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Fall 2017 Restaurant Week Portsmouth & the Seacoast

The Barley House Restaurant and Tavern

Featured Restaurants by Diane Bair & Pamela Wright/Photos: Kindra Clineff / August, 2017

“Eat Better. Drink Better. Have More Fun.” That’s been the motto and the philosophy of the Barley House Restaurant and Tavern since it opened in Concord some 16 years ago. It’s been a winning formula; the convivial Concord restaurant consistently gets rave reviews and ratings. And now, with a second location in North Hampton, owner Brian Shea is bringing that same laid-back atmosphere and modern twist on comfort food to the Seacoast. “Think of us as a favorite old leather jacket,” Shea says. “Come in, let your shoulders down, and relax.”

The 156-seat restaurant, located in the Lafayette Crossing shopping plaza, has leather-back booths and wood tables circling a large bar; hand-hewn wood accents and mellow yellow walls add warmth. You can get in and out of here quickly, but why rush back to the office? Settle in and nibble on the complimentary pretzel sticks and creamy, house-made Hummus. Order a draft—there are some 20 beers on tap, including an impressive selection of local craft beers—or one of the custom-made cocktails. The Barley Margarita features smoky, spicy, jalapeno-infused mezcal, with Cointreau and fresh lime; the zesty Bloody Mary is spiked with a house-made mix that includes pickle juice, horseradish, and cayenne. Or, try the Bourbon Mai Tai, a twist on the classic Trader Vic’s Mai Tai, made with bourbon, fresh lime juice, and an almond-flavored simple syrup.

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While you’re enjoying drinks, munch on appetizers like the fried Brussels Sprouts, a crunchy, salty, tasty treat that even Brussels sprouts haters will love, tossed with house-cured bacon, walnuts, and Parmesan cheese. The accompanying garlic-lemon aioli for dipping adds to the decadence. The Blarney Puffs are a popular starter too—a potato dumpling mixed with cheddar cheese and scallions and deep fried. They’re perfectly fine on their own but even better dipped in the Guinness cheese sauce (the same creamy sauce is featured in the Mac n Cheese dish). Our favorite starter is the aptly-named Firecracker Shrimp, fiery, peppery shrimp served with a chipotle cocktail sauce.

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If you’re on a plant-based diet, you’ll find standbys like the simple but fresh Mixed Green Salad and the classic Barley House Caesar, which both get a lift from the addition of charred tomatoes. We like the Roasted Squash Salad, with butternut squash, green lentils, house-cured bacon, feta cheese, and red onion, tossed with a sweet potato vinaigrette. The heavy hitter under the salad category is the popular Mediterranean Chicken Salad, a plate of fresh greens topped with chickpeas, carrots, black olives, red onion, peppers, feta cheese, and grilled chicken.

While the menu covers most of the food groups, the best dishes are meat-forward. The gooey, decadent Mac n Cheese n Chicken, a top seller, gets depth and flavor with the addition of Guinness stout, topped with grilled chicken and a cracker crust (you can also order it minus the chicken). The flaky Chicken Pot Pie and the Guinness Beef Stew, a rich concoction with fork-tender braised brisket and vegetables infused with Irish stout, are the perfect dishes to satisfy stomach and soul on a cold afternoon.

There’s a decent selection of sandwiches including the Cuban Pork Sandwich, with braised pork belly and shoulder, smoky ham, and the requisite pickles and onions, stuffed between slices of chewy, crunchy French bread, and the straightforward (and tasty) Roasted Turkey and House-Smoked Mozzarella Sandwich, served on multigrain bread.

But we admit: it’s always tough to pass up a burger at this friendly, upscale tavern. They’re made with all-natural Angus beef (no hormones or antibiotics), freshly ground each day. The crave-worthy Dublin Burger is our go-to choice, a towering masterpiece of peppercorn charred beef, topped with whiskey gravy, tangy bleu cheese, and crispy onion strings. Plenty of diners favor the McBarley, with roasted onions, bacon, cheddar cheese, and Russian dressing, or the Bourbon Mushroom Burger, with bourbon glazed mushrooms and Swiss cheese. There’s also a coffee-rubbed Java Bison Burger, a Black Bean Burger, and a California Turkey Melt, featuring a ground turkey patty topped with an avocado puree and served on grilled sourdough bread.

By now, you may have decided to make lunch the biggest meal of the day. So go ahead and order dessert. The selection changes frequently, but recent favorites include a rich chocolate layer cake, a creamy, crusty crème brûlée, and an old-time, can’t-go-wrong brownie sundae. All are big enough to share. Order a hot drink to go with, and consider playing hooky the rest of the afternoon.

The Barley House Restaurant and Tavern
43 Lafayette Road
North Hampton, NH
603-379-9161

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