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Portsmouth’s New Puddle Dock Restaurant Opens at Historic Strawbery Banke Museum

Best of TASTE 2014From deck dining to romantic getaways

Ice cream to martinis, microbreweries to wineries, the Seacoast is the place to be for culinary excitement. We all have our favorite places to go for the best—coffee, lobster roll, steak, you name it. We asked you to get online and vote for the Seacoast places you prefer for supping and sipping.

We tallied thousands of votes to determine the best in over 80 categories, from alfresco dining to wings, and much, much more. Several places are newly Number One, joined by old faves. You can sample the best of the Best at our Fourth annual Best of Taste Bash on November 22, 2014. A portion of all proceeds will go to the New Hampshire Food Bank. Hope to see you there! 

Many thanks to the chefs, restaurateurs, brewers, bakers, sommeliers, farmers, and other food professionals who have established so many superb culinary destinations and created such amazing tastes. It’s your hard work that makes the Seacoast such an exciting place to dine. And now—the Best of Taste 2014!

ALFRESCO DINING

THE BLACK BIRCH KITCHEN & DRINKS

The best-kept secret in downtown Kittery is out the back door of The Black Birch. Enjoy their award-winning food and cocktails at one of four serene outdoor communal tables, where conversation flows uninterrupted by the boisterous bustle of the main dining room. The proprietors open the door in early spring as soon as the weather cooperates, so bring your sweater and your appetite for an unforgettable meal in the heart of Wallingford Square. 2 Government Street, Kittery, Maine, 207-703-2294, theblackbirch.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Rí Rá, Portsmouth, N.H., rira.com
Cava Tapas & Wine Bar, Portsmouth, N.H., cavatapasandwinebar.com
The District, Portsmouth, N.H., thedistrictnh.com 

BAGEL SHOP

THE WORKS BAKERY CAFÉ

The Works crafts its New York-style bagels from unbleached, unbromated flour and pure malt syrup. To ensure freshness, the bagels are boiled and baked in small batches all day long. The most popular flavor, according to Portsmouth manager Chris Ranalli, is the Everything Bagel, which customers can top with plain or flavored cream cheeses that are hand-whipped daily to incorporate veggies, herbs, bacon, scallions, olives, smoked salmon, and a variety of other savory and sweet ingredients. 9 Congress Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603­431-4434, worksbakerycafe.com, and other locations

RUNNERS-UP:

KB’s Bagels, Hampton Beach, N.H., 603-926-1877
Panera Bread, multiple locations, panerabread.com
Bagel Caboose, Kittery, Maine, 207-439-5099 

BAKERY

BEACH PEA BAKING CO.

Beach Pea makes a wide variety of artisan breads, cakes, small desserts, and morning baked goods, as well as a full line of soups, salads, and handcrafted sandwiches. The bakery’s products are made with ingredients sourced from local vendors, who supply all-natural sweeteners, organic dried fruits and grains, unbleached and unbromated flours, regional dairy, and all-natural meats, which are roasted and sliced on-site. 53 State Road, Kittery, Maine, 207-439­3555, beachpeabaking.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Popovers on the Square, Portsmouth, N.H., popoversonthesquare.com
Ceres Bakery, Portsmouth, N.H., ceresbakery.com
Harvey’s Bakery and Coffee Shop, Dover, N.H., harveysbakery.com

BAR

THE PORTSMOUTH BREWERY

The Portsmouth Brewery

Repeat winner Portsmouth Brewery has not one but two bars to choose from, including the basement-level Jimmy LaPanza Lounge. Both spots offer 10 different home brews on tap and convivial bartenders. “It’s fun for everybody,” says General Manager Brennen Rumble, “to have interactive conversations between the bar staff and customers.” On Friday and Saturday nights, customers can also enjoy bar snacks like nachos and crispy fried calamari until 12:30 a.m. 56 Market Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-1115, portsmouthbrewery.com

RUNNERS-UP:

The Press Room, Portsmouth, N.H., pressroomnh.com
Thirsty Moose Taphouse, Portsmouth, N.H., thirstymoosetaphouse.com
Rí Rá, Portsmouth, N.H., rira.com

BAR FOOD

THE BLACK BIRCH KITCHEN & DRINKS

“We have a clientele that waits for the bar even if there are open tables,” says co-owner Benjamin Lord. “It’s a fun, interactive space.” The menu is the same no matter where you sit, so bar customers can snack on crisp and tangy Poutine and Duck Confit, or feast on entrees like the Black Birch Fish and Chips, while they watch the bartenders craft cocktails and listen to the proprietors’ eclectic collection of vinyl records. 2 Government Street, Kittery, Maine, 207­703-2294, theblackbirch.com

RUNNERS-UP:

The Portsmouth Brewery, Portsmouth, N.H., portsmouthbrewery.com
The Rusty Hammer, Portsmouth, N.H., therustyhammer.com
The 401 Tavern, Hampton, N.H., the401tavern.com

BARTENDER

SAM COSTANZO, RADICI

Sam Costanzo Radici

During the nine years Sam has been pouring drinks at Radici, he and the regulars have come to regard each other as friends, thanks to the lighthearted, positive vibe he creates at the bar, together with his longtime fellow bartender Casey Milligan. Sam’s signature cocktail is Sammy’s Negroni, his variation on a drink invented a century ago by Count Negroni in Florence, Italy. “My version,” Sam says, “blends Aperol, Carpano Antica vermouth, Sapphire gin, and orange juice on ice with a splash of soda water. It’s a balanced drink that is bitter, smooth, and a little sweet… kind of like Sammy himself.” 142 Congress Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-373-6464, radicirestaurant.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Al Mead, The Black Birch, Kittery, Maine, theblackbirch.com
Donna Marcotte, The Portsmouth Brewery, Portsmouth, N.H., portsmouthbrewery.com
Ray Brandon, Martingale Wharf, Portsmouth, N.H., martingalewharf.com

BBQ

MOJO’S BBQ GRILL & TAVERN

Tuck into a booth at Mojo’s for a taste of the South on the Seacoast. This repeat winner focuses on getting it right, matching cuts of meat with rubs and sauces, then braising, smoking, frying, or grilling to perfection. Start with some of their signature crispy fried chicken Grumbies or their award winning Beef Brisket Chili followed by one of their many signature sandwiches, entrees, or their finger lickin’ BBQ combos. 95 Brewery Lane, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-6656, mojosbbqshack.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Goody Cole’s Smokehouse, Brentwood, N.H., goodycoles.com
The Farm Bar & Grille, Dover and Manchester, N.H., and Essex, Mass., farmbargrille.com
AD’s Barbeque, Portsmouth, N.H., adbbq.com

BEER SELECTION

THIRSTY MOOSE TAPHOUSE

The Thirsty Moose features more than 160 tap lines with 116 brews for customers to choose from. A full-time beer manager ensures that the lines are cleaned every other week to keep the brews tasting fresh. To go with the beers, the Moose has an American bar-and­grill-style menu featuring from-scratch favorites such as pulled pork and beef chili, hot Bavarian pretzels, and meatball sliders on mini brioche buns. 21 Congress Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-427-8645, thirstymoosetaphouse.com

RUNNERS-UP:

