The Best Food and Drink in New Hampshire for 2019
December 20, 2018
New Hampshire's state vegetable is the potato
The Best Food and Drink in New Hampshire
Located in the heart of the Northeast, New Hampshire is lush with lobster, crab, and other carefully cooked shellfish. Though it’s largely not a coastal state, it does feature a sliver of coastline and borders two of the best states for seafood — Massachusetts and Maine. We’ve rounded up the best of the state’s eats as part of our second annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
While you’re enjoying your delicious New Hampshire food and drink, you can enjoy the state’s beautiful views. White Mountain National Forest features an enormous state park rich with hiking trails, rivers, and recreational activities.
If you’re more inclined towards city life, take a trip to the state’s most populous regions by the coastline or in its larger cities. Manchester and Concord both feature a vibrant foodie scene and have attracted chefs and drink experts from around the world. While there is a huge variety in the types of foods you’ll find served in New Hampshire, you can bet on traditional inclusions of cheese, apples, and maple syrup derived from its rich history of local sourcing and farming. And of course, don’t leave without trying the seafood — it’s a point of pride throughout all of New England.
Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and brunch spot to its best bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our New Hampshire gallery ahead.
Best 24-Hour Diner: Red Arrow Diner (Manchester)
This New Hampshire diner is a certified institution, and not just for the food: It’s a must-visit for every Presidential candidate on the campaign trail, making it a political institution as well. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are on offer 24-7, with perfect versions of old-school diner favorites including pancakes, corned beef hash, biscuits and gravy, chicken-fried steak, Monte Cristo sandwiches, turkey dinner, meatloaf, liver and onions, and homemade beans being served to the hungry masses since 1922. Don’t forget to wash it all down with an Arrow root beer or cream soda, made just for the diner.
Best Airport Restaurant: Shipyard Pub (Manchester-Boston Regional Airport)
Shipyard Brewing Co. makes another appearance on this list with Shipyard Pub, their restaurant location in New Hampshire’s main airport. Like its Maine counterpart, Shipyard Pub has a menu full of soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and wings as well as plenty of beers, spirits, and wines.
Best Bar: Portsmouth Brewery (Portsmouth)
Open since 1991, the Portsmouth Brewery was New Hampshire’s first brewpub. Housed in a nineteenth-century brick building in Portsmouth’s historic downtown, the two-story establishment is the quintessential New England neighborhood bar. The beer is brewed in-house and there are whiskey-based cocktails, too, like the Market Street Manhattan (Woodford Reserve bourbon, sweet and dry vermouths, and Woodford Reserve bourbon-barrel bitters). The drink offerings include 12 draft beers upstairs, 16 downstairs, two cask-conditioned beers, 18 wines, 25 high-end bottled beers, and cider offerings curated by head brewer Matt Gallagher. You’ll also find 10 cocktails and a few mocktails. The bar’s décor includes eclectic art, rolled-steel tabletops, high ceilings, a cupola, a seasonal outdoor beer garden, and a view of the beer-making process. The downstairs Jimmy LaPanza Lounge is a more laid-back affair with velvet nude paintings on the walls, low ceilings, a pool table, and a tabletop shuffleboard game. Try the Thaizenheimer: a wheat ale brewed with ginger, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass. It pairs well with the spicy curried mussels cooked in a broth infused with curry spice, coconut milk, lemongrass, and a touch of spicy chile sauce.
Best Beach Bar: Bernie’s Beach Bar (Hampton Beach)
Bernie’s provides a stage for some of the best local live bands, with concerts nearly every night during the summer. Party on the deck all afternoon long, or pop inside if you need a little AC. Either way, you’ll be surrounded by stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. Try Bernie’s conch fritters and award-winning clam chowder, and wash it all down with a $12 bucket of Landshark or Shock Top beer.
Best Beer: Hopulization, Stoneface Brewing Company (Newington)
With an 8.9 percent ABV, Stoneface Brewing Company’s double-dry-hopped beer Hopulization is a certifiable juice bomb. Galaxy and Calypso hops give this medium-bodied beer notes of lemon, spice, and dry hoppiness perfect for fans of classic IPAs. Yes, despite a hazy appearance, this brew is not a New England-style IPA. It’s all old-school and all delicious.
