After Congress Street meets Middle Street heading away from downtown Portsmouth, it becomes Islington, and veers slightly off the beaten path. But it’s worth exploring those extra few blocks to discover The Kitchen.
Open since May 2011, The Kitchen occupies the former Celebrity Sandwich space. Like that eatery, The Kitchen is a relaxed, casual, and visually interesting space, but that is where their similarities end. “If you compare us to any past or existing deli or sandwich shop, you don’t understand what we are doing here,” says Matt Greco, who co-owns the eatery with Michael Prete. “We grew up in the deli meccas of southern Connecticut and New Jersey, both near New York City. That cultural background plus our global cooking experiences amount to this menu.” The menu he’s referring to includes breakfast, lunch, and early supper and reflects an international influence.
The breakfast menu features an extensive list of unique plates and quick takeaways to start the day. Migas Taco is a Tex-Mex breakfast of scrambled eggs, Cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, beans, pickled red onions, and crispy corn tortilla strips. Breakfast Burritos please every preference from the Plain Jane (eggs, Cheddar, and potato) to the complex and hearty Black Bean Burrito. The substantial fresh fruit-filled Stuffed Brioche French Toast comes with lemon-thyme butter and maple-rum syrup. Meat lovers may celebrate the morning with Three Little Pigs, bacon-wrapped sausages, two eggs, home fries, and toast, with a side of sausage gravy. Try the unusual Heffur and Juevos: two scrambled eggs accompanied by parsley salad and roasted marrow bones, served with crostinis.
Greco and Prete reveal their extensive and expansive experience in their afternoon menu as well. With the exception of the sandwich bread sourced from a local bakery, these two chefs make everything from scratch with flair and creativity. Sandwiches reflect a world of flavors, like Vietnamese Bahn Mi, French bread topped with chicken liver pate, pulled pork, and marinated carrots. The Italian Tuna is filled with artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, olive oil-cured tuna, and lemon. Curry Turkey hints at Madras cuisine with curried mayonnaise moistening roasted turkey, cucumbers, and cilantro. The sub-style Po Boy has mounds of crispy fried Maine shrimp with Creole spices and roasted red pepper mayonnaise.
Hefty burgers are made with 80 percent lean Angus beef (plus a veggie Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burger), and several varieties of Hot Dawgs come with toppings like baked beans or sauerkraut. Not to miss is the Bolognese Sauce, available on both an individual Grilled Flat Bread Pizza or bucatini pasta. Greco’s super secret recipe includes beef, veal, and pork, with a persistent orange background from Grand Marnier and orange zest.
Salads include Classic Cobb, Caesar with optional chicken or steak additions, and the elegant Rocket Salad: Bitter baby arugula, tangy goat cheese, mild pine nuts, and seasonal fruit tossed with balsamic-agave reduction vinaigrette. For sides, try Spudsters., This upscale twist on Tater Tots is a fun and indulgent side dish any time of day: fried quenelles of mashed potatoes dredged in your choice of seasonings (BBQ, Garlic & Parm, Creole, Salt & Pepper) and served with exceptional dipping sauces like Truffle Ketchup and Smoked Paprika Aioli.
The Kitchen’s house-made ice creams are a sweet way to get a final portion of vegetables into your daily diet. Green Bliss is a playful combination of kale, banana, and agave. Butternut Squash Ice Cream combines with baked apple Indian Pudding as a dessert special. Other desserts include cookies and mini cupcakes.