Boston Restaurant Blog -- October, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
We headed up to New Hampshire a couple of weekends ago, although the trip almost didn't happen due to the horrendous weather. But I'm glad we got to go because the weather wasn't as bad up in the White Mountains, and we got to try several restaurants, most of which were good spots.
Our destination was Jackson, so we drove up Route 16 on Friday morning, stopping in Rochester, NH, for lunch. Our lunch stop was Wild Willy's Burgers a place I have been trying to get to for some time now, though granted the one I was hoping to try is in nearby Watertown, MA. The Wild Willy's in Rochester had a real frontier feel to it, with wooden floors, tables, and chairs, an old rifle on the wall, and other Western touches that make me feel like we were somewhere in Colorado or New Mexico. We tried a couple of different burgers--the roundup, which had mushrooms and Swiss cheese, and the Rio Grande, which had roasted New Mexican green chiles and cheddar cheese. Both of these burgers were charbroiled to perfection, with most of the juices retained in the burgers. The handcut fries were also good, though they had very little seasoning on them, making them just a bit on the bland side. I also had my first Sioux City Sarsaparilla, and it was outstanding. If I had to rate the burgers at Wild Willy's, I would probably put them in my top 20 for New England, which is saying a lot because I've had many, many burgers throughout the region.
After lunch, we continued north on Route 16 until we reached Jackson, then wandered around the area for a few hours before settling down for dinner at the Dana Place Inn. This comfortable old lodging and dining spot is nestled between Jackson and Pinkham Notch, and has a sedate, old-money feel to it. The dining room was quiet and comfortable, and had large windows looking out at the fields and woods outside of the inn. We started with a fresh, tasty salad and a thick, hearty potato leek soup, then received our entrees. The 8-ounce filet mignon was tasty and came with a delicious bearnaise sauce, while the special--chicken with pasta--was also very nice. But perhaps the best item of the night was the molten chocolate cake, a sinful, decadent dessert that was so rich that I could barely eat the following day. I did have room for a scotch and soda, however, so we went to the Wildcat Tavern in the center of Jackson for a drink while listening to some live jazz and blues over the Red Sox game.
Saturday turned out to be a surprisingly nice day (it was supposed to downpour all day), so we took advantage of it by hiking around Pinkham Notch--including the spectacular Glen Ellis Falls--before heading north on Route 16 to the equally spectacular Thirteen Mile Woods. Just as we entered the area, we saw a moose on the side of the road, so we (and many other people) stopped to take some pictures of it by the side of the reservoir before heading west. We stopped in Whitefield for lunch at Grandma's Kitchen, one of my favorite places in New Hampshire. And this little family diner impressed once again, as their griddled burger, tuna club, and handcut fries (better than Wild Willy's by the way), were all satisfying, and very reasonably priced. There are fewer and fewer roadside food joints like Grandma's Kitchen in New England, making it a special, unique spot in my mind.
We spent the afternoon winding our way through Crawford Notch, eventually ending up back in Jackson, where we spent a couple of hours before driving over to Glen for dinner at the Black Bear Pub. This homey little put is located within the elegant, classy Bernerhof Inn, and the food at the pub reflected the Swiss and German roots of the inn. We started with a delicious salad that included an outstanding balsamic vinaigrette dressing, then dug into a couple of classic north-central European dishes. The wiener schnitzel (thinly sliced breaded veal with spaetzle and spiced red cabbage) and jaeger schnitzel (similar, but with a burgundy wine, shitake mushroom, and onion sauce) were among the best dishes we had on the trip, and both dishes were completely gone in no time. We had a little room for dessert, so we ordered a warm gingerbread with ice cream, which wasn't bad, though the gingerbread was a little dry. My desire for scotch must have spilled over from the night before, as we ended up at the piano bar within the Wentworth and had three shots of scotch: Highlands (good), Lowlands (excellent), and Islay (undrinkable--in my opinion anyways!).
Sunday turned out to be a rainy, raw day, so we drove along the Kancamagus Highway (making only a couple of stops) before taking Route 93 south all the way to Concord by late morning, since there was no real reason to take country roads with the rain coming down as hard as it was. We got off the highway in Concord and headed west for awhile, ending up in Henniker for lunch. I had read a little about a place in Henniker called the Country Spirit Restaurant earlier this summer, and it sounded like a cozy rustic place, so we decided to try it. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed because it didn't have the rustic feeling I thought it would, and in fact the place seemed like it was confused as to whether it should be a rural country diner or an upscale restaurant. Service was friendly, though the restaurant was out of several items so she had to repeatedly apologize to us. As for prices, they seemed a bit high for such a small town in the middle of the country, again, making me wonder if they were trying to make this an upscale dining destination. Nevertheless, it was pretty comfortable inside, and our food wasn't all that bad (the pasta and meatballs had a rich, zesty tomato sauce and the chicken francaise also had a very nice sauce).
The Country Spirit Restaurant more or less marked the end of our trip, and we were back in Boston within a couple of hours. It was another fun trip to New Hampshire, and hopefully the first of a few trips up north over the coming weeks and months.
Related Blog Entries: New Hampshire restaurants
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