Best Brunch: Wentworth by the Sea (New Castle)
Wentworth by the Sea has been called the Crown Jewel of Portsmouth, located just off the mainland on New Castle Island. Open since 1888 and one of the East Coast’s premiere resorts during the 20th century, it was saved from the wrecking ball in the 1980s and is today a member of the Historic Hotels of America and is operated by Marriott; a six-year, $30 million renovation added a spa, pool, and suites, and today it’s once again one of the East Coast’s finest resorts. But it’s the brunch we’re supposed to be talking about, right? Well, its Sunday brunch is amazing. Unlimited Champagne, live jazz, ice sculptures, fine crystal and china, and the elegant environs of the main dining room set the stage for an abundant and luxurious buffet, boasting two carving stations (with prime rib, of course), omelettes made to order, pastas, stuffed French toast, cheeses, and a wide variety of desserts. You might just never want to leave.
Best Burger: Lexie’s (Multiple Locations)
Husband and wife KC Cargill and Alexis Wile opened the first location of Lexie’s in Portsmouth in 2010, and today there are four New Hampshire locations, one in Massachusetts, and a “Burger Bus” for catering. What’s made this place to successful? A relaxed vibe (the motto is “Peace, Love, and Burgers”), and, obviously, some stellar burgers! These 4-ounce patties are vessels for some deliciously creative toppings, as evidenced in burgers like the Stairway to Heaven (Cheddar, braised short ribs, melted onions, and barbecue sauce); the Fun Guy (blue cheese, mushrooms, crispy onions, and horseradish sauce); and The Farmhouse (Cheddar, bacon, fried egg, avocado, lettuce, tomato, onion, and herb aïoli).
Best Chinese Restaurant: Golden Tao (Manchester)
Photo by Vincent P. via Yelp
Crowds flock to this Manchester gem for its well-made Americanized Chinese fare and weekend dim sum brunch. Homemade pork dumpling soup, pu pu platters, crispy sesame beef, Sichuan chicken, and beef teriyaki are favorites; and as for the dim sum, you can’t go wrong with barbecue pork buns, custard buns, and turnip cakes.
Best Chocolate Shop: Dancing Lion Chocolate (Manchester)
Chocolate making in general is often referred to as an art, but at Dancing Lion in Manchester, New Hampshire, they really are making art. They sell stunning chocolate sculptures that almost look like stonework. You’ll also find beautiful and uniquely flavored chocolate bars such as The Blues, a beautiful blue bar with dark chocolate, blueberries, and toasted pecans.
Best Coffee Shop: Union Coffee Company (Milford)
Meant to be community-building space for the town of Milford, Union Coffee Company is an intentionally warm and welcoming spot for local residents or even visitors to stop by. In addition to bar seating and tables, Union has an outdoor patio for when the weather is nice. When it's not, you'll enjoy trying your hand at house guitars, playing board games, checking out their lending library, or even just taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi. Of course, the best reasons to come here in the first place are the delicious drinks made from responsibly sourced, single-origin coffee beans, organic milks (with soy and almond as options as well), and organic syrups as well.
Best Cupcake: White Mountain Cupcakery (Mount Washington Valley)
Selling more than 500 freshly baked cupcakes a day, this family-owned bakery has been making locals’ and tourists’ days a little sweeter since 2009. Their style is simple, as they hope to wow with flavor and presentation. A straightforward variety we think you’ll enjoy is the Sunshine, a flavorful yellow cake topped with homemade buttercream frosting and covered in yellow sprinkles.
Best Dive Bar: McGarvey’s (Manchester)
McGarvey’s in Manchester actually has some of the finest bar food in New Hampshire. Whether you’re chowing down on their chicken nachos or burgers, you’ll be more than satisfied. But the beer is cheap and plentiful too, with six seasonal selections on tap. If that all isn’t enough to get you in the door, this dive has karaoke every single night.
Best Doughnut: Muriel’s Donuts (Lebanon)
Photo by hilary c. via Yelp
Muriel’s is a well-respected mainstay of Lebanon. Everyone here has his or her own childhood memories of visiting this doughnut shop, so make sure you don’t miss out on this tiny, understated store if you’re nearby. The perfectly curated, small collection of doughnuts are all reliably tasty, but we can’t help but name favorites, and for us, the jelly stick wins.
Best Food Truck: B’s Tacos (Londonderry)
The food truck industry is still building in New Hampshire, but B’s Tacos is one of the originals. With a nearly flawless Facebook rating, the truck uses fresh ingredients to make stellar Mexican food. The namesake dish is available in 6- and 8-inch varieties, and there are also 8-inch fajitas, 12-inch burritos, and bowls with your choice of meat (slow-cooked pork loin, seasoned ground beef, chorizo, and grilled or Buffalo chicken) and all the standard toppings. Of course, those who take their tacos seriously will add avocado, bacon, and grilled onions and peppers, or all of the above!
