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Muriel’s Donuts (Lebanon, NH)

Every year for National Donut Day, several of my coworkers celebrate by going out and buying a bunch of donuts for the office. And no, while Dunkin Donuts is damn near ubiquitous around here (and indeed, even gives out free donuts today with a beverage purchase), we drove right by the Dunkin Donuts… we had a much greater destination in mind: Muriel’s Donuts, some of the best donuts to be found for literally hundreds of miles.

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Sunshine Cookshop (Claremont, NH)

A byproduct of several of my projects at work is that we regularly have to visit Lakehurst, NJ. Between schedule and flexibility, we almost always end up driving down there and back with an overnight stay (having tried almost every route between here and there, we’ve got it down to a fairly reliable 5 hour trip each way). We usually carpool, rendezvousing at the Ascutney, VT exit off of I-91, and that’s given me more than a few opportunities to check out a few of Claremont, NH’s more obscure eateries on my home. In this case, my last trip had me arriving in Claremont around dinner time, and that was a great excuse to pay a visit to Sunshine Cookshop, a Jamaican place on South Pleasant Street.

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Wild Willy’s Burgers (Rochester, NH)

As I discussed in the previous review of Hop and Grind, I’ve been rather craving some good burgers recently, and another place that came up as a recommendation (from scooterboy at TCF) was Wild Willy’s, a New England chain with a handful of locations in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. While the original location is in York, Maine (and, unfortunately, is now closed and for sale), their Rochester location was only about a 10 minute detour since I was already in Durham, so I decided to swing by and give them a try.

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Hop & Grind (Durham, NH)

Several of my online friends recently got into a heated discussion about which fast food places have good burgers, and there was a rather heated discussion that followed about whether or not Five Guys is overrated. For the record, I think 5G is overrated, but that’s a topic for another day, but there were two takeaways from the conversation: one being that I now had an immense hankering for a good burger, and the second that I had gotten a refresher on some of the better options for burgers when I was going to be around the NH seacoast this last week judging a FIRST Robotics competition. One of the places that came out of the discussion (and subsequently recommended by another of the robotics judges, Reif as well) was Hop & Grind, a short walk away from the UNH Durham campus. So, after my judging responsibilities were done, I headed over to check out Hop & Grind.

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Pressed Cafe (Nashua, NH)

During my recent stay in Nashua, one morning I found myself with a breakfast craving: I was specifically craving a breakfast burrito. While in many areas of the country this isn’t much of a problem, up here in Northern New England, what few burrito places we have mostly don’t serve breakfast, or serve up some sort of bland imitation of a breakfast burrito with some tired scrambled eggs and maple breakfast sausage. But luckily, a few online searches later, and I discovered that I was right down the street from a small, local chain that among its many breakfast offerings were several decent-sounding burritos: Pressed Cafe.

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815 (Manchester, NH)

Since I enjoyed my little speakeasy excursion in Nashua, on another recent trip down to the area, I decided to go with my coworker Jed to another of the area’s speakeasies, 815. Not as well disguised as CodeX, 815 (named after the address, 815 Elm) hides primarily just by having nothing apparent by the “entrance” other than a phone booth. Calling on the phone, you need a password to get in (I’ll leave to my readers to figure out that detail), although rumor is that really good knock-knock jokes or hula dances may work as well, your mileage may vary.

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CodeX (Nashua, NH)

Every year I spend the better part of a week in Nashua assisting in a FIRST Robotics competition, and as a tradition, after we’re done with the event several of us go to (rather good) El Colima in Nashua to celebrate. For the last two years, I’ve noticed that the space next to El Colima appears to be some sort of used bookstore, but since I’m visiting in the evening, it’s not surprising that they aren’t open. But recently, I found that the bookstore, Codex, is much more than it appears to be. There are a few clues that something’s afoot: first of all, while there are books in the window, you can’t actually see inside. The “main entrance” has a “closed” notice on it, along with a copy of the 18th Amendment, and looking at the various books in the window, you can see a distinct alcoholic theme involved. The door also has a handwritten “enter around the side” notice on it, and, going in through the side door, there’s little in there other than a stairwell, a door for the “Youth Council” (which is apparently exactly that), and a bookcase. I’m sure you can guess where this is going…

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Francoeur’s Cafe (Manchester, NH)

After 18 years of living in New Hampshire with regular visits to the Manchester area, I’m still occasionally finding some new neighborhoods to explore, along with a few places to eat. In this case, we were taking a shortcut around traffic and ended up getting off on the West Bank of Manchester (the French “Notre Dame” neighborhood). While that part of town has some great eats (like, say, Chez Vachon or Rita Mae’s, we decided to head south a bit and try a new-to-us place, Francoeur’s Cafe.

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El Colima (Nashua, NH)

As I mentioned in last year’s review of El Rodeo, there’s a certain challenge in finding good Mexican places in Northern New England. We don’t get a lot of Mexican (or even Latin American) people moving north of Boston, and when they do, the local tastes up here tend to cause them to water them down the spicing level and amp up the queso factor a bit. So when I’m traveling around and see a Mexican place I haven’t tried yet, I’m usually skeptical, but when I spotted El Colima in Nashua, it looked like it had a fair bit of promise. Nashua is actually generally a pretty good town for restaurants, and several places gave the place good marks, so I figured it was worth stopping in.

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Poor Thom’s Tavern (Meriden, NH)

One of the notable things about living in a rural area is that, with relatively few restaurants, when a new place opens, it generally gets noticed right away. Just over a year ago, I was driving through the relatively quiet town of Meriden, NH, and noticed that in addition to their Deli Mart (which does serve up some pretty good fried chicken, sandwiches, and snacks), that the house across from the library was getting a major remodel, including a sign announcing the soon-opening Poor Thom’s Tavern. Finally, a real restaurant in Meriden. While it took me until recently to get there for a visit, I was quite happy to see a new place showing up.

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