Rita Mae’s (Manchester, NH)

Two weekends ago, we had to head down to Boston to do some errands, which from our house is around a 2.5 hour drive on a quieter weekend. This always gives us some good opportunities to stop for food on the way down. Frequent stops of our for breakfast have included The Foot Hills of Warner (which I’ve noticed I haven’t reviewed here… I’ll have to fix that), Robie’s, The Red Arrow Diner, or The Dream Diner. And all of these places are great. But the world of breakfasts is vast and wide, and there are still plenty of places to explore on the way down to Boston, so this time we decided to check out the west side of the river in Manchester (the old Quebecois neighborhood), eventually settling on Rita Mae’s Restaurant.

Rita Mae’s is located just down the road from Catholic Medical Center, in a building that’s clearly a renovated house (those that have been in the area for quite a while may remember when this place was called Suzie Q’s). Indeed, the overall exterior presentation of Rita Mae’s leans a little more towards “Dive Bar” than “Diner”. But, eschewing the “don’t use this door” front door and going up the steps, you step into a renovated house where most of the primary level has been converted to a surprisingly large (~20 table) dining area. The interior decoration is “New England Kitsch”, and the overall ambiance is the sort of place where you would expect to run into your friends and neighbors (well, I would if I actually lived in ManchVegas…).

However, Rita Mae’s sports quite the decent breakfast menu, with a variety of pancakes, egg dishes, and the like. And, being located in the “Old Quebecois” part of Manchester, they’ve got the obligatory poutine on the menu, which I really must try next time. But what really caught my eyes was the list of Benedicts. In addition to the standard Eggs Benedict, they had a lot of the standard sub-varieties of Benedict as well. In particular, I was drawn to the Hash Benedict, with Corned Beef Hash in place of the more standard Canadian Bacon. I was particularly pleased that the menu mentioned that you could order the CBH “soft” or “crispy”. So I ordered up a Hash Benedict, crispy, with a side of hash browns. Carol opted for the Crab Cake Benedict instead.

The result, when delivered in fairly quick fashion to our table, was very pleasantly done. The eggs themselves were perfectly poached, have just a bit of that light fluffiness I expect from a well-poached egg. The hash, while probably from a can (most places I can’t actually tell if it’s from a can or home-made, since so many places seem to be able to exactly match the canned stuff with their own efforts), was quite nicely done with a nice crispy crunch to it. As a nice touch, the English muffin was also nicely crisped up on the griddle (which always gives some needed texture to the dish, I’ve had many an otherwise good Benedict taken down a notch by a stale, untoasted muffin), and a good hollandaise (that probably could have used a bit more tang, but was decent enough). The hash browns were a little over-crisp and greasy for my liking, however.

Carol did quite well with the crab cake Benedict as well: the crab cakes were nicely done, with some good flakes of crab meat, a crispy exterior, and just the right amount of moistness. She would have enjoyed them by themselves, and they worked well in the Benedict.

Overall, we really enjoyed Rita Mae’s. The service was a bit slow (we did show up right in a rush), but friendly and efficient once they took our order. The food was good, the prices reasonable, and the overall ambiance quite relaxed. We’ll add Rita Mae’s to our breakfast rotation.

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