If waterfront dining is on your agenda, look no further than Martingale Wharf in downtown Portsmouth. Situated on the Piscataqua River, the restaurant will wow you with its stunning views on the city’s largest alfresco deck.
The restaurant is a relative newcomer to the area, opening in the summer of 2012. However, the now-renovated brick building dates back to the late 1890s when it served as a medicinal lab and distribution center. It later transformed to a brothel that catered to passing sailors, before becoming a rooming house.
Today, hungry travelers visit Martingale Wharf for its fresh, local ingredients and to sit above the calming waves of bluegreen water, across from the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge. In warmer weather, there’s no better place to be than on the deck. For those cooler days, there are fire pits here and there, plus indoor dining. And there’s not a bad seat inside. Large glass windows line the front room and open accordion style to mimic outside dining, allowing the warm salt-scented breeze to waft into the restaurant as you eat your lunch.
Either that, or grab a seat at the 360-degree bar. The top is covered in painted, handblown glass, which colorful LED lights illuminate as you eat. Try a cocktail while you’re there or sip one of the restaurant’s 2,100 bottles of wine.
The menu is 90 percent gluten-free, with abundant options for a satisfying lunch. Start with the 12-Hour Braised Pork Ribs—a customer favorite and must have for meat eaters. The year-round appetizer started as a “joke” menu item, says head chef Matthew Provencher, but soon became a restaurant staple. “The joke was on us,” he laughs.
The ribs are dry rubbed overnight and smoked for four hours before sous vided for 12 to 14 hours. They’re then slathered in a homemade Coca-Cola-based barbeque sauce. “It’s a little old school and a little new school,” Provencher says. And it’s easy to see why the appetizer is so popular. The meat effortlessly falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. Don’t be ashamed to lick your fingers at the table—the sauce is that good.
Next, try one of the salads. Keep it simple and order the Piscataqua Wedge. Maytag blue cheese is drizzled over the leaves, accompanied by baby tomatoes, marinated red onions and two pieces of bacon that’s been glazed with brown sugar, then torched. Or choose the Grilled Steak Cobb Salad, 10 ounces of tender, juicy hanger steak, chopped romaine, organic mixed greens, hard-boiled egg, sliced avocado, crunchy chips of bacon, grape tomatoes, blue cheese, and an herb balsamic dressing.
If you’re in the mood for something heartier, go for The All American Joe, a classic eight-ounce hamburger with lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheddar cheese on a gluten-free bun, topped off by two housemade pickles. “We make unbelievable pickles,” Provencher says. The meal comes with a basket of crisp fries or a small salad. There’s also the Cuban Sandwich, made with local roasted pork shoulder, pork belly, Swiss cheese, whole grain mustard, plantains, and pickles on a toasted ciabatta roll.
Make sure to save room for dessert— especially on warmer days. Martingale Wharf has several selections to keep you cool. Try the Homemade Ice Cream or Sorbet, or the House-Made Hot Fudge Over Vanilla Ice Cream, topped with chocolate shavings. The Chocolate Overload, a heady trio of molten chocolate cake, salted chocolate ice cream, and a chocolate cookie is another perfect ending to any meal.