Beefside A lot of the places I go on Offbeat Eats are found by research, but some of them are found by pure happenstance, just by walking or driving past a place that, well, looks rather “Offbeat”. In the case of Beefside, I found this place several years ago, when my brother was returning a […]
As I mentioned in the previous review, we’re always doing the drive between Grantham and Manchester, or from Grantham to Boston, so we’re always looking for new places to eat. Another place that recently showed up on my radar was the School House Cafe in Warner.
The School House Cafe has been around since August of 2011, when two former waitresses from The Foothills (Warner’s other major breakfast spot) converted the old school house on Route 103 in the Davisville Village part of Warner (Exit 7, for you NH folks) into a catering kitchen, and they converted the rest of the space into a small restaurant that’s open for breakfast and lunch. The result is a menu of “down home” cooking, focusing on omelets, pancakes (big, honking thick plate-size pancakes, like the Foothills), and breakfast combos.
Seeing that we live, well, in the middle of nowhere in New Hampshire, we’re always driving South for the day, either to the Manchester area, or to Boston. Often, we’re stopping for breakfast, and we do have some regular favorites, like the Foothills in Warner (which, wow, still haven’t reviewed them…), or the Red Arrow. But after a while we do tire of the same places all the time, so I’m always keeping my eye open for new places along the I-89/I-293/I-93 drive. One place that recently landed on our radar was the Purple Finch Cafe in Hooksett, since the Hippo listed them in a recent article on the Top 25 Local Breakfast Restaurants. so on our way to Boston two weekends ago, we decided to stop and try them out.
I’ll be honest, we don’t make it down to Claremont, NH all that often, and a lot of restaurants tend to open and close there, especially since Claremont doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for food. But there is one place that’s been there over a year, and we continue to keep hearing good things about it: New Socials Bar and Grill. So when we found ourselves home on a Saturday with nothing in the fridge, we decided that finally gave us some motivation to go check them out.
Most years, we tend to do the same as other couples and celebrate our anniversary with a night out. This year, we decided to tick another new restaurant off our list: Candela Tapas Lounge in Hanover. I’m actually a little surprised it took us as long as it did to visit Candela: they opened in June in the space formerly occupied by Rosey’s Cafe, and new restaurant openings are fairly rare around here. But various other events kept me occupied, so it wasn’t until September that we had a chance to visit.
As I’ve mentioned several times, there are several major gaps in culinary coverage up here in Northern New England. One of the major ones is Greek food: there are almost zero Greek places, either fancy or fast food, between my home and Manchester, with suitably few options in the opposite direction, and it’s even rare for a Greek-owned pizza place to over up so much as a gyro. So that’s a gap of almost 100 miles in diameter lacking Greek foodstuffs, so I’m often finding myself craving a gyro.
But a trip to Manchester takes you back into the Greek belt, since I can think of at least a dozen places around Manchester that will happily serve you up plates of hummous, tabouleh, and big giant pitas filled with souvlaki or gyros. There’s just one subtle problem here, and I’ll admit it’s a minor one: Most of these places don’t serve up true Greek gyros, but instead serve up Greek-American gyros made with “gyro meat”, that giant cylinder of spiced lamb meatloaf-like mixture toasted up on a spit. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy a good “gyro meat” gyro on occasion, especially with well-crisped meat… but it’s much akin to eating a double-decker taco from Taco Bell when you are really craving proper Mexican-style Tacos al Pastor. You’re in the right ballpark, but not playing the right game. Proper Greek-style Gyros are pork, marinated up nicely and cooked up to a nice crisp on those same vertical spits, and often served to you with Greek-spiced fries jammed into the gyro as well. I’ve had these many places around the world and enjoy them, but hadn’t had any luck finding such in New Hampshire. Until I found the Gyro Spot.
