Manory's

Manory’s (Troy, NY)

I actually drive through Troy, NY quite a bit. The “Collar City”, from its history in making collars back when that was a thing, is also home to RPI, and it’s right on the optimal path between our home in NH and either the NY Thruway or I-87 (if I’m looking to get to NJ while avoiding NYC). What I usually find, however, is that I’m not usually driving through around mealtimes, so I usually don’t stop in town. But our June-July vacation had us departing and driving to Ohio leaving early in the morning from NH, which resulted in a rarity for us, passing through Troy right at breakfast time. We used it as an excuse to visit Manory’s, which has been on our hit list for a few years.

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Farmers and Distillers

Farmers and Distillers (Washington, DC)

May was a landmark month for us. After 15 months of pandemic isolation, we finally had a chance to flex our fully-vaccinated wings and go on a trip to Washington DC to meet up with friends to revisit some DC area favorites, like Port City Brewing in Alexandria, VA. But this was also a chance to do something that we hadn’t had much opportunity to indulge in during the pandemic in New Hampshire: have a good, old-fashioned, excessive brunch! I’ve always had a favorite for this sort of meal when in DC: Founding Farmers, and this time I wanted to try their sister restaurant, Farmers and Distillers.

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Foley Taco and Bean

Foley Taco and Bean (Brandon, VT)

One of my more unusual destinations in late 2020 and early 2021 was Middlebury, VT, for both work reasons (a subcontractor runs a lab there), and recreation (in the Fall of 2020, we hiked the TAM: the Trail Around Middlebury). Our travels around there also lead us by a favorite winery (Lincoln Peak), and one of my favorite breweries, Foley Brothers in northern Brandon, VT, a nice little western VT town. On one swing through Brandon after visiting the brewery, we noticed that Foley had started up a new business, Foley Taco and Bean, located in downtown Brandon, VT, so we decided to stop in and try it.

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Luchador Tacos (North Conway, NH)

In preparation for our June trip to Isle Royale National Park, we needed to do some final outdoor gear shopping, and used the opportunity to check out the relatively new REI in North Conway, NH. After a successful shopping trip, we drove up the White Mountain Highway, the main drag in North Conway, and encountered Luchador Tacos, unmissable due to the large Luchador (profession Mexican wrestler, with the mask) on their signage. Growing up in Arizona, random little taco and burrito stores were extremely common, but here in northern New England, while places like Lalo’s Taqueria are making in-roads, they are still a pretty rare beast, so I decided to drop in and give Luchador a try.

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Vulgar Brewing Company (Franklin, NH)

I’ve always enjoyed Franklin, NH a bit. One of the quirks of New Hampshire is that if you live in the western part of the state, there’s no direct route to the White Mountains or the Lakes region, instead, you end up taking various shortcut routes through Merrimack County, which usually means driving through one of several classic New England “Former Mill Towns”, be it Plymouth, Tilton, Bristol, or Franklin. Franklin has a rather nice downtown, with a nice library, an old majestic theater, and quite a few buildings lining an old-town Main Street. However, Franklin’s economy hasn’t been all the strong over the last few decades, and often, many of the storefronts are closed up and boarded up. But recently there’s been a lot happening in Franklin. The town has long planned Mill City Park, a whitewater park on the Winnepeasaukee River, has actually broken ground, and some new restaurants are starting to show up as well; you can read up on my visit to Broken Spoon early this Spring. But this trip, our destination was a brewery: Vulgar Brewing Company.

