While hundreds of restaurants, parks, museums, and theaters have made Portsmouth the capital of Seacoast culture, Kittery, Maine, is fast becoming a local favorite for regional ﬂavors and superior cuisine. Within just a few square miles, you can ﬁnd scrumptious French crullers, gourmet Italian paninis, modern American seafood, award-winning Indian fare, locally sourced artisan dishes, and Asian noodles so authentic one might think they are dining in the Far East rather than the coast of Maine. Several small neighborhood eateries have earned national acclaim from the likes of Bon Appétit,Travel + Leisure, and the Washington Post. Here are a few of these gems.
Terry Grant smiles as he watches a ﬁve-year-old girl tucking into the Polpette, a sandwich stuffed with provolone cheese and meatballs made from his 86-year-old mother’s straight-from-the-Old-Country recipe. “Nonna would be so happy to see you eating that,” Grant says to the little girl, who later declares Nonna’s meatballs the best in the world.
There’s a reason that 5 Thai Bistro in downtown Portsmouth, with its simple but bright dining space, is so loved by locals and visitors alike. The restaurant, consistently ranked in the top 10 on TripAdvisor, boasts a winning formula: creative dishes with balanced and fresh ingredients, generous portions, fair prices, and an attentive wait staff. No wonder the place is always buzzing.
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.