Traveling north on Route 1 in Kittery, just past rows of outlet malls dotted with fried seafood shacks, sits Misto!, a bright and lively Italian-inspired cafe and bistro. Open since July 2014, Misto! has quickly gained traction, garnering recognition as a 2015 Best of Taste top 30 restaurant. In Italian, misto means mixed, and Chef-Owner Suzanne Schepis-Gray’s menu mixes Sicilian, Californian, and New England cuisines, using indigenous ingredients, many grown in the bistro’s backyard organic heirloom seed gardens.
It’s not quite 4 p.m. on a Friday, and already the large, curving bar at Ron Jillian’s Italian Bar and Grill in Hampton is alive with regulars, who chat animatedly with each other and the staff as they relax with drinks after work. “This is actually pretty quiet,” says owner Ed Blouin, motioning over his shoulder at the lively afternoon crowd behind him.
Set the night ablaze at Kume Japanese Restaurant. Opened in July of 2014, Kume is a standout in busy Brickyard Square in Epping, New Hampshire. Modern floor-to-ceiling natural stone walls, etched glass dividers, and ample lighting in the main dining room contrast with the lightly colored and impressive well-stocked bar. Along the back side of the restaurant chefs are abuzz at the sushi bar, showcasing a rainbow of fresh sashimi atop boats and decorative plates. Mahogany walls and gray stone are backlit to complement the inviting espresso-toned leather chairs that frame the rectangular stainless steel grills in the habachi dining room. Smartly dressed chefs, at home behind the grills, set the expectation that this is not your everyday dining experience.
This convivial pub, brewery, and restaurant, located in a former mill building, takes its roots seriously. Owned by David Boynton and Josh Henry, two local residents, it’s named after the city of Dover, the seventh oldest non-indigenous settlement in America. The establishment also tries to hire locally, to re-use local supplies (the restaurant windows, wood accents, and bar top come from old Dover mill buildings), and support area farmers, using close-to-home ingredients for their farm-to-table dishes.
Chef Ron Boucher is synonymous on the Seacoast with his cooking school Chez Boucher. But less well-known is his restaurant, Savory Square Bistro, which opened in February 2012. Discover the hidden Depot Square gem, and you’ll find an eatery that specializes in country-French cooking with a twist.
Since opening next to the train depot in Exeter in May of 2012, Good Karma Café has made a name for itself by serving up healthful food that's also delicious. The two-story building has a laid-back, comfortable ambience and is open all day, from breakfast on. The café began as an all vegan eatery; now, it's expanding beyond those plant-only roots with a revamped menu that includes organic, grass-fed burgers and fish, along with its signature smoothies and bowls.