The Black Birch Kitchen & Drinks, Kittery, Maine, theblackbirch.com
The Portsmouth Brewery, Portsmouth, N.H., portsmouthbrewery.com
Coat of Arms British Pub & Restaurant, Portsmouth, N.H., coatofarmsbritishpub.com 

BREAD

WHEN PIGS FLY

Since its founding in 1993, When Pigs Fly has been turning out all-natural loaves with no added fats or preservatives using unbleached flour milled to bakery specifications. The bakery offers 14 classic and 16 artisan breads including varieties ranging from Baby Spinach, Onion, and Garlic to Mango, Pineapple, Raisin with Toasted Sesame and Ginger. “We pay meticulous attention to the process and use a lot of unique ingredients,” says Kittery manager Ken Hale. 460 U.S. Route 1, Kittery, Maine, 207-438-7036, sendbread. com, and other locations

RUNNERS-UP:

Beach Pea Baking Co., Kittery, Maine, beachpeabaking.com
Me & Ollie’s, multiple locations, meandollies.com
Ceres Bakery, Portsmouth, N.H., ceresbakery.com

BREAKFAST

THE GOLDEN EGG

At the Golden Egg, everything is homemade including the desserts, which are prepared by owner Debbie Gosselin. The restaurant bakes its own granola made from a mixture of oats, wheat germ, honey, coconut, raisins, dates, and nuts. In addition to traditional breakfast fare, hungry diners can feast on cranberry pancakes, a maple sausage-apple-onion-cheddar omelet, and poached eggs topped with lobster meat or sauteed shrimp and béarnaise sauce. 960 Sagamore Avenue, Portsmouth, N.H., 603­436-0519, goldeneggrestaurant.com

RUNNERS-UP:

The Friendly Toast, Portsmouth, N.H., thefriendlytoast.com
Colby’s Breakfast & Lunch Joint, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-3033
Big Bean, Newmarket, N.H., thebigbeancafe.com

BREWPUB

THE PORTSMOUTH BREWERY

It seems like a new brewpub pops up every week, but The Portsmouth Brewery remains at the top of the heap. “The Brewery has a lot of momentum,” says General Manager Brennen Rumble, “from the atmosphere and energy level to the diversity of the menu.” In addition to their regular menu, they offer gluten-free items, a kids menu, a late-night snack menu, and 65 different home brews offered throughout the year—variety that keeps customers coming back. 56 Market Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-1115, portsmouthbrewery.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Redhook Ale Brewery, Portsmouth, N.H., redhook.com
Thirsty Moose Taphouse, Portsmouth, N.H., thirstymoosetaphouse.com
Shipyard Brew Pub, Eliot, Maine, shipyardbrewpub.com

BREWERY: LOCAL

SMUTTYNOSE BREWING COMPANY

Founded in 1994, Smuttynose produces beers that are distributed from Maine to Florida and as far west as Wisconsin. The beers are made without the use of any animal products such as isinglass or gelatin. They make several seasonal brews, including a uniquely American ale made with pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The brewery traces its inspiration to recipes from early colonial times, when brewers sought to extend their supply of costly imported malt with locally grown ingredients such as squash and “pompions.” 225 Heritage Avenue, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-4026, smuttynose.com

RUNNERS-UP:

The Portsmouth Brewery, Portsmouth, N.H., portsmouthbrewery.com
Redhook Ale Brewery, Portsmouth, N.H., redhook.com
Shipyard Brew Pub, Eliot, Maine, shipyardbrewpub.com

BREWERY: NANO & DISTILLERY

THROWBACK BREWERY

Throwback crafts all its beers using ingredients sourced, whenever possible, within 200 miles. “We also work closely with local farmers,” says co-founder and marketing director Nicole Carrier, “to create a variety of food-inspired beers.” These include a jalapeño pilsner, a fennel flower stout, a chipotle porter, and an oyster stout. Throwback is also one of only a few all-women-owned breweries in the country. 121 Lafayette Road, North Hampton, N.H., 603-379-2317, throwbackbrewery.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Blue Lobster Brewing Company, Hampton, N.H., 603-601-6062
Earth Eagle, Portsmouth, N.H., eartheaglebrewings.com
Sea Hagg Distillery, North Hampton, N.H., seahaggdistillery.com

BRUNCH

WENTWORTH BY THE SEA

Wentworth by the Sea

Whether building a custom omelet at the buffet or concocting a new drink at the Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary and Mimosa Bar, the weekend brunch at Wentworth’s Grand Dining Room is all about having it your way. Offerings overflow, from a raw bar to carving stations to stuffed French toast and numerous desserts. Chat with the chefs while they prepare your meal, listen to live jazz, and enjoy a lazy weekend morning, noshing on your ideal brunch and beyond food. 588 Wentworth Road, New Castle, N.H., 603-422-7322, wentworth.com

RUNNERS-UP:

The Old Salt Restaurant, Hampton, N.H., oldsaltnh.com
STREET, Portsmouth, N.H., streetfood360.com
Radici, Portsmouth, N.H., radicirestaurant.com

BURGER

LEXIE’S JOINT

Lexies Joint

What makes Lexie’s burgers so good? “We use lots of herbs and garlic and try to come up with intriguing combinations that you can’t get anywhere else,” says manager Heather Williams. Build your own beef, veggie, or chicken burger using toppings like Lexie’s tart and sweet tomato confit, caramelized onions, and the addictive Hush Hush Sauce. Or, stick with one of their original combinations like the Instant Classic, which tastes remotely like a Big Mac, only made from scratch with the highest quality ingredients. Once you’ve tried a Lexie’s burger, nothing else stacks up. 212 Islington Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-319-4055, lexiesjoint.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Wild Willy’s Burgers, York, Maine, wildwillysburgers.com
The 401 Tavern, Hampton, N.H., the401tavern.com
The Rusty Hammer, Portsmouth, N.H., therustyhammer.com

BURRITO

LOCO COCO’S TACOS

At Loco Coco’s in Kittery, variety and flavor set their burritos apart. Choose from 11 different styles, ranging from bean and cheese to tender BBQ pork to their popular Tia Margarita Fish or Shrimp Burrito, with fried or grilled panko-crusted fish, coleslaw, and pickled onion. Fillings are stuffed into a 12-inch or smaller flour tortilla or layered into a gluten-free burrito bowl, then topped with melted cheese, creamy guacamole, fresh veggies, and tangy sour cream for a powerful punch of flavor. 36 Walker Street, Kittery, Maine, 207-438-9322, locococos.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Las Olas Taqueria, Exeter and Hampton, N.H., lasolastaqueria.com
Dos Amigos Burritos, multiple locations, dosamigosburritos.com
Agave Mexican Bistro, Newburyport, Mass., and Portsmouth, N.H., agavedos.com 

BUSINESS LUNCH

THE PORTSMOUTH BREWERY

Located smack in the center of downtown Portsmouth, The Brewery appeals to suits and the business-casual set, locals, and groups staying at the hotels. There’s something on the menu to please every palate, from lighter soup and salad combos to heartier burgers and entrees like their popular beer-battered fish and chips. “We have earned customers’ trust over the years, offering a relaxed experience in a one-hour window,” says General Manager Brennen Rumble. 56 Market Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-1115, portsmouthbrewery.com