Best Fudge Shop: The Mill Fudge Factory & Ice Cream Café, Bristol (New Hampshire)
Located in a charming former grist mill in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, The Mill makes its fudge using an old family recipe and ingredients including Cabot butter and Callebaut Belgian dark chocolate. Supporters of the Slow Food movement, the owners (who opened the shop in 2006) are turning out some fun and creative fudge, in flavors including New Hampshire maple, natural peanut butter, chocolate raspberry, chocolate salted caramel, cranberry maple nut, and Cabin Fever Maple Whiskey.
Best Fried Chicken: Farr’s Famous Chicken (Hampton)
This bright yellow shack is located in the shadow of a huge water slide a block from the beach, and no trip to Hampton Beach is complete without a visit to this low-key counter-serve destination. Open since 1977, the restaurant’s been making fried chicken according to the same recipe since day one, resulting in deeply golden-brown, super crunchy chicken with moist and tender meat underneath.
Best Grocery Store: A Market
Photo by Joshua G. via Yelp
Note that the bigger chains like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Market Basket are also very popular here, but A Market takes the cake. As one longtime shopper said, “My family has been shopping here since I was a small child and we're repeat customers because of the terrific selection of very healthy foods: fresh produce, groceries, and vitamins. The shop's open, friendly atmosphere is inviting and they offer free samples.”
Best Hole-in-the-Wall Diner: Lindy’s Diner (Keene)
Constructed in New Jersey and shipped lock, stock, and barrel to New Hampshire in 1961, this all-American diner has been a must-visit for presidential candidates for decades, and the menu is chock-full of diner staples as well as homestyle New England classics. The patty melt, mac and cheese, and blueberry pancakes are spot-on, but don’t pass up the opportunity to sample standards like fried belly clams, homemade cod cakes, pickled fried tripe, and Yankee pot roast.
Best Hot Dog: Gilley’s PM Lunch (Portsmouth)
Also home to one of America’s best burgers, Gilley’s is an adorable little restaurant that’s been in business since 1940; it started life as a lunch cart that was towed by horse into Market Square every day and has been in its present (permanent) home since 1974. The menu is simple — burgers, hot dogs, fries, and sandwiches — but you can’t leave this oak and porcelain antique without trying the steamed hot dog. But learn the lingo first: “The works” means mustard, relish, and onions; “loaded” adds ketchup; and “everything” adds mayo and a pickle.
Best Hotel Restaurant: Harvest Tavern (Whitefield)
The Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa has been providing luxury accommodations to vacationers since 1865, and its main restaurant, Harvest Tavern, is a big part of the draw. The homey and elegant restaurant specializes in authentic farm-to-table North Country cuisine utilizing local ingredients — there’s even a farm on the premises. They’ve also partnered with 16 local farms and distributors, and they’re a primary supporter of the North Country Farmers Cooperative. So what’s on the menu? Salads freshly picked from the garden, unique pizzas (try the one topped with barbecue pork and bacon), house-made cavatelli with lobster and cheese, 36-hour roasted pork ribs, heritage pork chop with braised greens and mashed potatoes, and a 48-hour braised Angus beef rib, among other crowd-pleasers. Come back for lunch to try the fried chicken sandwich and French dip.
Best Ice Cream Stand: Jordan’s Ice Creamery (Belmont)
Jordan’s Ice Creamery/Yelp
Jordan’s Ice Creamery is a neighborhood favorite for its exciting, ever-changing menu. Jordan’s is known for its Belly Buster, which is a five-scoop sundae served in a bucket with a small shovel.
Best Italian Restaurant: Tuscan Kitchen (Salem and Portsmouth)
With a menu inspired by owner Joe Faro’s travels to Italy, Tuscan Kitchen is bringing some Tuscan sunshine to the Granite State. There are plenty of authentic Italian dishes on the menu, and the house-made pasta is made with imported “double zero” flour. Lobster is the name of the game in this neck of the woods, and here it’s put to good use in ravioli, sauced with lemon butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Most Expensive Restaurant: Hanover Street Chophouse (Manchester)
This high-end steakhouse is well-known for its 200-plus-bottle wine list as well as its expense-account menu. Steaks start at $42 for a 16-ounce 28-day-aged bone-in strip, and high rollers can opt for a $58 16-ounce bone-in fillet. Fillet lovers can also choose between six different preparations and two sizes, topping out at $51 for a 12-ounce truffle butter-topped steak. Go ahead and add on an $18 lobster tail while you’re at it.
