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.
At The Black Birch in downtown Kittery, proprietors Gavin Beaudry, Benjamin Lord, and Jake Smith ensure the vibe of the restaurant supports their comfort food menu. “We want everyone’s experience to be the experience we want to have when we dine out,” Lord says, which turns out to be a community block party in restaurant form.
The Higgins family has operated a restaurant in Hampton since the 1980s, and for over a decade at its current location in a 1740 building. There’s a variety of traditional fare at The Old Salt Restaurant, with over 100 choices available any time of day— including an extensive gluten-free menu.