RUNNERS-UP:

The Library Restaurant, Portsmouth, N.H., libraryrestaurant.com
Rudi’s Portsmouth, Portsmouth, N.H., rudisportsmouth.com
The 401 Tavern, Hampton, N.H., the401tavern.com

BUTCHER

CARL’S MEAT MARKET

At Carl’s, a butcher is always available to provide unique and custom cuts of meat, such as a blade or skirt steak. “Our meat cutters have more than 50 years of combined experience,” says owner Jim Spencer. “They really know how to break down an animal and get the best products.” Carl’s offers customers locally produced grass-fed Maine beef at prices at or below those for beef imported from other parts of the country, thanks to the savings on shipping costs. “The freshness and consistency are outstanding” says Spencer, “and it’s also an environmentally friendly way of supporting the local economy.” 45 State Road, Kittery, Maine, 207-439-1557

RUNNERS-UP:

McKinnon’s Market, multiple locations, mckinnonsmarkets.com
Joe’s Meat Shoppe, North Hampton, N.H., joesmeatshoppe.com
Janeto’s Superette, Dover, N.H., janetosmarket.com

CAFÉ/COFFEE HOUSE

BREAKING NEW GROUNDS

The array of coffees imported from around the world lends an air of sophistication to Breaking New Grounds, but the atmosphere is low-key and unpretentious. “It’s always bustling around here,” says owner Matt Govoni, “but we have a large crowd of regulars who would attest that this is a very relaxing place.” 14 Market Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-9555, bngcoffee.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Popovers on the Square, Portsmouth, N.H., popoversonthesquare.com
Adelle’s Coffeehouse, Dover, N.H., adellescoffeehouse.com
Caffe Kilim, Portsmouth, N.H., caffekilim.com

CAKE

RANDOM ACTS OF SWEETNESS

Random Acts makes custom cakes with an artistic flair in more than 100 flavors ranging from Mother Pucker (lemon cake topped with zesty lemon buttercream), Wakey Wakey Bacon Cakey (buttermilk cake topped with maple buttercream, bacon, and smoked sea salt), and Heaven and Hell (vanilla cake topped with dark chocolate and chili frosting). “As Portsmouth natives,” say owners Tiana Conlon and Jessica Antequera, “providing our hometown with unique and delicious treats is very important to us! We often have old classmates, friends, and teachers stopping in for a cupcake and a chat, or calling to order a custom cake. It makes what we do that much more special.” 112 State Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-319-8612, randomsweetness.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Wild Orchid Baking Company, Dover, N.H., wildorchidbaking.com
Harvey’s Bakery and Coffee Shop, Dover, N.H., harveysbakery.com
Eat Cake, Newburyport, Mass., eatcakeonline.com

CANDY STORE

YUMMIES

Yummies opened in 1986 with the goal of offering as many old-time candy favorites as they could track down. Today the store stocks more than 10,000 pounds of candy and nuts, including more than 50 varieties of gummy bears and 100 different chocolate items. “We are constantly bringing in retro candies that have come back to market,” says co-owner Matt Brodsky. “Old-fashioned Bulls-Eye Caramel Creams, Chocolate Babies, marshmallow Valomilks, and strip taffy are some of the hard-to-find favorites that our customers love.” 384 State Road, Kittery, Maine, 877-498-6643, yummies.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Sanborn’s Fine Candies, Hampton, N.H., sanbornscandies.com
The Goldenrod, York, Maine, thegoldenrod.com
Calef’s Country Store, Barrington, N.H., calefs.com

CATERER

PORTSMOUTH CATERING CO./THE KITCHEN

Portsmouth Catering Co

Portsmouth Catering serves elegant meals for rehearsals, receptions, post-wedding brunches, corporate events, and more. “Not only do we provide unique, eclectic cuisine,” says co-owner and chef Michael Prete, “we customize our services to our clients’ needs. Menus and service are tailor-designed based on a client’s likes, dislikes, theme, and time of year.” Portsmouth Catering offers an indoor and outdoor event center in Hampton, New Hampshire, that is equipped with an island for ceremonies and a footbridge. There is also a helicopter on site. 171 Islington Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603­319-8630, thekitchennh.com

RUNNERS-UP:

The White Apron, Dover, N.H., thewhiteapron.com
Liberty Lane Catering, Hampton, N.H., libertylanecatering.com
Kitchen Chicks Catering, Kennebunk, Maine, kitchenchickscatering.com

CHEESE AND WINE SHOP

C’EST CHEESE

C’est Cheese carries some domestic but mostly imported cheeses from all around the globe. Two Italian favorites are Vento d’Estate, a cheese soaked in an herbed brine before being rolled in olive oil and wrapped in hay to age, and Ubriacone, which has holes punched into it that are then filled with red wine before the wine is poured off and the cheese is covered in grape must and wrapped in grape leaves to age. “Depending on the season,” says owner Nancy Briggs-Guilmette, “we may have in stock anywhere from around 150 to 225 cheeses.” 61 Lafayette Road, North Hampton, N.H., 603-964-2272, cestcheesenh.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Calef’s Country Store, Barrington, N.H., calefs.com
South Street & Vine, Portsmouth, N.H., southstreetandvine.com
Corks and Curds, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-5564

CHEF

EVAN MALLETT, BLACK TRUMPET

With six consecutive wins in this category, this four-time James Beard award semi-finalist says his ever-changing menu inspirations are two-fold. “I’m an insatiably curious person when it comes to ingredients and flavors as well as their origins and their stories,” says Mallett, who also credits his talented kitchen staff for making Black Trumpet’s menus stronger. “If I can produce an original product that warms people’s hearts, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do,” he says. “Bottom line is: does it make you happy on the inside?” 29 Ceres Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-0887, blacktrumpetbistro.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Matt Louis, Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H., moxyrestaurant.com
Jake Smith, The Black Birch Kitchen & Drinks, Maine, theblackbirch.com
Gregg Sessler, Cava Tapas & Bar, Portsmouth, N.H., cavatapasandwinebar.com

CHILI

THE PORTSMOUTH BREWERY

It’s hard to get fanatics to agree on what constitutes a great pot of chili, except when it comes to The Portsmouth Brewery’s 15-year­old, award-winning recipe. Their hearty bowl is made with ground beef and smoky chorizo sausage, beans, and their unique blend of spices, simmered to perfection in The Brewery’s custom ale. “The beer helps tenderize the meat and gives it a unique texture,” says General Manager Brennen Rumble. 56 Market Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-1115, portsmouthbrewery.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Loco Coco’s Tacos, Kittery, Maine, locococos.com
Dos Amigos Burritos, multiple locations, dosamigosburritos.com
The Kitchen, Portsmouth, N.H., thekitchennh.com

CHOCOLATIER

THE CHOCOLATIER

The Chocolatier features 50 varieties of handcrafted chocolates as well as assorted nuts, unique popcorn treat combinations, and a range of cordials and other candies. “We make everything from scratch on the premises,” says owner Edna Howard. Bestsellers include the sea salt caramels and Snapping Turtle Popcorn—a confection made of almonds, marshmallows, double-dipped caramel popcorn, and white, milk, and dark chocolate. 27 Water Street, Exeter, N.H., 888-246-5528, the-chocolatier.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Byrne & Carlson, Portsmouth, N.H., and Kittery, Maine, byrneandcarlson.com 
Harbor Candy Shop, Ogunquit, Maine, harborcandy.com 
Lindt, multiple locations, lindtusa.com

