Miles of sandy beach bordering the Ocean Boulevard strip of restaurants, candy shops, arcades, and gift shops have made Hampton (and neighboring North Hampton) one of New Hampshire’s popular tourist destinations. This quintessential New England town also boasts bold eats, innovative menus, and entrepreneurial endeavors. Just a few miles inland, Lafayette Road is bustling with some of the best breakfast, lunch, and dinner spots that combine fresh ingredients with creative culinary skills, resulting in dishes that you’ll come back for time and again.
The 401 Tavern
401 Lafayette Road, 603-926-8800
No matter the day you hit The 401 Tavern, you'll find something special to offer. Under new ownership with former owner Dan “Desi” Lanio in a managerial role, new owners Noah Goldstein, Ryan Cox and Bradley Atkinson have no plans to make changes to the 401′s recipes or brand. Every day of the week boasts a different theme—like Turkey Dinner on Sundays with all the fixings, dollar oysters on Wednesdays. On Throwback Thursdays, Chef Aaron Duvall and his staff go through old menus from Lanio’s time at the former La Bec Rouge in Hampton and pick something to serve at the price it was years ago. Standard offerings are great, too—you can’t go wrong with one of the classics, like any of the burgers, the 401 Wings or Chicken Tenders (featuring flavors like Ragin’ Honey Garlic, Jamaican Jerk, and Thai Peanut), and the Mac and Cheese. To keep up with the times, 401 is also offering more items for patrons with dietary restrictions, like gluten-free dishes (try the Zucchini Linguini) or the Black Bean Burger with a wheat-free bun. Whether you’re in for lunch or dinner, summer or winter, there’s a perfect place to settle in and stay a while. From the original tavern space, to the upstairs wine loft, outside deck, and picnic area, you’ve got options.
325 Lafayette Road, 603-926-6152
Family owned and going strong since 1970, Galley Hatch serves up American cuisine with Mediterranean influences. The restaurant was opened by the late Mike and Kay Tinios, and is now run by their son, John Tinios, who’s making sure guests get a taste of cuisines from all over the world. “My parents were Greek. They grew up in Italian, Irish, Greek, and Jewish neighborhoods,” he says. “Our specials have evolved to the different tastes that people have acquired from the many generations of immigrants that are cooking Spanish to Thai to Indian.” When it comes to seafood, there’s a smorgasbord—haddock, fresh Maine lobster, fried whole belly clams, scallops, shrimp, and more. On a cold winter night, Galley Hatch also has all the comfort food you’d need—like caramelized Onion Soup, Chili, Clam Chowder, and a variety of hearty pasta dishes like Maine Lobster Mac and Cheese and Jessica’s Chicken Romano served over linguine seasoned with lemon and chardonnay. Tinios also redesigns the space every few years to adapt to the industry’s trends. Five years ago, he transformed the lobby into Kay’s Café to provide fresh pastries and breakfast every morning. And four years ago, on the top floor, he opened Tinos Kitchen & Bar, offering more of a fine-dining experience, and a place for patrons to relax with a view on the four-season deck.
816 Lafayette Road, 603-926-4343
Whether you’re looking for a quality family meal, or a place to sit down and watch one of New England’s sports teams on the big screen, Logan’s Run is the place to go. Owner Scott Logan used to bartend at the restaurant when it was O’Leary’s Grille, and years later, after taking ownership of the spot in 2013, transformed its look and feel. The local favorite now has two distinct areas for guests: a casual dining room and a sports lounge. “To actually see the dining room take off and have regulars coming for the food has been really great to watch progress,” Logan says. “People rave about the food.” Food runs on the comfort side, like Country Fried Chicken and Shepherd’s Pie. The menu changes with the season, with more seafood options offered in the summer and comfort foods like meatloaf appearing in the fall, and there are daily specials. Thursdays are trivia and Prime Rib day, and on Fridays, head in for live music featuring local talent from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine. A staple menu item, the Buffalo Tenders, made with the restaurant’s signature hot honey sauce, is the most popular appetizer, and is the perfect game-day food. Other options include pizza, burgers, salads, and a kid’s menu.
The Community Oven
845 Lafayette Road, 603-601-6311
If pizza is on your agenda, look no further than the Community Oven, where owner Shane Pine has mastered the recipe for the perfect brick-oven pie. Pine started his career in the hospitality and restaurant business over two decades ago. He worked his way up the ranks from prep cook to general manager before deciding to take the leap and open a contemporary family friendly restaurant, with a goal to keep it simple and fun while adding something unique to the dining experience. Whether you’re in for lunch or dinner, start with The Oven’s Signature Grilled Chicken Wings. They’re first smoked in the pizza oven for four hours, then grilled over an open flame. Go for the Cajun Dry-Rub, the most popular flavor, or keep it classic with the Blazing Buffalo. Any of the pizzas on the menu will be sure to satisfy, but the pepperoni is exceptional, made with all meat and no fillers, layered over the cheese in three-inch-diameter slices. The Big Oven is also popular: Angus ground beef, tomatoes, red onions, bacon, and cheese, all topped with shredded lettuce and Thousand Island dressing. Pair any of your selections with one of 16 local brews on tap.
The Copper Lantern
54 Lafayette Road, 603-964-5008
Start the day off right with a stop at the Copper Lantern, owned by Linda and Alan Polansky. Grab a muffin or doughnut (popular flavors include apple cider and honey dew). If you want something more substantial, try the battered French Toast made with one of the eight homemade breads. On the egg side of things, the classic Eggs Benedict is a staple. The filling O’Lantern is a grilled biscuit topped with an egg, bacon, and cheese, accompanied by a side of home fries. Lunch means House-Made French Onion Soup or New England Clam Chowder, sandwiches like a B.L.T. Lobster Roll, or Monte Cristo (with turkey, ham, and cheese). There’s a rotating list of specials to choose from if you’re in the mood for something different. The Polanskys have kept the Copper Lantern a local favorite since 1979. They used to be open through dinner, but now focus on the morning and midday meals. Regulars mourned the loss of prime rib and turkey dinners and the larger array of seafood, but have since found comfort in the sweetness of the revised menu. “They’re getting over it,” laughs Linda. “They’re coming here for breakfast now.” And taking home goodies like the breads and pies.
Al’s Seafood Restaurant and Market
51 Lafayette Road, 603-964-9591
Al’s offers the freshest seafood to its patrons. Think daily caught lobsters, homemade Clam Chowder and Fish Chowder, and hand-peeled and cooked Shrimp Cocktail—a practice founder Al Courchene started when he first opened the business, to enhance the flavor of the shrimp. When current owners Debra Boutot and Bret Taylor bought the business following Courchene’s retirement in 2007, they continued the tradition. Taylor also owns Taylor Lobster in Maine, allowing him to seamlessly bring the most local seafood to Al’s year round. Taylor and Boutot have revamped some of Al’s menu items and renovated the building, but the concept and quality remain the same. Order your food at the counter, take a seat in the rustic dining room, and a server will run your meal over when it’s ready. “I think that’s been a popular concept for us,” Taylor says, of the in-between take-out and sit-down restaurant style. “It’s something in the middle—it gives us a little more casual feel.” Try Al’s Lobster Pie, the Lazy Man Lobster (meat topped with butter) or any of the fried dishes, like clams, scallops, oysters, and fish. There are also daily specials that feature seasonal seafood. Not in the mood for dining out? Stop by the attached market to pick up locally caught shellfish.