I’ve had a rather strong love of Vietnamese food since discovering it in the early 1990s. And I’ve been relatively blessed to have some decent places to get Vietnamese food in most of the places I’ve lived. East Lansing, MI wasn’t exactly a culinary mecca, but it did have Saigon Restaurant, which was a reliable source of Phở for my college years. Minneapolis was chock full of Vietnamese (and Cambodian) places, most of them very delicious. And I’ve even enjoyed watching the demographics of my parents’ neighborhood in Arizona change, with several good Vietnamese places popping up within a mile of their house.
Northern New Hampshire, however, is basically bereft of Vietnamese food. When we moved here, we discovered that not only did the area not have any Vietnamese restaurants, but almost nobody up here even knew what Vietnamese food was. After some web searching and talking around (including a brief period at work where I had a Vietnamese coworker), we discovered the unfortunate fact: Vietnamese food required traveling at least to Nashua to the Southeast, or Williston to the Northwest, in order to find a Vietnamese place. So we hopped in the car and checked things out.
Fast forward almost a dozen years, and the situation isn’t much changed. You can actually buy sriracha sauce in the stores now. And Golden Bowl now offers Phở in Manchester, NH. And quite a few places have come (and gone, even) around Burlington. But generally, that means a craving for Phở, cha gio, or any other Vietnamese food requires a road trip. So this weekend, when we found ourselves passing through Nashua after a weekend shopping trip, we decided it was time for another visit to Vietnam Noodle House.
Last weekend, we decided to spend a day down in SE New Hampshire, and this gave us a good opportunity to check out someplace new for breakfast. After a little bit of research, I decided to try a relative newcomer to the generally sparse Concord breakfast scene, The Newell Post, on Fisherville Road in north Concord (almost in Penacook). The Newell Post opened in April of 2012, and their goal is operating a “small, warm, and welcoming restaurant”, offering breakfast and lunch.
Settling in to a nice cozy booth, the waitstaff was very friendly and outgoing, telling us that their main chef was from the Carolinas, and that he was able to whip up good crab cakes and a good Hollandaise sauce. With those recommendations in hand (although I was mightily tempted by the corned beef hash omelet as well), our breakfast order was simple: I ordered the Eggs Benedict, while Carol went for the Crab Cake…
A few years ago, the old courthouse in Newport, NH was renovated and converted into a restaurant, called, simply, The Old Courthouse. It’s been a welcome addition to the area’s fairly meager “fine dining” scene, with a rather nice dinner menu, as well as one of the area’s better Sunday Brunches. However, what has often drawn me to the Old Courthouse is that they often have some pretty good theme dinners. In this case, they recently were celebrating Polish-American Heritage Month with a series of Polish dinners. Seeing that Carol is of Polish descent, and I’m of Lithuanian descent, and the area don’t really have a lot of Eastern European dining options, we decided to check it out.
It’s never a good thing when you hear that Restaurant Impossible (or any of its counterparts on other networks) is coming to town. To even be eligible to be on a show like that, your restaurant has to be on the verge of failure, and the owners up against the ropes. Being on a show like that literally is one of the last grasps of the desperate. So which local, failing, and desperate restaurant was Restaurant Impossible here to fix? Sadly, I can’t say I was surprised to hear it was Gusanoz, our local Mexican restaurant (indeed, probably the only place locally I can call Mexican without putting quote marks around it).
Gusanoz is no stranger to these pages. Indeed, since I started writing Offbeat Eats, including this review I will have written them up four times (a record!). And, indeed, I’m not sure the paint had even dried on Restaurant Impossible‘s renovations back in May before my readers, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances started asking me if I had been by and checked out the “New” Gusanoz. Well, in short, I hadn’t. I might have checked it out right away, but that time of year was busy (back to back trips to Austin and Chicago, indeed, the very day Gusanoz was getting its makeover I was eating Carnitas at Carnitas Don Pedro in Chicago). And then several other trips (in no particular order, San Antonio, Iceland, and Germany) came up, and I decided that, overall, it was best to give them some time to settle in to the new state of affairs and see if the Restaurant Impossible changes “stuck”.