CLAM CHOWDER

RIVER HOUSE

Riverhouse

The River House riffs on tradition with their popular seafood chowder. “We use a variety of seafood and not just clams,” says General Manager Justin Rivlin, “and the sweetness of fresh Maine lobster puts our chowder over the top.” Sip on the creamy broth, flecked with herbs and brimming with fresh seafood, while checking out the panoramic views of Portsmouth Harbor from the outdoor deck. 53 Bow Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-2600, riverhouse53bow.com

RUNNERS-UP:

The Old Salt Restaurant, Hampton, N.H., oldsaltnh.com
Petey’s Summertime Seafood and Bar, Rye, N.H., peteys.com
Bob’s Clam Hut, Kittery, Maine, bobsclamhut.com

COMFORT FOOD

THE BLACK BIRCH KITCHEN & DRINKS

Everything about The Black Birch is comforting, from the upbeat music to the communal tables to the laid-back atmosphere. The food follows suit. “For us, it’s about making what could be very complicated food very accessible and recognizable and fun,” says co­proprietor Benjamin Lord. Dig into iconic comfort food favorites like impossibly luscious deviled eggs, mac and cheese, or tart and creamy tomato soup served with oozy grilled cheese—perfect for dipping and sharing, of course. 2 Government Street, Kittery, Maine, 207-703-2294, theblackbirch.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Roundabout Diner, Portsmouth, N.H., roundaboutdiner.com
The 401 Tavern, Hampton, N.H., the401tavern.com
The Friendly Toast, Portsmouth, N.H., thefriendlytoast.com

COOKING CLASSES

STONEWALL KITCHEN COOKING SCHOOL

Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School

The Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School offers great food and clear, concise instruction in an atmosphere that is relaxed, comfortable, and friendly. Students learn how to recreate class recipes in their own kitchens and also gain info about the tools, appliances, and utensils used by the school’s chefs. Recent class offerings have included Flavorful Thai, Tequila and Tamales, Italian Favorites, and Irish Recipes. Class attendees receive a 10 percent discount on anything purchased in the Stonewall Kitchen store. 2 Stonewall Lane, York, Maine, 877-899-8363 (class registration) or 207-351-2712 (store), stonewallkitchen.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Chez Boucher, Hampton, N.H., chezboucher.com
Li Yuen, North Hampton, N.H., liyuens.com
Stages at One Washington, Dover, N.H., stages-dining.com

CRAB CAKES

JUMPIN’ JAY’S FISH CAFE

Jumpin Jays

The secret to making Jumpin’ Jay’s three-time Best of Taste award-winning crab cakes is the breading, or lack thereof. It’s all about letting the crab be the star, rather than a bready stuffing, and the recipe changes to match the seasons. The accoutrements may change from time to time but rest assured that these generously sized mounds of fresh lump crab won’t be leaving the menu anytime soon. 150 Congress Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-766-3474, jumpinjays.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Robert’s Maine Grill, Kittery, Maine, robertsmainegrill.com
The Carriage House, Rye, N.H., carriagehouserye.com
Mike’s Clam Shack, Wells, Maine, mikesclamshack.com

CRAFT BEER STORE

GARY’S BEVERAGE

Gary’s offers an impressive selection of craft beers, some widely distributed and some locally produced, as well as a variety of microbrews. It is also a good source for beers that have just entered the market and off-season brews at good prices. In addition to domestic products, Gary’s features a number of German, Belgian, Canadian, and British beers and can order special items upon customer request. 165 Deer Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-5854

RUNNERS-UP:

Top Shelf Brews, Hampton, N.H., topshelfbrewsstore.com
Hampton Falls Village Market, Hampton Falls, N.H., 603-926-5840
Dover Discount Beverages, Dover, N.H., 603-749-4111

CUP OF COFFEE

BREAKING NEW GROUNDS

The quality of the coffee at Breaking New Grounds comes from hand-selecting the beans and roasting them on-site. “We sample beans from growing regions all over the globe in order to select the very best varieties,” says owner Matt Govoni. These include Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Costa Rican La Minita, Guatemalan Antigua La Flor del Café, and Sumatran Aceh Gold. 14 Market Square, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-9555, bngcoffee.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Caffe Kilim, Portsmouth, N.H., caffekilim.com
Jumpin Jack’s Java, Hampton, N.H., jumpinjacksjava.com
Port City Coffee Roasters, Portsmouth, N.H., portcitycoffee.com

CUPCAKES

RANDOM ACTS OF SWEETNESS

Random Act of Sweetness

At Random Acts, one reason the cupcakes are so delectable is the care with which the owners bake everything to order. “We measure and mix our ingredients by hand and make smaller batches, which results in the freshest possible product for our customers,” say owners Tiana Conlon and Jessica Antequera. In addition to many varieties of cupcakes and cakes on the menu, the bakery can also create customized versions on just about any theme—funny, naughty, or nice. 112 State Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-319-8612, randomsweetness.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Popovers on the Square, Portsmouth, N.H., popoversonthesquare.com
Clyde’s Cupcakes, Exeter, N.H., clydescupcakes.com
Eat Cake, Newburyport, Mass., eatcakeonline.com

DECK

MARTINGALE WHARF

Martingale Wharf

Martingale Wharf provides waterfront dining at a location that has been a downtown Portsmouth landmark for more than a century. The restaurant features Portsmouth’s largest deck for dining alfresco, where you can enjoy cocktails or choose from an impressive selection of wines by the glass as you savor the fresh air. 99 Bow Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-0901, martingalewharf.com

RUNNERS-UP:

River House, Portsmouth, N.H., riverhouse53bow.com
The Old Ferry Landing, Portsmouth, N.H., oldferrylanding.com
Harpoon Willy’s, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-433-4441

DELI

JOE’S MEAT SHOPPE

For 30 years, Joe’s Meat Shoppe has offered customers the highest-quality, all-natural beef, pork, poultry, and lamb as well as subs and full deli service. “Our store is family-owned and operated,” says owner Jennifer Kutt. “We strive to get to know our customers and their families and provide them with the freshest products and finest service.” Joe’s menu includes more than 20 hot and cold subs as well as a variety of salads, sides, and homemade soups such as creamy spinach and artichoke and Cajun black bean. 229 Atlantic Avenue, North Hampton, N.H., 603-964-6152, joesmeatshoppe.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Carl’s Meat Market, Kittery, Maine, 207-439-1557
Calef’s Country Store, Barrington, N.H., calefs.com
Googie’s Sandwich Shoppe, Portsmouth, N.H., eatatgoogies.com

DESSERT

BEACH PEA BAKING CO.

