August is Eat Local Month in New Hampshire, and there’s no better place to do that than in Portsmouth. This picturesque coastal New England town has a lot to offer a family on vacation. Several museums and parks welcome visitors from near and far, but Portsmouth is mostly known as a foodie paradise. With more restaurants per capita than just about anywhere in the U.S., Portsmouth boasts an impressive lineup of restaurants that focus on local, seasonal ingredients. There’s one thing you can count on if you spend a weekend in Portsmouth: you will eat well.
Flatbread: My family recently enjoyed a delicious dinner at Flatbread. This restaurant is too wonderful to be called a “pizza place.” They focus on local ingredients to design their unique flatbreads, which are cooked in a stone hearth. We tried three different flatbreads, and they were all amazing. I loved the vegetarian special, and we also enjoyed an organic salad. This family-friendly locavore restaurant has 10 locations, so check out their website to see if there’s one near you.
Black Trumpet: This family-owned bistro in the historic old port section of town features a menu that changes every six weeks to capitalize on what’s in season. The waterfront location is a beautiful spot for an after-dinner walk.
Surf Restaurant: Voted best seafood restaurant in New Hampshire several times, Surf focuses on serving the freshest possible seafood. Their buyers meet daily with fishermen at the piers to inspect the day’s catch, and they build their menu around what’s fresh.
Portsmouth Brewery: This restaurant and brew pub was voted the best restaurant on the Seacoast and best source of local beer in New Hampshire in 2013. It’s great to see a brew pub that focuses on ingredients from local farms. They’re also part of the Green Alliance, and food scraps are sent to local farms for composting.
Dos Amigos Burritos: If you’re looking for affordable Mexican food, Dos Amigos Burritos provides fresh, healthy food at a good price. Everything is made to order using local produce when available.
Vida Cantina: Vida Cantina is a modern Mexican restaurant that uses local, seasonal, and organic ingredients from a dozen local farms and producers. This restaurant has a vibrant, family-friendly setting with a great menu for kids and adults.
Popovers on the Square: This casual bakery café is a great place to grab a bite to eat in Market Square. They focus on fresh, seasonal food, and their pastries are the perfect treat for your (brief) lapse from real food. Enjoy the outdoor seating if it’s nice outside.
Moxy Modern American Tapas: This tapas restaurant serves small plates for sharing, and the food is inspired by the local farmers, culture, and history. They rely on area farms and producers to shape their unique menu.
For more restaurants in the Portsmouth area, check out Fresh New England.
Portsmouth Farmers’ Market: During the warm weather months, the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market takes place on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at City Hall. The market provides 100 percent locally grown and produced veggies, fruits, dairy products, meats, cheeses, eggs, honey, syrup, wine, cider, tea, baked goods, gourmet foods, and crafts. Check out Seacoast Harvest for dozens of other farmers’ markets in the area. You can find something every day of the week.
Portsmouth Health Food/Madeline’s Truly Organic Kitchen – This health food market and small café are a great source of snacks and take-out in Portsmouth. The café offers organic smoothies, juices, salad bar, soups, and sandwiches made to order.
Philbrick’s Fresh Market: This locally-owned market outside downtown Portsmouth has a wide selection of organic foods, naturally raised meats, fresh seafood, local and organic produce, artisan cheeses, and prepared foods.
Things to Do
Portsmouth Eats Tours: If you really want to immerse yourself in the foodie culture, try a Portsmouth Eats restaurant tour. They offer various themes, and each tour includes tastings at several restaurants and a meeting with the chef. Children are welcome as long as they can handle the two-hour walking and eating schedule.
Market Square Day: This annual celebration in downtown Portsmouth draws 80,000 people if the weather is good. The day starts with a 10K road race, and it continues with more than 150 vendors creating an outdoor market for the day. Live music and walking tours round out this pedestrian event.
Festivals: There are many festivals throughout the year in Portsmouth, with themes including craft brews, lobster, folk music, and film. Check out the Portsmouth events calendar to find out what’s happening when you’ll be there.
Water Country: This has nothing to do with food, but if you’re in Portsmouth with children, don’t miss Water Country. This water park is a fun place to spend a summer day cooling off with your family. We spent my son’s birthday here, and we had a wonderful day. The weather was beautiful despite rain in the forecast, so the lines were short. They have dozens of waterslides and activities, ranging from mild to very fast. Our favorite slides were “Thunder Falls” and “Wild Canyon,” where all four of us were able to shoot down the slide in one big tube together.
I’d love to hear additional suggestions for where to eat and what to do in Portsmouth, so please leave them in the comments!