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…

Yes, pulling on the right book on the bookcase, and it opens up and you find yourself in CodeX, Nashua’s speakeasy bar. With decor right out of the 1920’s era of flamboyency and red leather, it’s quite a nicely appointed bar. Quite frankly, even if it wasn’t a speakeasy, I rather enjoyed the decor, finding myself quickly pulling up a seat at the bar and gazing over the cocktail lists. With a reasonably-well-stocked bar (which can be a challenge in NH), they’ve got a pretty good knowledge of basic mixology, and their own list of well-constructed house cocktails. I ended up getting two during my meal, the Derringer, with Irish whiskey, falernum, Carpano Antica, and lemon, and the Tikeasy, with Kraken spiced rum, amaro, angostura, Campari, lime, and pineapple. Both were particularly well-composed.

Menu wise, CodeX isn’t too shabby, either. While the food menu is pretty short, it has a lot of good items on it. Athough the food is meant more as a complement to the cocktails, they offer up an array of options including short ribs, fish and chips, confit duck poutine, wings, and the “staff meal”, a loaded ribeye burger. But I was drawn to the chicken and waffles. Chicken and waffles is a classic combination, but it’s one that’s hard to get exactly right, since it involves two simple-but-hard-to-perfect items that not only need to be mastered, but made to work together. And CodeX’s renditon isn’t shabby: featuring several large chunks of thigh meat, nicely bready and fried to perfect crispiness, they had the basic chicken down pat. The waffle was a lighter confection, not overly sweet, and cooked on the crispy end of the spectrum, I would have found the waffle lacking heft if it was standalone, but as a substrate for chicken and waffles? It worked. Tie it together with sweet-and-spicy sriracha glaze instead of syrup, and the result basically worked.

In fact, for a light dinner, CodeX is one of the better dinner spots I’ve found in Nashua. The bar staff is really capable, the drinks good, the decor enjoyable… and the food good and reasonably priced. I’ll definitely be coming back, now that I know the secret.

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