Beach Pea’s dessert menu includes assorted cookies, bars, brownies, and muffins, lavender shortbread, quick breads, cinnamon brioche buns, and coffee cake. Cakes, sold whole and by the slice, include flavors such as Lemon Cream (four layers of lemon cake, filled with lemon curd-whipped cream, finished with white chocolate cream cheese frosting) and Almond Berry (two layers of almond cake separated by a layer of fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, finished with a white chocolate cream cheese frosting). 53 State Road, Kittery, Maine, 207-439-3555, beachpeabaking.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Galley Hatch, Hampton, N.H., galleyhatch.com
Popovers on the Square, Portsmouth, N.H., popoversonthesquare.com
Ceres Bakery, Portsmouth, N.H., ceresbakery.com

DINER

ROUNDABOUT DINER

Roundabout Diner

“This is a favorite meeting spot for customers,” says owner Dan Posternak. “They really appreciate the fact that everything is made from scratch.” Indeed, Posternak and his staff make everything on their impressive menu, from the carved corned beef for their popular Reuben sandwich to the tender 15-hour smoked pulled pork to their signature deep-fried pickles. It’s no wonder Posternak sees some regulars up to three times a day. 580 U.S. 1 Bypass, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-1440, roundaboutdiner.com

RUNNERS-UP:

The Maine Diner, Wells, Maine, mainediner.com
Fast Eddie’s Diner, Hampton, N.H., fasteddiesdiner.com
Gilley’s PM Lunch, Portsmouth, N.H.

FINE DINING

BLACK TRUMPET

Fine dining often implies that a restaurant is stuffy and formal, but at Black Trumpet the warm staff invites you to come-as-you-are to enjoy delicious and thoughtful food, wine, and cocktails in a cozy atmosphere. “At the Black Trumpet we care a lot about service and making sure that our guests not only experience a great meal but do so in the presence of really professional servers in a beautiful ambience,” says chef-owner Evan Mallett. 29 Ceres Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-0887, blacktrumpetbistro.com

RUNNERS-UP:

The Library Restaurant, Portsmouth, N.H., libraryrestaurant.com
Ristorante Massimo, Portsmouth, N.H., ristorantemassimo.com
Mombo, Portsmouth, N.H., momborestaurant.com

FRIED SEAFOOD

PETEY’S SUMMERTIME SEAFOOD AND BAR

At this iconic, beachy seafood shack on Ocean Boulevard in Rye, the crispy golden fried seafood is quite a catch. Enjoy favorites such as clams, shrimp, scallops, and haddock deep fried to perfection, then stuffed into a sandwich roll and served with their addictive tart and tangy tartar sauce. Or order the dinner entree, a generous mound of seafood served with sides of crisp, tender French fries and creamy coleslaw. 1323 Ocean Boulevard, Rye, N.H., 603-433-1937, peteys.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Bob’s Clam Hut, Kittery, Maine, bobsclamhut.com
Newick’s, Concord and Dover, N.H., and South Portland, Maine, newicks.com 
Al’s Seafood, North Hampton, N.H., alsseafoodnh.com 

FROZEN YOGURT

ORANGE LEAF FROZEN YOGURT

Orange Leaf offers self-serve, choose-your-own-toppings frozen treats. Besides chocolate and vanilla, flavors include chocolate mint, chocolate raspberry, gingerbread, cherry, coconut, green apple, honeydew, and kiwi. “We try to have something for everyone,” says manager Colby Baker. “We carry 16 flavors and more than 40 toppings. We also feature dairy-free versions as well as a separate, allergy-safe toppings bar.” 218 State Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-427-8972, orangeleafyogurt.com, and other locations

RUNNERS-UP:

Izzy’s Frozen Yogurt and Ice Cream, Portsmouth, N.H., portsmouthicecream.com 
FroyoWorld, Durham, N.H., froyoworld.com Yogurt-Licious
Frozen Yogurt, Portsmouth, N.H., yo-licious.com

GOURMET FOOD MARKET

PHILBRICKS FRESH MARKET

Philbrick’s offers shoppers a locally owned alternative to traditional mass-market grocery stores. Customers can choose from a wide selection of all-natural meat, poultry, and game, fresh seafood, area organic produce, hard-to-find wines and beers, artisan cheeses, imported ingredients, and prepared foods. 775 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-422-6758 and 69 Lafayette Road, North Hampton, N.H. 603-379-2500, philbricksfreshmarket.com

RUNNERS-UP:
McKinnon’s Market, multiple locations, mckinnonsmarkets.com
Fiddlehead Farms Marketplace, Dover, N.H., fiddleheadfarmsmarket.com
Stonewall Kitchen, York, Maine, stonewallkitchen.com

HEALTH FOOD MARKET

PORTSMOUTH HEALTH FOOD CENTER

Portsmouth Health Food Center is an independent, family-owned, full grocery store that specializes in supplying a variety of services and natural products including organic produce from the owner’s family farm. “We have a very helpful and experienced staff,” says owner Alex Nelson. “Most of the thank-you letters we receive are from customers in need of help deciding on how to properly supplement their diets.” The store also has a take-out cafe featuring many unique, flavorful items including gluten-free and vegan meals. 151 Congress Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-1722, portsmouthhealthfood.com

RUNNERS-UP:
Philbrick’s Fresh Market, Portsmouth and North Hampton, N.H., philbricksfreshmarket.com
Hampton Natural Foods, Hampton, N.H., hamptonnaturalfoods.com
Trader Joe’s, multiple locations, traderjoes.com

HOTEL RESTAURANT

SALT KITCHEN & BAR AT WENTWORTH BY THE SEA

Salt Kitchen  Bar

Since the major renovation last June, local customers have become regulars, flocking to Salt again and again for the hip atmosphere, festive cocktails, and inventive New England-inspired cuisine. “This is no longer a special-occasion restaurant,” says Food and Beverage Director Gabe Cogley. “People come out to meet friends and have a few drinks and a great meal and enjoy the company of the rest of the community.” 588 Wentworth Road, New Castle, N.H., 603­373-6566, wentworth.com

RUNNERS-UP:

1637, York Harbor Inn, York, Maine, yorkharborinn.com
Epoch Restaurant & Bar, The Exeter Inn, Exeter, N.H., epochrestaurant.com
Harbor’s Edge, Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel, Portsmouth, N.H., sheratonportsmouth.com

ICE CREAM

LAGO’S ICE CREAM

Since its founding in 1981, Lago’s has been dishing out hand-dipped cones, sundaes, banana splits, frappes, freezes, ice cream sodas, floats, yogurts, and sherbets. In addition to all the classic flavors, Lago’s also offers exotic varieties including Cappuccino Slam, Kahlua Fudge Brownie, Muddy Sneakers, Apple Pie, and Carrot Cake. 71 Lafayette Road, Rye, N.H., 603-964-9880, lagosicecream.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Annabelle’s Natural Ice Cream, Portsmouth, N.H., annabellesicecream.com 
Memories, Kingston, N.H., memoriesicecream.com 
Lone Oak Ice Cream, Rochester, N.H., loneoakicecream.com

INN

YORK HARBOR INN

York Harbor Inn features 61 guest rooms located in several buildings, each with their own character, accented with fine antiques or period reproductions. Many rooms include fireplaces and Jacuzzis, and there are several with ocean or beach views. York Harbor Beach is right across the street. There are two on-site restaurants, and a continental breakfast, with fabulous homemade pastries, is included with your stay. 480 York Street, York Harbor, Maine, 800-343-3869, yorkharborinn.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Three Chimneys Inn, Durham, N.H., threechimneysinn.com
The Exeter Inn, Exeter, N.H., theexeterinn.com
The Governor’s Inn, Rochester, N.H., governorsinn.com