Most Outrageous Restaurant Dish: Feedbag Shovel, KC's Rib Shack (Manchester)
While barbecue has its variations around the world, no one does it quite as good — or quite as big — as Americans. At KC's Rib Shack, you can get more than your barbecue fix with the Feedbag Shovel, a literal shovel full of 6 pounds of amazing barbecue. The dish, or shovel, contains a full rack of spare ribs, half a pound each of pulled chicken, pulled pork, and beef brisket, one smoked sausage, and a pint each of two side dishes, as well as four pieces of cornbread on the side.
Most Romantic Restaurant: Ristorante Massimo (Portsmouth)
In a quaint brick building in historic seaside Portsmouth, Ristorante Massimo offers warm and intimate seating among artwork and stone walls. Upscale without stiff formality, the accommodating staff —owner Massimo personally greets each patron — ensures a welcoming experience. The kitchen puts their own stamp on Italian dishes; diners might choose entrées such as pan-roasted halibut over fennel and grilled scallion purée, or Gnocconi alla Loichle, cracked-pepper dumplings with beef tenderloin. The new upstairs bar is a great place for pre-dinner drinks and small plates.
Best Pizza: Tilton House of Pizza (Tilton)
Yelp/ Nick S.
Run by the Katsigiannis family for the last 19 years, this 33-year-old local favorite has been turning out top-notch pies made with fresh dough (made up to four times per day) and fresh vegetables. The old-school, welcoming spot is making thick-crusted pies loaded with cheese, homemade sauce, and a massive variety of toppings ranging from sliced tomato and anchovy to chicken fingers, eggplant, pastrami, and banana peppers. The steak and cheese calzone is also a major winner.
Best Restaurant for Breakfast: Polly’s Pancake Parlor (Sugar Hill)
Picture in your mind’s eye an 80-year-old restaurant called Polly’s Pancake Parlor in a little New Hampshire town called Sugar Hill, and we bet you won’t be too off the mark from reality. Open at 7 a.m. Fridays through Mondays during winter and daily the rest of the year, Polly’s is a low-slung brown building surrounded by verdant fields and old farmhouses, and the inside is homey and rustic. And, of course, the pancakes (which are smaller than usual at about three inches across) are fantastic. Six freshly made batters are available (plain, buckwheat, gingerbread, whole wheat, cornmeal, and oatmeal buttermilk) and you can choose from four add-ins (blueberry, walnuts, coconut, and chocolate chip), but there’s really no wrong choice. Buckwheat, whole wheat, and cornmeal flours are organically-grown and milled in-house; the maple syrup is (of course) pure; and bacon and ham are provided by the nearby North Country Smokehouse. And there are plenty of egg dishes, Benedicts, and house-made baked goods as well. The restaurant was the well-deserved recipient of the 2006 James Beard American Classic Award.
Best Sandwich: Steak Tips & Cheese at Nadeau’s Subs (Manchester)
Nadeau’s has been serving high-quality subs since 1969, and today there’s four Manchester locations and one in Exeter. Their Philly cheese steak, barbecue beef, and fried haddock sandwich are all top-notch, but if you go, get their famous steak tip sub, made with USDA Choice sliced sirloin that’s been seasoned with a secret spice blend and seared on the grill with sliced peppers and onions. Go all the way and get it with a few slices of American cheese added.
Best Seafood Shack: Brown’s Lobster Pound (Seabrook)
Family-owned and -operated, Brown’s Lobster Pound has been serving locals what is said to be the state’s best lobster and freshest catch since 1950. Order fried and grilled food at the counter, but if you want your lobster boiled (which we recommend), pick one from the tanks inside. It is BYOB, so make sure to bring a great bottle of white wine to go with your shellfish.
Best Soup: Collins Brothers Chowder (Nashua)
Yelp/ Paul M.
A local gem hiding in plain sight for the past 16 years, Collins Brothers offers at least 12 different soups for takeout only. But just because it isn’t a full-service restaurant doesn’t mean it’s not spectacular: Owners Dan Largy and Robert Hughes only use the freshest ingredients, and serve up to 500 customers daily, not including wholesale. The clam chowder is a top seller, but you also can’t go wrong with corn and bacon chowder, meatball and sausage Parmesan soup, or Nantucket seafood chowder.
Best Steakhouse: Hanover Street Chophouse (Manchester)
Hanover Street Chophouse might just be the swankiest restaurant in the entire state; it’s clubby, elegant, and exactly the type of place where you’ll want to become a regular. Classing up downtown since 2005, an ideal meal there might start with a selection of local cheeses, thick-cut Neuske’s bacon, and a seafood tower, then continue with a dry-aged bone-in rib-eye and one of their six filet mignon preparations, in either 8 or 12 ounces (bacon maple Bourbon jam and blue cheese fondue are always good options). Make sure you accompany it with a wine from their 200-bottle collection. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.