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Boston Restaurant Blog >> 2011 archives >> October, 2011 >> blog entry

Boston Restaurant Blog -- October, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Autumn Weekend in New Hampshire

Several of us took a trip up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire recently, and this was my first trip to the Glen/Jackson area in awhile, since I have been traveling in Vermont and Maine a lot over the past couple of years instead. It was nice to get back to the region, and certainly nice to hit two of my favorite restaurants (more on that in a minute). As far as the other dining spots we went to, well, there were definitely some ups and downs, with a couple of Jackson restaurants that are next door to each other especially reflecting this.

First, the two places I was looking forward to trying again....On our way up to the area, we stopped by the Pizza Barn on Route 16 in Center Ossipee, and once again, the pepperoni pizza was terrific, with what seemed like a pound of meat on the large pie, and a nice balance of rich sauce and nutty cheese on a relatively crisp crust. And on the last night of the trip, we went to the Thompson House Eatery in Jackson and had a superb overall dining experience, with the artichoke dip, mushroom ravioli, sirloin steak, and veal marsala all being top notch. Service was flawless, and prices, while high, accurately reflected the quality of the food. (Read earlier reviews on these two places here: A Mid-Summer Weekend in Jackson, NH)

photo of the Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company, North Conway, NH On our first night in the White Mountains, we had dinner at the Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company, a place I had been to a few years back and liked very much. This time, my meal at this sprawling multi-room restaurant was not up to snuff, with the pulled pork burrito having nearly tasteless meat that was helped just a little by a slightly spicy Kansas City BBQ sauce. The other dishes seemed mostly better, with the tender meat loaf and meaty sliders being the highlights, and the spinach salad with goat cheese being just ok. Beers were excellent, however, with the blueberry, Octoberfest, and Czech pilsner all being crisp and fresh-tasting. We did return to the Moat for lunch a couple of days later, sitting in the bar area this time around. And this time around, unlike our gruff but friendly server from a couple of nights earlier, our server at lunch was unfriendly and abrupt, making for an almost uncomfortable experience at times. The beers were great once again, but the food was pretty basic, with my roast beef quesadilla being rather rubbery with the cheese overwhelming the meat. My trip to this restaurant a few years back had been a more pleasant one, with the food, service, and beer all being very good, so I was a bit disappointed this time around, though the beer somewhat made up for it.

photo of Yesterdays, Jackson, NH For two of our breakfasts, we went to a homey little place in Jackson Village called Yesterdays. I had heard a lot about this restaurant from various friends and acquaintances over the past couple of years and, as it turns out, for good reason--the place was wonderful, with outstanding house-made pancakes, French toast, corned beef hash, homefries, and more, and service was friendly and efficient both times we were there. The hash in particular was something special, with shredded pieces of lean and tender corned beef mixed with just the right amount of peppers and onions. Atmosphere was simple yet attractive, with some counter seating by the entrance and a handful of tables scattered throughout the main dining area, and prices were about average for breakfast. Based on our two meals at Yesterdays, I can see this place being my regular spot for breakfast on any future trips to the Jackson area.

photo of the Wildcat Tavern, Jackson, NH In addition to lunch at the Pizza Barn and Moat Mountain, we also had lunch at a spot in the village of Jackson called the Wildcat Tavern. This is a place I had been to a few years back for drinks and music, and I recalled it being a cozy and comfortable spot with a rustic feel to it. Well, it is still cozy and rustic, but this time, we were seated at a window table that was basically made out of a couple of chairlifts, and it was anything but comfortable. This would be the least of our problems at the Wildcat that day, however, as everything seemed to go wrong here. First, two of us ordered macaroni and cheese off the children's menu (they allowed us to do this) and were served what amounted to small portions of Kraft macaroni and cheese (or something remarkably like it) for $7.00 each. Also, a cheeseburger that had been ordered took more than a half hour to arrive, with the server mentioning after about 20 minutes that the original had been overcooked (well done instead of medium), so they were cooking another burger at no charge. The second burger came to our table, and it was also cooked well done instead of medium. We left the restaurant saying "never again," which is too bad because the Wildcat does have a very nice atmosphere.

photo of the Red Fox Bar and Grille, Jackson, NH Sandwiched in between our two breakfasts at Yesterdays, we tried the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at the Red Fox on Route 16 in Jackson (just south of Jackson Village). The place was enormous, with the exterior of the restaurant, combined with the parking area, looking more like a tourist information center than a dining spot, but the interior was relatively attractive and comfortable. We grabbed seats up at the bar and proceeded to make multiple trips to the buffet tables, including an omelet station, a carving station, a table with hot meals, and a table with mostly pastries, fruit, and baked goods. There weren't really any surprises at the Red Fox, with mostly serviceable food that filled our bellies. The omelets and homefries were probably the highlights here, with the rather crunchy and bland doughnuts being at the other end of the spectrum. To me, the buffet at the Red Fox was one of those "It is what it is" experiences, being a good option for families on the go or people looking for lots of food at a low price.

photo of the Shannon Door Pub, Jackson, NH Our last night in the White Mountains took us to a popular local watering hole in Jackson called the Shannon Door Pub. As with some of the other places mentioned here, I had been to this spot a few times over the years, but not in recent memory. The Shannon Door has always been one of my favorite places in the region, with its backwoods charm (it resides in a rickety old house on a hill above Jackson Village), good live music, and cheap pizza and beer. And pizza and beer is the way we went at the pub, downing several pies along with a few rounds of beer in our three-hour visit there. As always, the individual pizzas were simple, basic, and satisfying (kind of a mix of bar pie and traditional thin-crust pizza) and the live music was a lot of fun. And as is often the case with the Shannon Door, service was spotty at times, though I have come to expect that over the years here. I've always said that if the Shannon Door Pub were in the Boston area, I would be there quite often, but as it is about three hours from the city, I'm unable to get to this entertaining spot nearly as much as I would like.

So our New Hampshire trip had some real highlights for dining experiences as well as at least one real lowlight and some average meals, but the food we had at the Thompson House Eatery and Yesterdays more than made up for some of the lesser experiences that we had. I'm not sure when I will be getting back to the White Mountains, but when I do, these two restaurants will likely be places I will be going to at some point.

Related Blog Entries: New Hampshire restaurants

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