KID FRIENDLY

FLATBREAD COMPANY

At this boisterous pizzeria, “You don’t have to worry about loud kids interrupting other diners,” says Thomas Keane, head of retail operations. “They can sit on a log in front of the fire and watch the pizzas being made.” The obliging waitstaff also provide crayons, paper, and rounds of dough for kids to shape while waiting for their food. The delicious signature flatbread pizzas made from wholesome all-natural ingredients are the icing on the cake. 138 Congress Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-7888, flatbreadcompany. com, and other locations

RUNNERS-UP:

The Community Oven, Hampton, N.H., thecommunityoven.com
The Friendly Toast, Portsmouth, N.H., thefriendlytoast.com
Margaritas Mexican Restaurant, multiple locations, margs.com

KITCHEN STORE

STONEWALL KITCHEN

Stonewall Kitchen

In addition to their now-famous vast line of specialty foods, Stonewall Kitchen features an array of useful kitchen gadgets, cookware, tableware, and home decor. The in-store cafe offers a myriad of flavors and daily specials such as lobster rolls, salads, and delicious baked goods. 2 Stonewall Lane, York, Maine, 207-351-2712, stonewallkitchen.com

RUNNERS-UP:

LeRoux Kitchen, Portsmouth, N.H., lerouxkitchen.com
Attrezzi, Portsmouth, N.H., attrezzinh.com
Kitchen Collection, multiple locations, kitchencollection.com

LATE NIGHT DINING

GILLEY’S PM LUNCH

Gilley’s, open nightly until 2 a.m., is the place to go for folks hungry after an evening out celebrating or working the late shift. The most popular menu items are Gilley’s award-winning hot dogs and burgers made from hand-packed meat delivered fresh from a local market three times per week. Another wee-hour crowd favorite, according to owner Gina Kennedy, is the poutine: “We take hand-cut French fries, pile them with cheese curd produced at a local farm, and then smother everything in house-made beef gravy.” 175 Fleet Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-6343, gilleyspmlunch.com

RUNNERS-UP:

The Friendly Toast, Portsmouth, N.H., thefriendlytoast.com
The Portsmouth Brewery, Portsmouth, N.H.,portsmouthbrewery.com 
The District, Portsmouth, N.H., thedistrictnh.com

LOBSTER DINNER

CHAUNCEY CREEK LOBSTER PIER

From Memorial Day through Columbus Day, enjoy an iconic New England lobster dinner on this Kittery Point pier. Locals love this Best of Taste repeat winner because the casual, family-friendly spot is a welcome escape from the bustling summer tourist crowd. Tie on a plastic bib and indulge in a one- to four-pound lobster with drawn butter and classic sides like creamy coleslaw and sweet corn on the cob. Don’t forget to BYOB. 16 Chauncey Creek Road, Kittery Point, Maine, 207-439-1030, chaunceycreek.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Warren’s Lobster House, Kittery, Maine, lobsterhouse.com
Petey’s Summertime Seafood and Bar, Rye, N.H., peteys.com
BG’s Boat House, Portsmouth, N.H., bgsboathouse.com

LOBSTER ROLL

THE BEACH PLUM

The Beach Plum keeps their lobster roll simple—a buttered, toasted bun stuffed to the gills with sweet and tender lobster meat bound lightly with mayonnaise, and served up beach-style with crispy potato chips. More complicated is deciding which one to order. “We currently have four sizes and will be creating more this summer,” says manager Kalie McGibbon. Hungry lobster lovers will want to try the 20-ounce Super Jumbo Foot Long Roll. 17 Ocean Boulevard, North Hampton, N.H., 603-964-7451, and 2800 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-433-3339, thebeachplum.net

RUNNERS-UP:

Petey’s Summertime Seafood and Bar, Rye, N.H., peteys.com
Bob’s Clam Hut, Kittery, Maine, bobsclamhut.com
Warren’s Lobster House, Kittery, Maine, lobsterhouse.com

LOCALLY SOURCED

FLATBREAD COMPANY

The menu at Flatbread reads like a roadmap of local and organic farms on the Seacoast. “We focus on organic and all-natural and also try to give local farms our business,” says Thomas Keane, who runs retail operations. Start with an organic salad with goat cheese from Heart Song Farm in New Hampshire and a crisp flatbread topped with fresh ingredients from the finest area suppliers, for a delicious meal you can feel good about. 138 Congress Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-7888, flatbreadcompany.com, and other locations

RUNNERS-UP:

Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H., moxyrestaurant.com
Black Trumpet, Portsmouth, N.H., blacktrumpetbistro.com
STREET, Portsmouth, N.H., streetfood360.com

MARGARITA

AGAVE MEXICAN BISTRO

Agave Mexican Bistro

Agave provides endless riffs on the classical margarita recipe of lime juice, tequila, and liqueur. The Bistro stocks more than 90 varieties of tequila, any of which can be made into a margarita. Agave’s bartenders have done careful research on the flavor profile of each tequila variety to ensure that the correct, high-quality ingredients are blended in to complement those profiles. “We keep it fresh and simple,” says General Manager Jason Morin. 111 State Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-427-5300, and 50 State Street, Newburyport, Mass., 978-499-0428, agavedos.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Margaritas Mexican Restaurant, multiple locations, margs.com
Loco Coco’s Tacos, Kittery, Maine, locococos.com
Poco’s Bow Street Cantina, Portsmouth, N.H., pocosbowstreetcantina.com

MARTINI

THE RED DOOR

The Red Door’s drink menu features a variety of exotic cocktails. “The most popular martini is the espresso martini,” says Manager Cresta Smith. “Every shot starts with freshly ground espresso beans. On a Saturday night, we are likely to make over 100 espresso martinis.” Some Red Door drinks come and go in popularity, Smith observes. “Our other martinis have all had their 15 minutes of fame. The new favorite is called The Secret, made with tequila and a ginger cognac. We add fresh muddled lime, pomegranate juice, and orange water to create this super flavorful cocktail.” 107 State Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-373-6827, reddoorportsmouth.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Rudi’s Portsmouth, Portsmouth, N.H., rudisportsmouth.com
Demeters Steakhouse, Portsmouth, N.H., demeterssteakhouse.com
Radici, Portsmouth, N.H., radicirestaurant.com

NEW RESTAURANT

VIDA CANTINA

The secret to the early success of this popular cantina is that “everything is made in-house, from scratch, with love,” says manager Molly Woodhouse. Slide into a comfy booth and order a flight of salsas to top one of their popular tacos, or head straight for standout entrees like Pepita Crusted Scallops with crisp and creamy pork belly or the Slow Roasted Chicken Enchiladas. In case you need a reason to rush back, the lunch menu offers a variety of tortas (sandwiches) on house-made bread, served to the beat of the mariachi. 2456 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-501-0648, vidacantinanh.com

RUNNERS-UP:

