Keith Prince and his business partner, Brook Gassner, opened Rudi's Portsmouth in 2007 in the eatery ediﬁce whose legacy boasts The Jarvis Tea Room and Metro. Prince had been very successful with Colby’s on Daniel Street (breakfast and lunch) for many years, but the early hours left him wanting a change. “I enjoy working the later hours of the day, so I wanted to open a place with good nightlife,” Prince says. With live jazz in the bar four nights a week and during Sunday brunch, he and Gassner have succeeded in that endeavor. But Prince did not leave a great lunch reputation behind at Colby’s; Rudi’s offers a quiet and sumptuous lunchtime respite six days a week.
The sight of the elegant, Edwardian bar back of carved oak and the gleaming brass rail bar greet you as you enter the High Street doorway. Original pine paneling surrounds linen-draped tables in the front dining room. Don’t be fooled by the stately antiquity of the ﬁxtures—Rudi’s is a very contemporary American restaurant with a diverse progressive menu and ﬁne service that will please everyone. Rudi’s is not the place to grab a sandwich to go, although you will ﬁnd a number of uncommon sandwich choices, as well as delicious luncheon entrees, salads, and desserts. “We try to do something more than just sandwiches,” says Chef Matt Kline. “Hopefully Rudi’s is a place to relax and dine at lunchtime.”
Starters are more like small plates, with 14 varied choices. Calamari are fried in a coat of crunchy almonds and glisten with a sweet Thai chili glaze. Rich Fig Ravioli are plump with a sweet and creamy ﬁlling of ﬁgs, toasted walnuts, and mascarpone cheese and enrobed in rich sherry cream sauce. Licking the plate is nearly irresistible. A bed of ﬁeld greens is the base of a Warm Artichoke Salad. Garlic toast points serve as a crispy platform for plenty of warm artichoke hearts and chevre fondue. Roasted Beet Salad is now a menu standard. Rudi’s version is classically comforting with roasted red and gold beets, baby spinach, crumbled gorgonzola, caramelized onions, and plenty of applewood-smoked bacon bits drizzled with port vinaigrette.
Clam Chowder and Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Bisque are highly palat- able ﬁxtures on Rudi’s menu, as well as a house-crafted soup of the day.
For entrees, Italian Panini is no ordinary Italian sandwich; it’s laden with prosciutto, salami, arugula, tomatoes, pickles, and Muenster and Gruyere on ciabatta bread. The Thai Salmon Wrap has plenty of crunch and distinctly Asian ﬂavors of sesame-encrusted salmon ﬁllet, crispy wontons, and fresh cilantro wrapped in a very Western ﬂour tortilla spread with chili mayo. Curried Scallops Over Orzo is a lighter lunch choice, complemented with toasted almonds, cranberry, and fresh mint. It is a startlingly good conﬂuence of tastes.
Worth an midday indulgence is dessert. There is an option for chocolate aﬁcionados: Chocolate Bundt Cake with chocolate ga- nache and whipped cream. Crème Brûlée enthusiasts may order the Crème Brûlée with Raspberry Coulis. But those who love good pastry will not be able to resist the Pear Tart. Chef Kline makes the butter puff pastry and ﬁlls it with sliced poached pear. Added sugar is minimal until the whole thing is plated with house butterscotch sauce. It is the perfect balance of sweet and understated ﬂaky tender pastry. This is not a dessert to be shared, but one to be self- ishly consumed forkful after forkful with a watchful eye for any dining companions’ as- sailing utensils.
Rudi’s dessert menu also conveniently lists a number of single malt scotches, ports, sherries, and coffees. You may be tempted to drink your dessert.