One of the biggest reasons we love being back in Western Massachusetts is that two of our favorite people live a couple hours up the road outside Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The entire area is quintessential New England and every time we visit our friends take us to cool places, like The White Barn Inn. We just got back from another trip and thought we’d share some food, drink, and merriment to be had up that way.

The “Thing” is one of 4 Ipswich Ale Tapmobiles. This 8-tap beauty is made from a 1965 Grumman Kurbside.

1. Spencer Peirce Little Farm

A calming and lovely spot to attend an event. They have regular games of Vintage Baseball and there’s other great happenings like The American Music and Harvest Festival coming up in late September. The line up of musicians includes amazing and under-appreciated Indie band The Accident That Led Me To The World. On top of it all most of these shindigs are accompanied by an Ipswich Brewery Tapmobile, restored vintage wheels re-purposed for the noble purpose of serving up great beer.

No Gloves? No Problem! Vintage wool uniforms and equipment in this "bare-knuckle boxing style" baseball league.
No Gloves? No Problem! Vintage wool uniforms and equipment in this “bare-knuckle boxing style” baseball league.

2. Hayseed Restaurant

A fab little brewpub on the Smuttynose Brewery compound. Instead of being directly attached to the brewery it’s got its own little house-like space and that makes for a cozy atmosphere. The food is far above many other breweries we’ve visited. There are lots of options for the vegans, veggies, and gluten-challenged in your party. Our last trip I had a Spring Stew that was packed full of vegetables and tofu in a coconut sauce that just happened to be gluten-free and vegan. The bar has two dozen taps that include the strange and wonderful Smuttlabs beers and a few cask-conditioned offerings to boot.

3. The Friendly Toast

A Portsmouth institution. There’s a location in Boston too that we’ve tried. The food there is good, but the whole experience is not nearly as much fun. At both location the portions are gigantic and the drinks are strong, but in Portsmouth the atmosphere is weird in the best of ways. It can feel a little hipstery at times (your waiter is sure to have tattoos, piercings, and/or Macklemore’s wardrobe), but they give good service and the food is consistently bodacious. Like Hayseed there are plenty of options for any dietary need. They serve all day, but this is the place for brunch baby! Prepare to wait for a table at prime hours.

4. Vida Cantina

The camera on my phone doesn't do this Pork Belly Confit Benedict justice.
The camera on my phone doesn’t do this Pork Belly Confit Benedict justice.

Our most recent discovery and another great choice for brunch. The cocktails here are inventive, numerous, strong, and expertly made. The Chupacabra was both our favorite with blanco tequila and agave atop fresh muddled chilis, cilantro, and lime. The whole concoction gets a vigorous shake for good measure. The food is great too. I had a Pork Belly Confit Eggs Benedict that was perfect and Molly had Chilaquiles which has 2 sunny side eggs, tortilla chips, Vida salsa, cotija, avocado, and crema. We already can’t wait to go back.

5. Breaking New Grounds

Coffee Break? If you’re in downtown Portsmouth there are several options, but this is my favorite. It’s a big space with plenty of tables inside and out. The baristas have their stuff together and even when there’s a line I’ve gotten my chai teas and lattes efficiently and expertly done. They roast the beans in-house and wherever they’re sourcing their dairy, thumbs up to the cows.

Woke up very early to get to Crane Beach to see the mythical Strandbeest, a retro-futuristic wind-powered robot by Theo Jansen
Woke up and got caffeinated very early to get to Crane Beach to see the mythical Strandbeest, a retro-futuristic wind-powered robot by Theo Jansen

If you’re spending some time in Boston or just live near there and want a lovely day trip, skip on up to the Portsmouth area!

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  1. I’m so jeal that Portsmouth has a beast by Theo Jansen. Please send one sauntering down the back roads to the Great Lakes State with snacks from Vida Cantina in hand for me! Maybe he could stop and see one of those vintage baseball games along the way.

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