British Beer Co., Portsmouth, N.H., britishbeer.com
Popovers at Brickyard Square, Epping, N.H., popoversonthesquare.com
(tie) Portsmouth Book & Bar, Portsmouth, N.H., bookandbar.com
(tie) 7th Settlement, Dover, N.H., 7thsettlement.com

NIGHT LIFE BAR

THE PRESS ROOM

The Press Room offers customers great food to go along with the live music presented seven nights a week in a welcoming pub atmosphere that draws in locals and tourists alike. As Manager Bruce Pingree says, “Where else can you get fantastic fish tacos to go along with blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, and Latin jazz?” 77 Daniel Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-5186, pressroomnh.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Portsmouth Gas Light Co., Portsmouth, N.H., portsmouthgaslight.com
The Red Door, Portsmouth, N.H., reddoorportsmouth.com
Thirsty Moose Taphouse, Portsmouth, N.H., thirstymoosetaphouse.com

PIZZA

FLATBREAD COMPANY

Flatbread takes the cake—or pie, rather—when it comes to pizza, winning in this category year after year. The organic-wheat dough is baked in a wood-fired clay oven, imparting a wonderful flavor and texture. Sauce-free pies include toppings like homemade maple-fennel sausage and Neiman Ranch beef with homemade taco seasoning. Add in incredible “cauldron tomato sauce,” cheeses like whole-milk mozzarella and Heart Song Farm goat, plus a slew of veggies (roasted corn, caramelized onions), and you’ll know why Flatbread pizzas are consistent winners. 138 Congress Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-7888, flatbreadcompany. com, and other locations

RUNNERS-UP

LaFesta Brick & Brew Pizzeria, Dover N.H., lafestabrickandbrew.com
Bratskellar Pizza Pub, Portsmouth, N.H., dinnerhorn.com
The Community Oven, Hampton, N.H., thecommunityoven.com

 RESTAURANT 

THE BLACK BIRCH KITCHEN & DRINKS

For co-proprietors Gavin Beaudry, Benjamin Lord, and Jake Smith, The Black Birch is about getting together with friends and having a good time. The focus is on “family, community, and having a sexy party,” Lord says. “We want everyone’s experience to be the experience we’d want to have while dining out,” which means having fun every night of the week by serving elevated comfort food in a convivial setting with great music and an innovative beer, wine, and cocktail list. They deliver on that promise night after night, serving a rotating menu of instant favorites like deep-fried short ribs and creamy duck rillettes to a packed house. 2 Government Street, Kittery, Maine, 207-703-2294, theblackbirch.com

RESTAURANT VIEW

LATITUDES AT WENTWORTH BY THE SEA

The best view on the Seacoast is now even better. After a speedy renovation, Latitudes reopened this spring with a spiffed-up interior and a brand-new rooftop bar overlooking the marina, where guests can relax in plush, oversized seats clustered around glowing fire pits. “It is a lovely place to enjoy cocktails and is something we’ve been sorely missing here,” says Food and Beverage Director Gabe Cogley. 588 Wentworth Road, New Castle, N.H., 603-422-7322, wentworth.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Martingale Wharf, Portsmouth, N.H., martingalewharf.com
River House, Portsmouth, N.H., riverhouse53bow.com
Surf Restaurant, Nashua and Portsmouth, N.H., surfseafood.com

ROMANTIC DINNER

RISTORANTE MASSIMO

Awash in brick and stone, with warm lighting and cozy, intimate booths, Ristorante Massimo is the ultimate date-night destination. The friendly but unobtrusive waitstaff are happy to guide you through the thoughtful wine list and inspired Italian fare like cured meats, imported cheeses, handmade pastas, and sumptuous meat and seafood entrees. Or, travel upstairs to the newly renovated bar area for small plates and casual conversation in an equally romantic setting. 59 Penhallow Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-4000, ristorantemassimo.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Black Trumpet, Portsmouth, N.H., blacktrumpetbistro.com
The Wellington Room, Portsmouth, N.H., thewellingtonroom.com
Mombo, Portsmouth, N.H., momborestaurant.com

SANDWICH

MOE’S ITALIAN SANDWICHES

It’s hard to beat a sandwich recipe that’s been around since 1959, especially when it’s piled high with salami, provolone, peppers, onions, and all the fixin’s on a crusty sub roll. Over the years, Moe’s has expanded their menu with Signature Sandwiches and Sicilian Classics, jazzed up with toppings like pickles, tomatoes, olives, and their signature spicy oil. Add a cup of soup or chips and a cookie for a filling meal at an affordable price. 22 Daniel Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-2327, moesitaliansandwiches. com, and other locations

RUNNERS-UP:

The Beach Pea Baking Co., Kittery, Maine, beachpeabaking.com
The Kitchen, Portsmouth, N.H., thekitchennh.com
STREET, Portsmouth, N.H., streetfood360.com

SEAFOOD MARKET

SEAPORT FISH

Since 1978, Seaport Fish has offered customers a variety of fresh fish, whole or hand-filleted, along with local and exotic shellfish, from all over the world. All seafood is hand-picked and processed on-site seven days a week. Daily, the market receives all the local species off of vessels from Portsmouth to Seabrook, bringing customers the freshest seafood possible while supporting the local fishing community. 13 Sagamore Road, Rye, N.H., 603-436-7286, and 57 State Road, Kittery, Maine, 207-475-0000, seaportfish.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Al’s Seafood, North Hampton, N.H., alsseafoodnh.com
Sanders Fish Market, Portsmouth, N.H., sandersfish.com
Taylor Lobster, Kittery, Maine, taylorlobster.com

SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

JUMPIN’ JAY’S FISH CAFE

For this repeat winner, it’s all about providing customers the freshest seafood possible. “If you embrace the product, people embrace you,” says Assistant Manager Vagan Migirditch, “Our fish comes in fresh daily and we try not to muddle it up with too much stuff.” Customers pack the house year-round for “fresh catch” favorites such as locally caught monkfish, cod, and redfish served with your choice of seven sauces, including Mandarin Sesame Glaze and Lobster Velouté. 150 Congress Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-766-3474, jumpinjays.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Petey’s Summertime Seafood and Bar, Rye, N.H., peteys.com
Surf Restaurant, Nashua and Portsmouth, N.H., surfseafood.com
Bob’s Clam Hut, Kittery, Maine, bobsclamhut.com

SOUP

POPOVERS ON THE SQUARE

Popovers on the Square

“We make all of our soups in-house, from scratch,” says Popovers Manager Matthew Clark. The tart and creamy tomato bisque and the secret recipe New England Clam Chowder, filled to the brim with plump clams and fluffy potatoes, stay on the menu throughout the year. “The rotating soup of the day is where the creativity and talent of our staff shines through,” Clark says. Watch for popular seasonal favorites like Turkey and Vegetable and Chicken Tortilla Soup. 8 Congress Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 604-431-1119, and 11 Brickyard Square, Unit 23, Epping, N.H., 603-734-4724, popoversonthesquare.com

RUNNERS-UP:

The Green Bean, multiple locations, nhgreenbean.com
The Soup Guy, Dover, N.H., thesoupguy.net
Ceres Bakery, Portsmouth, N.H., ceresbakery.com

