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Best of Portsmouth, NH | Restaurants & Dining

If you want to understand Portsmouth as a food town, start at 29 Ceres Street. This former chandlery (c. 1803) rose to fame in 1970, when self-taught chef James Haller opened an experimental little restaurant called the Blue Strawberry and began turning out inventive dishes — nasturtium butter, lobster-stuffed quail — inspired by local ingredients. Haller’s “Rules? What rules?” approach to fine dining earned both a loyal local following and support from carloads of culinary tourists.

The exterior of 29 Ceres Street, now home to Black Trumpet Bistro

29 Ceres Street, now home to Black Trumpet Bistro.

Courtesy of Black Trumpet Bistro

The Blue Strawberry earned national acclaim and spawned a best-selling cookbook before closing in 1995. Then came Lindbergh’s Crossing, a popular French-influenced wine bar that pushed the city ever forward on seasonality, local sourcing, and left-of-center proteins like cod cheeks and braised rabbit. Evan Mallett got his start as a chef there, and when owners Thomas Fielding and Scott O’Connor decided to move on, he opened Black Trumpet in the same spot in 2007. Ten years later, he’s still innovating.

Meanwhile, the rest of the city is plugged into every of-the-moment food trend: grass-fed burgers, hyperlocal oysters, ramen, craft cocktails. New restaurants open with such frequency that it’s hard to keep up — but the following list of our favorite Portsmouth eateries will get you started.

Best of Portsmouth, NH | Restaurants & Dining

BEST FARM-TO-TABLE IN PORTSMOUTH, NH

Black Trumpet

Chef-owner Evan Mallett is a locavore par excellence and an experienced forager whose recent book, Black Trumpet, is organized around the principle that New England actually enjoys not four but eight distinct seasons (early and late winter, early and late spring, etc.). His menus reflect those seasonal rhythms, with late summer’s chanterelle and corn bisque giving way to fall’s local lamb ragout with preserved lemon. Named a 2015 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Farm-to-Table Elegance.”

BEST SMALL PLATES IN PORTSMOUTH, NH

Moxy

Moxy offers imaginative small plates with a New England accent: Harvard beets with crème fraîche, johnnycakes with brown sugared pork shoulder and pickles, local rabbit over rye pasta, and chef Matt Louis’s famous whoopie pie sliders. Wash it all down with a tasting flight of Granite State beers served in canning jars.

The Franklin

A sister restaurant to Moxy, the Franklin has the same spirit of fun and ambition, with global small plates and plenty of good oysters and charcuterie. Favorites include harissa-rubbed shrimp with polenta, Sichuan-inspired dan-dan wings, fish tacos, and buttermilk fried chicken. Named a 2016 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Seafood.”

Fried chicken with cornbread and slaw at The Franklin

You’ll find the best fried chicken in Portsmouth at the Franklin.

Brian Samuels

BEST BAKERY IN PORTSMOUTH, NH

La Maison Navarre

Francophiles will rejoice upon entering this chic bakery, which so closely resembles a modern Parisian patisserie because its owners, Charlotte Reymond and Victor Navarre grew up in the French culinary capitals of Paris and Lyon. Macarons in a rainbow of colors take center stage, but don’t miss the Viennoiserie (croissants and brioches) and the savory crepes.

BEST PUBS & DINERS IN PORTSMOUTH, NH

Gilley’s

Classic American hot dogs are the calling card here — made of beef, pork, and veal; topped with chili, sauerkraut, onions, and/or ketchup; and served in griddled buns. It doesn’t hurt that the operation is housed in a 1940s Worcester diner car or that it stays open until 2 a.m., an hour when a perfect steamed dog can seem like proof of divine grace.

Earth Eagle Brewings

Heady IPAs may be the darlings of the New England beer world, but Earth Eagle is swimming against the tide by specializing in gruit, a brew style that eschew hops in favor of aromatics like lemon verbena, ginger root, and even wild grapes. And you can pair the suds with top-notch sandwiches (we like the Roast Beast) and homemade pretzels.

SEE MORE: Best Bars in Portsmouth, NH, for Every Kind of Night Out

BEST MEXICAN IN PORTSMOUTH, NH

Chef/owner David Vargas of Vida Cantina

Vida Cantina chef-owner David Vargas.

Courtesy of Vida Cantina

Vida Cantina

With eight kinds of tacos and five enchiladas, this modern cantina offers the Mexican standbys you’d expect. But chef-owner David Vargas also grounds his menu in top-notch local produce, makes his own tortillas from local heirloom corn, and serves a top-notch brunch (don’t miss the chilaquiles). Vegans and vegetarians, take note: There’s plenty here for you.

BEST SEAFOOD IN PORTSMOUTH, NH 

Row 34

Sister to the wildly popular Boston oyster house, Row 34 boasts the best lobster rolls around (sourced from chef-owner Jeremy Sewall’s cousin, Mark, who fishes just across the border in York, Maine). Its oyster stew is one for the ages, and its beer program will satisfy any serious connoisseur.

Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Café

The granddaddy of gourmet seafood has been serving regional classics, multiple catch-of-the-day variations, and award-winning crab cakes since 2000. Owner Jay McSharry has paid his success forward, partnering with Matt Louis (Moxy, the Franklin) and David Vargas (Vida Cantina) on their ventures, but his heart lives here in this always-hopping mainstay. Named a 2013 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Raw Bar.”

What would you add to our list of the best Portsmouth, NH, restaurants? Let us know!

This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated. 

SEE MORE:
Best of Portsmouth, NH | Hotels & Inns
A Fall Visit to Downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The post Best of Portsmouth, NH | Restaurants & Dining appeared first on New England Today.



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