We’ve gathered up some top flavors from five restaurants across the state that’ll leave you hungry with a tough choice of where to eat.
In 2018, dozens of restaurants put out their “open” flag out for the first time, welcoming new faces to their fresh flavors. Here’s a sampling of some of the local fare you’ll find across the state. Eat your heart out.
Chuck’s BARber Shop [Concord]
Don’t expect to find a website or a sign for Chuck’s. Like owner Liu Vaine’s other Merrimack Valley speakeasies, you just have to know where to look. In this case, keep an eye out for the old barber pole by Tandy’s. Once you’re in the barbershop front, pick up the phone and give them the password (find it on their Instagram) or answer a riddle to get in.
Vibe: A Time Machine
Just picture that speakeasy you’ve seen in old films: exposed brick covered windows and even bartenders in vests and arm garters. Add exposed bulb chandeliers and the kind of quality liquor Al Capone wished he could get his hands on, and you’re at Chuck’s – assuming you’ve gotten past the barbershop out front.
Dish to Try: Meatloaf Burger
A slice of meatloaf is seared to perfection and topped with cheddar, honey dijon, barbecue sauce, and crispy onion rings on a brioche bun. The sandwich is as good as any gourmet burger while still having that home-cooked feel. Odds are it’s better than your mom’s meatloaf. You can admit it, we won’t tell.
Cornerstone Pizza [Portsmouth]
Following the success of their Ogunquit location, Michael and John Cavaretta took their menu of artisanal pizzas and native brews to the Historic Frank Jones Brewery Building in Portsmouth. Each specialty woodfired pie is topped with locally sourced ingredients (think: duck bacon or Katahdin mushrooms) and cooked to bubbly-crust perfection. Ask your server for the best beer pairing, they’ll have just the one.
Vibe: Modern and Industrial
Two stories of windows filtering light through exposed beams and brick casts a warm light on the wooden booths, tables, split-level bar, and an open kitchen where diners can watch their pizza dough get tossed, turned, and stretched by the cooks before heading into the woodfire.
Dish to Try: Sweet Chicken Fig Pizza
This creative pie merges a new kind of the sweet and salty combo we all love with slow-roasted rosemary chicken, fresh fig-mascarpone puree, and balsamic glaze. It’s that type of flavor you’ll find yourself craving again a few days later, and Cornerstone is more than happy to oblige.
Salt & Lime [Keene]
This little food truck is proving that farm-to-table (or farm-to-truck) can truly be fresh and affordable. The ingredients behind each item on their menu holds true to that idea. The pork is sourced from Archway Farm in Keene, the sauces are all homemade, and the produce comes from Piccadilly Farm in Winchester. All in all, this little truck brings the neighborhood some feel-good flavor that doesn’t hurt your wallet.
Vibe: Mobile and Unpretentious
The food trailer is built out of a navy blue fifth wheel – and is just that, a trailer. Chef and owner Isaac Kaufman skipped worrying about tables, chairs, and atmosphere in favor of focusing on the food, but there is plenty of room to tailgate in the warmer months.
Dish to Try: Mott Street Sausage
The sausage and grilled bun are met with Asian flair from pickled carrots, crispy noodles, and a ponzu sweet chili sauce. The mix of savory, sweet, spicy, and vinegar are the epitome of umami and are just begging for a side of street fries.
Table + Tonic [North Conway]
The outcome of a passion project – of clinical herbalist Heather Chace, and permaculture designer Russ Van Deursen, Table + Tonic, takes farm-to-table to an entirely new level. The produce is mainly sourced from their own permaculture farm, and if not, a trusted local grower – along with their meats, cheeses, and eggs. From prep to plate, every item on the menu is made in-house (including the house-made syrups, liqueurs, and bitters in every cocktail).
Vibe: Upscale Country Chic
Table + Tonic manages to blend simplicity with rustic, country kitchen accents to create a space that is a brand of their own. When dining in, expect exposed beams and wainscoting mixed with a concrete bar top and a glass and liquor back bar set up.
Dish to Try: Vegan Surf & Turf
The tempeh in this vegan dish has a unique and flavorful coffee rub that is both spicy and sweet like a dry rub barbeque would be. Vegan scallops and olive oil-whipped potatoes (which are as smooth as silk) add to the makes of a vegan’s dish. But don’t fret diners – there are plenty of real meat and scallop options on the menu, too.
Vino e Vivo [Exeter]
Hidden down a brick-lined alley in Exeter, this tiny wine bar is home to only 24 seats. You’ll likely find owner Tony Callendrello behind the bar, whose life-long passion for wine prompted him to open a place of his very own. His expertise is invaluable when trying a new wine from their 50-bottle collection, though if you’ve been in more than once, he’s probably already got your drink of choice poured.
Vibe: Contemporary and Warm
A wall of giant windows opens up the small space and allows natural light to highlight the original stone foundation of the building and raw brick elements. Copper accents on the bar and tables give the restaurant an industrial-feel that could fit right in on the trendiest New York neighborhoods.
Dish to Try: Ora King Salmon
The menu is hyper-local and hyper-seasonal, changing every few weeks, so you’ll always find something new. No matter the season, though, there’s likely a dish that will catch your eye – and more often than not, gluten-free. Expect the salmon to be melt-in-your-mouth perfect. Paired with red cabbage, turnip, and kohlrabi, the real treat is the white sweet potato so sweet and creamy it could be a dessert in itself. Oh… and did we mention to save room for dessert?