SPECIAL OCCASION RESTAURANT

BLACK TRUMPET

“This is a hopelessly romantic space,” says chef-owner and repeat winner Evan Mallett. “I think in a building like this, you want to exaggerate its bones because its antiquity is so beautiful.” The physical space is special at this waterfront gem, but so is the staff. It’s not uncommon to be greeted warmly by a host and a chef upon not uncommon to be greeted warmly by a host and a chef upon arrival. This is a unique gesture on the part of the kitchen staff and one of the many small details that sets Black Trumpet apart. 29 Ceres Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-0887, blacktrumpetbistro.com

RUNNERS-UP:
Ristorante Massimo, Portsmouth, N.H., ristorantemassimo.com
Latitudes, New Castle, N.H., wentworth.com
Cava Tapas & Wine Bar, Portsmouth, N.H., cavatapasandwinebar.com 

SPORTS BAR 

401 TAVERN

The 401 offers a warm, comfortable, fun atmosphere and a wine and tapas menu that leaves typical sports bar fare in the dust. “We feature way more than chicken wings and burgers, although ours are phenomenal,” says co-owner and Manager Dan “Desi” Lanio, a longtime sponsor of local rugby, basketball, soccer, and baseball teams. He recommends the 18 draft beers as well as the 10 varieties of macaroni and cheese, which include a version laced with spicy buffalo chicken. 401 Lafayette Road, Hampton, N.H., 603-926-8800, the401tavern.com

RUNNERS-UP:
Thirsty Moose Taphouse, Portsmouth, N.H., thirstymoosetaphouse.com
Buffalo Wild Wings, multiple locations, buffalowildwings.com
Mojo’s BBQ Grill & Tavern, Portsmouth, N.H., mojosbbqshack.com

STEAKHOUSE

THE LIBRARY RESTAURANT

The Library Restaurant

Library Restaurant owner Bruce Belanger says, “The key is consistency: offering the same quality product, consistently great service, and lovely ambience year after year.” The stalwart menu includes juicy cuts like prime sirloin and porterhouse, grilled as you like it and served with sauces like buttery hollandaise, or the house special brewed steak sauce. Round out your meal with a variety of sides, ranging from creamed spinach to hand-cut steak fries to rich and velvety lobster mac and cheese. 401 State Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-5202, libraryrestaurant.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Demeters Steakhouse, Portsmouth, N.H., demeterssteakhouse.com
Orchard Street Chop Shop, Dover, N.H., orchardstreetchopshop.com
Granite Steak and Grill, Rochester, N.H., granitesteakandgrill.com

SUSHI

SHIO JAPANESE RESTAURANT & SUSHI BAR

At Shio, fresh, high-quality fish is served as sushi or sashimi or sandwiched between rice and seaweed and rolled into combinations ranging from the simple Tekka Maki tuna roll to unique house specialties like the Spicy Atomic Roll, with white tuna, avocado, and chili pepper, rolled and topped with tuna, avocado, and smoked salmon. 2454 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-319-1638, shiorestaurant.com

RUNNERS-UP:
Surf Sushi Bar, Portsmouth, N.H., surfsushibar.com
Sake Japanese Cuisine, Portsmouth, N.H., portsmouthsake.com
Oriental Delight Chinese & Japanese Cuisine, Dover, N.H.,
orientaldelightdover.com

VEGETARIAN

STREET

“We’ve always paid attention to special eaters, whether they be vegetarian, vegan, or glucose-free,” says STREET co-owner Michelle Lozuaway. The kitchen staff, led by chef and co-owner Josh Lanahan, can transform almost any of their dishes into a vegetarian meal, offering substitutions like “Fickin”—gluten-free fake chicken made from soy protein. “The type of food we focus on—food from other cultures based more on rice—makes it easier to provide vegetarian options than at places serving typical American fare,” Lozuaway says. 801 Islington Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-0860, streetfood360.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Blue Moon Evolution, Exeter, N.H., bluemoonevolution.com
Flatbread Company, multiple locations, flatbreadcompany.com
Radici, Portsmouth, N.H., radicirestaurant.com

WINE LIST

CAVA TAPAS & WINE BAR

Cava Tapas and Bar

Cava offers customers more than 50 wines by the half or full glass and is also licensed to sell all its wines on a retail basis. The bar features a seven-course tasting menu nightly with an optional wine pairing. “We get five to six new wines weekly or biweekly,” says co­owner and General Manager John Akar, “so our customers can explore flavors that are constantly changing.” 10 Commercial Alley, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-319-1575, cavatapasandwinebar.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Black Trumpet, Portsmouth, N.H., blacktrumpetbistro.com
Ristorante Massimo, Portsmouth, N.H., ristorantemassimo.com
Mombo, Portsmouth, N.H., momborestaurant.com

WINERY

FLAG HILL WINERY

Since opening two decades ago, Flag Hill has offered customers various types of wines including grape, fruit, and dessert wines, as well as New Hampshire’s first port. “We are proud to be celebrating our 20th  annual harvest at Flag Hill this fall,” says General Manager Heather Houle. “The community spirit and local pride of New Hampshire residents has been at the heart of our success. We hope our local wines and spirits and amazing Flag Hill team continue to excite our patrons to come back again and again.” Flag Hill’s vineyard produces six varieties of grapes. All wine is produced and bottled on-site, with red wines aging in barrels for two years and white wines for one year. Fruit wines are produced throughout the year. 297 North River Road, Lee, N.H., 603-659-2949, flaghill.com

RUNNERS-UP:

Jewell Towne Vineyards, South Hampton, N.H.,jewelltownevineyards.com
Sweet Baby Vineyard, East Kingston, N.H., sweetbabyvineyard.com
LaBelle Winery, Amherst, N.H., labellewinerynh.com (tie)
Zorvino Vineyards, Sandown, N.H., zorvino.com (tie)

WINE SHOP

CERES STREET WINE MERCHANTS

Ceres Street Wine Merchants has been bringing fine wines to the Seacoast for more than 20 years. Owner David Campbell’s goal is to offer customers a representative sampling of the best products from wine-growing regions the world over: “We have a reputation for doing what we know and knowing what we do.” 39 Ceres Street, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-2640, cereswine.com

RUNNERS-UP:

South Street & Vine, Portsmouth, N.H., southstreetandvine.com
Attrezzi, Portsmouth, N.H., attrezzinh.com
Dover Wine & Brew, Dover, N.H., doverwine.com

WINGS

WING-ITZ

Derek Fisher owns this self-described Wing Butchery, where he hand cuts his fresh, all-natural chicken wings daily and drenches them in your choice of over 31 sauces, made almost entirely in-house. Popular favorites include the Blueberry Chipotle BBQ, Sweet Sin, NH Maple BBQ, and of course, Classic Buffalo sauce as spicy as you can stand it. For a twist, ask for the wings fried southern style to a crispy golden brown. 2100 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, N.H., 603-436-9464, wing-itz.com

RUNNERS-UP:
Buffalo Wild Wings, multiple locations, buffalowildwings.com
Bratskellar Pizza Pub, Portsmouth, N.H., dinnerhorn.com
Fat Belly’s Grill and Bar, Portsmouth, N.H., fatbellysgrillandbar.com