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Oakes & Evelyn (Montpelier, VT)

The big thing that limited my restaurant reviews during the last year’s pandemic was the simple fact that I’ve had very, very little formal restaurant dining. Indeed, between March 2020 and May 2021, Carol and I had exactly one elaborate, sit-down dinner, and that was at one of our local favorites for fancy meals, Pine (for which you can read an older 2014 review), where we had a splendid anniversary dinner, seated at a socially-distanced table on their outdoor patio on a beautiful September evening. But then a big shift happened at Pine in January 2021: we got news that, while Pine wasn’t closing (indeed, reports from friends are that it is still doing well), the chef there, Justin Dain, was leaving, along with manager Emily Chism and Bar Manager James Ives (who has had stints working with several of the better bar programs in the area). They were moving to Montpelier, Vermont, to open up a new restaurant in a space on west State Street recently vacated by Kismet (another favorite of mine, recently downsizing to their original location over on Barre St). The new restaurant is named Oakes & Evelyn, named in honor of two of Chef Justin’s relatives.

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Revolutionary Burger Reborn (Lebanon, NH)

“Sooner or later, everything old is new again.” – Stephen King If there’s an underlying theme to dining during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been that there’s generally no such thing as “business as usual”, and pretty much every restaurant has had to adapt, or close. It’s been brutal, with a lot of places closing forever, but during these times, we’ve also seen some encouraging change, like new restaurants opening, and quite a few restaurants getting quite creative to adapt to the current dining “new normal” of primarily takeout food, social distancing, and more stringent health requirements. I’ve seen a lot of really good creative problem solving, especially when it comes to creating outdoor dining space, new ordering methods, new concepts, and even revisiting old concepts. The last of these brings us to Revolutionary Burger in Lebanon, NH.

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Thwaites Market (Methuen, MA)

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the site, I’ve got a variety of ways that I discover the places that I review here on Offbeat Eats, and one of them is basically happenstance: I’ll be traveling someplace off my usual beat and notice a place, usually an old, established one, that’s got a long line out the door. That happened to me back in February: I had to drop off some equipment for work in Haverhill, MA, and on the way home to NH, the usual route, the “Loop Connector” between I-495 and I-93, was closed due to an accident, and my GPS directed me on a detour through downtown Methuen (which I’d hadn’t explored in a few years). My detour took me down Oakland Avenue, and as I approached Railroad Street, I was stuck at the traffic light for a cycle. My eye got drawn first to a small sign “Parking here for meat pies only,” followed by seeing a modest line of people waiting outside the door. Heck, I like meat pies, so I turned into the parking lot, parked, and got in line at Thwaites Market.

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Ruby Donut (Ayer, MA)

While the pandemic has definitely hit a lot of restaurants and bakeries hard, those places that are either primarily or entirely takeout found themselves uniquely situated to weather this particular storm; hang up a few plexiglass screens, and potentially update to a new POS system, and you’re good to go. So donut shops seem to have done quite well during the last year, and most of the shops I’ve ventured into are doing quite the business. However, my local area is basically just three different “donut” operations: Dunkin (meh), Lou’s (good cider donuts, awesome crullers), and Muriel’s (the ne plus ultra of deep-fried, lard-laden crispy cake donuts). But sometimes I crave a good bear claw, a fritter, or, best yet, a Boston Cream donut, and getting good versions of those requires a bit of travel. In this case, recent work obligations have me again traveling frequently to Boxborough, MA to do vibration and thermal testing (in the parlance, the “shake and bake”), and my best traffic-avoiding route takes me right by a favorite donut shop: Ruby Donut in Ayer, MA.

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Broken Spoon (Franklin, NH)

As I mentioned in my review of Funkalicious a few months back, I’ve got a lot of admiration for folks that, despite the extremely difficult and unusual business climate of the Covid-19 pandemic, have managed to rally and open new restaurants. A few months back, I started seeing some Facebook ads for a new Asian Fusion place in Franklin, NH. Franklin’s a bit of my normal path; while I’m often heading over to either Franconia Notch or the Conway area, I usually end up heading through Bristol and New Hampton instead of Franklin as a I cut over to I-93. But in late February, we decided to get out of the house a hit and explore, with two related goals: exploring the Winnepesaukee River Trail” and finally checking out Broken Spoon on Main Street in Franklin.

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