place was hopping and we got slices (cheese for the kids, one pepperoni slice and one slice of sausage with peppers and onions for me) and an order of garlic knots. The garlic knots were indulgent carb bombs-dense dough rolls slathered in garlic butter and parmesan with a little minced parsley for color. As for the pizza, I appreciated the sheer number of different pizza varieties prepped for reheated slices but the actual pizza was average. Crust was flabby, pepper and onion slices were sparse, and taste was bland. I wonder if ordering a whole pie would yield better results since presumably it would be made fresh. My boys had no complaints, however, and I saw how popular it is with families. Plus, I thought the $25 or so for 6 large slices, three drinks, and an order of garlic knots was reasonable.

    I wasn't expecting to be blown away by the Dover area's food options, and it's safe to say my expectations were met. We had decent meals at local, non-corporate establishments and didn't pay an arm and a leg, and that's pretty much all I could have asked for. We'll be back next summer visiting the same friends, so I'll check in next year to see if anything has changed.