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The Refinery (Andover, NH)

This summer, after a particularly brisk and windy hike up with our friend Alex to Mount Cardigan from the AMC Cardigan Lodge, we decided to stop on our way home for an early dinner. Since our route took us right through the Potter Place part of Andover, NH, we decided it was a good opportunity to stop in and visit The Refinery.

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Greenleaf (Milford, NH)

I’ve long been a fan of Top Chef on Bravo, being one of the cooking reality shows that generally has talented chefs and not too many irritating personalities. On the most recent season, we saw something on Top Chef that doesn’t happen that often for us: they featured a New Hampshire chef: Chris Viaud. Chris owns several places in southern NH, including Greenleaf in Milford. While we don’t get down to that part of the state often, we thought that a trip to Greenleaf would be a good way to celebrate our anniversary this year, so we went to check them out.

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Han Fusion (Hanover, NH)

In my 20 years of living in the Upper Valley, 3 Lebanon Street (the “Hanover Park” building) has had a succession of Chinese restaurants in the basement: when we first arrived, it was Panda Garden, and then after that it was Orient, and then in 2019 it changed to Han Fusion. I hadn’t been too much of a fan of either Panda Garden or Orient in general, since they mostly seemed to serve fairly generic Americanized Chinese food, and I originally hadn’t expected Han Fusion to be much better. However, I started to hear some good things about Han Fusion from several people in the Upper Valley who I actually trust with Chinese food (such as Chris Ng, who runs the local Upper Valley Foodie Group), and looking at their menu, found several menu items that I really like (soup dumplings, dry-fried chicken, and rice cakes). We had vowed to finally get out and try them… and then the Pandemic hit.

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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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Revolutionary Burger Reborn (Lebanon, NH)

(Closed) “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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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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Lalo’s Taqueria (Lebanon, NH)

Well, it’s been pretty quiet here at the blog. My last real restaurant review (of a repeat trip to Pied de Cochon’s Cabane a sucre) was for a visit that happened almost a year ago. Here in NH, March 16th 2020 brought the abrupt closure of restaurants, and now a full six months into Covid, we’re still not back to order. Many places have closed permanently, and with very few exceptions, almost every restaurant still running is, quite frankly, trying to make do with a combination of takeout, outside dining (now on the wane as the temperature drops), and “socially-distanced” dining, and most places are trying more to just stay open than put their best foot forward. I’ve actually got photos and partial reviews for a good dozen places in my backlog, but most of them are now outdated reviews of how things once were, and not how things are, but it seems like a poor time for restaurant reviews in general until things recover a bit more (and nobody wants to read reviews of an experience they can’t currently indulge in). But there have been quite a few bright spots throughout the dismal Covid-19 landscape. I’ve seen more than a few creative approaches for outdoor dining, takeout (including more than a few retrofitted takeout windows), and ways to just keep basic operations going (and staff employed). And in this landscape filled with restaurant closures both temporary and permanent, my local area has even had one notable restaurant opening: Lalo’s Taqueria.

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Oak and Grain (New London, NH)

In a recent celebration of the 20th anniversary of our first date, Carol and I decided it was a nice opportunity to check out a local restaurant that has been perennially near the top of our hit list: Oak and Grain. Oak and Grain is the in-house restaurant at The Inn at Pleasant Lake, a small lakefront hotel overlooking Pleasant Lake that specializes in weekend getaways and appears to have quite the nice barn rental for weddings as well.

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Campo Enoteca (Manchester, NH)

Like many trips, upon arriving mid-day back in New Hampshire from our trip to Detroit, we used it as an opportunity to stop in Manchester on the way home for a light dinner. Depending on time of day and mood, there are a lot of good options on Manchester’s Elm Street or nearby, including some great authentic Mexican at El Rincon, funky fusion fare at Mint, or, one of my favorites, light bistro fare at Republic. However, I realized it had been a while since I had been to another bistro on Elm, Campo Enoteca.

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