I’ve always liked Manchester, the capital of New Hampshire. For such a modestly-sized city of ~100,000, it actually has a pretty good dining scene (you can see my other reviews here), and “ManchVegas” still holds a lot of surprises for me, especially in the culinary scene. One of these was over on the West Side of town across the Merrimack River, which I call “Little Quebec”, since the area has a very strong French Canadian heritage. It also has a number of Quebecois restaurants, such as the fairly well known Chez Vachon which has been serving up giant plates of poutine for years. But looking over the various dining options in West Manchester, I saw an interesting one called “Butter My Biscuit”, and we decided to check it out.
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.
For those that have been following along with my travels in May/June, it was a rather hectic time, especially when I found myself having just gotten back from Austin and having to turn around again and leave for Washington, DC. Since the pace was so hectic, I decided it would be a good idea to take an evening off (albeit an evening on my way to the airport) and have a nice dinner with Carol. We ended up picking Mint Bistro in Manchester, which has been on my hit list for a while.
Located on Elm street, just a little around the corner from Red Arrow Diner, Mint Bistro is basically a “contemporary fusion bistro”. It’s a rather nicely decorated space, centered around a prominent bar, with a reasonably good amount of seating. Menu-wise, Mint Bistro is one of those fusion places that seems to take a bit of the “shotgun” approach to fusion cuisine, in that they’ve got both “Tapas” and “Sushi” on the same menu with upscale pot roast. This approach always makes me a bit skeptical, but I’ve read several good reviews of the place, so we figured it was worth a try…
As I mentioned in my review of Taqueria La Guadalupana, Manchester is definitely on the upswing when it comes to Mexican food, with all sorts of good places opening up over the last few years. One of the more recent, and more delicious, ones is El Rincon Zacatecano.
Located across the street from Verizon Wireless Arena, El Rincon is in a somewhat subtle storefront that used to hold several other businesses (the last two I remember were Dave’s Cosmic Subs and Hollywood Subs, and I know there were several before that). With that many turnovers, it’s one of those locations that I’m tempted to label a “cursed location”, but El Rincon has been there well over a year now, and it seems to be doing well.
One of the few bright spots of having a lot of travel to/from Massachusetts these days is that I’ve gotten to knock a few places off of my hit list in Southern NH and Northern MA. One particular group of restaurants that I’ve been trying to visit has been the several taquerias that have cropped up around Manchester, NH.
First of all, Manchester isn’t particularly known as a Mexican area; it has a decent Latino population, but when we moved to NH, the primary options for Mexican food consisted of La Carreta (which is rather anglicized for my tastes which have been primarily calibrated by my Arizona upbringing and travels) and a small place on the east side (now El Mexicano, under different owners, I believe) which was in a slightly sketchy neighborhood, but made decent authentic tacos. But that was basically it.
After a long day of driving around Massachusetts, we decided it was time to head home to New Hampshire. We ended up finding ourselves hungry around Manchester, and instead of hitting up one of our favorites (Red Arrow, Golden Bowl, or Republic, for example), we decided to knock another place off of our “we should try them out” list. And we were in the mood for comfort food. To this end, I decided it was time to try out Mr Mac’s in Manchester
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…
Well, after completing a relatively enjoyable visit to Southeast Michigan, we headed back home to New Hampshire. We decided upon landing that we were relatively hungry, so decided to check out a place that had been on my hit list for a while: Republic Cafe. Republic is another example of what’s becoming a pretty common concept these days in the food world: a brasserie that focuses on showcasing local foods and beverages. Built in the classic “Parisian Cafe” model, it’s basically a long and narrow establishment with a large bar and kitchen on the left, and some seating on the right (booths and high tops). Everything about the place is a bit funky, our table had a funky brass lamp on it, our water was served to us in an old Patron bottle, and a major feature of the restaurant space is a large specials chalkboard…
Back in late April, due to competing obligations and business travel, Carol and I weren’t able to celebrate her birthday on its actual date, so we decided instead to meet up in Manchester and give Cotton another try. I like Cotton, since they are a nice combination of “old school” cuisine (steaks, chops, and the like) along with some new and funky ideas, of the sort that are usually labeled “New American Cuisine” these days. The result is usually quite impressive, yet familiar…
Cafe Momo in Manchester, NH is definitely one of those “why didn’t I eat here before?” sort of places. I’ve driven by Momo a couple of times, but until today didn’t bother stopping by, just adding it to “the list”. However, last month we went down to Hooksett (kinda sad that we have to drive 45 minutes to see movies in a good theater…), and afterward decided to finally give Momo a try. It also has the distinction of being one of the very few Nepalese restaurants that I’ve seen east of New York, so it’s always a pleasure delving into a new cuisine (well, I’ve had Nepalese before in St Paul, MN, but it’s been a while). I’m glad I finally did.