The 9 Portsmouth, NH Restaurants Locals Truly Love

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If you’re looking for the best Portsmouth, NH restaurants, have I got the guide for you! Portsmouth is a tiny city stuffed with eateries — it has more restaurant seats (recently calculated at over 30,000) than actual residents (just under 22,000 people).

I’ve lived in the Seacoast area for over a decade, and I don’t miss the food scene in bigger cities. Most of my dining needs can be satisfied right in Portsmouth, the City of the Open Door (and the Full Stomach).

Settled nearly four hundred years ago by European colonists and fishermen, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, attracts many visitors looking for a taste of history amid its charming streets. People who come here quickly discover Portsmouth is also a first-rate place to eat… not just in New Hampshire, but all of New England. 

Portsmouth has a reputation for being an expensive place to eat and shop – not to mention living – and that reputation is well deserved. But the best restaurants in Portsmouth include not just high-end bistros, but also affordable diners and self-professed eateries and joints.

I’ve also made an attempt to select restaurants that fill different niches (e.g., Cava and Cure are also well-regarded but overlap with Black Trumpet’s cuisine) and that are found both in the walkable downtown area radiating from Market Square and as part of the growing food and arts scene in the West End, along Islington Street.

Here are nine restaurants in Portsmouth, NH to check out when you visit!

An ivy-covered building with a sign reading Ceres Street Bakery and a flag of rainbow-colored ribbons.
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Best Restaurants in Portsmouth, NH

Where are the best places to eat in Portsmouth? We’ve got the list for you.

Whether you’re looking for a special occasion restaurant or a casual eatery, whether you’re traveling with kids or on your own, whether you’re vegan or gluten-free or an omnivore — you’ll be spoiled for choice in Portsmouth.

What’s the best restaurant in Portsmouth, NH?

Everyone has a different opinion, but I think the Black Trumpet is the best restaurant in Portsmouth. I’ll throw a vote in for Botanica, too.

What Portsmouth, NH, restaurants are good for vegans and vegetarians?

If you’re looking for a good vegetarian or vegan restaurant in Portsmouth, the Green Elephant and Durbar Square both have plenty of plant-based options.

What’s Portsmouth, NH restaurants are good for kids?

If you need a family-friendly restaurant in Portsmouth, the Roundabout Diner is great for kids of all ages.

What’s a good gluten-free restaurant in Portsmouth, NH?

If you’re a celiac following a gluten-free diet, there are numerous gluten-free options at The Kitchen, Durbar Square, and the Green Elephant.

The Black Trumpet restaurant: a red brick building with a yellow door and the words Bistro, Wine Bar on a sign.
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Black Trumpet

29 Ceres St., Portsmouth, NH // 603-431-0887

Good for date night, good for locavores.

Black Trumpet, Portsmouth, in a nutshell: A Mediterranean- and Latin-influenced restaurant devoted to seasonal and locally sourced cuisine, perfect for a fancy night out.

If you’re looking to impress a date or a hardcore foodie friend, Black Trumpet is absolutely the place to go.

Founded in 2007 by chef Evan Mallett and his wife Denise, Black Trumpet is focused on blending local food sources with Latin and Mediterranean flavors. Both Mallett and the restaurant itself have been semi-finalists for the prestigious James Beard awards.

You’ll find Black Trumpet on low-slung Ceres Street, along the harbor. It’s a cozy, intimate space with ancient wooden ceiling beams overhead and weathered brick walls echoing the exterior of the bistro.

The menu is ever-changing, reflecting the availability of local ingredients during each season. This could include sautéed squid flavored with pickled local ginger and farro risotto with local mushrooms, or crispy confit duck cake and a local dayboat fish served with roasted fennel salad. Desserts include tortes, brownie pudding, and even olive oil cake.

Also be sure to check out Chef Evan’s book, Black Trumpet: A Chef’s Journey Through Eight New England Seasons, for more insight into the local food movement.

A cocktail with a purple liquid in a wine glass full of ice.

Botanica

110 Brewery Ln., Suite 105, Portsmouth, NH // 603-373-0979

Good for date night, good for cocktails.

Botanica, Portsmouth, in a nutshell: A high-end French restaurant and gin specialist tucked away in the West End that’s great for dates and cocktail nights.

Tucked into a former mill building in the Frank Jones Brew Yard in the West End, you’ll find the high-end restaurant and gin bar Botanica. The flowery wallpaper and cozy booths will immediately transport you from the industrial setting outside to a Parisian brasserie on the inside.

When my wife and I went here with friends, we were excited to try not just the French-inspired food, but also the gin concoctions that Botanica specializes in. You’ll find cocktails mixed with gins from both near (e.g., Wiggly Bridge Distillery in nearby York, Maine) and far (Monkey 47 from Germany). My friend got a G&T (the Empress) that changed color from deep purple to pink when the tonic was added.

The menu at Botanica changes with the seasons. Depending on when you go, you might find spinach and chickpea pasta with rabbit, roasted cod with sauce verte, or a parmesan risotto. I highly enjoyed a cassoulet containing lamb shank, duck confit, and Toulouse sausage, while a friend savored the coq au vin with mushrooms and carrots.

I also highly recommend their desserts. Don’t miss out on the chocolate torte if it’s available. The buttermilk panna cotta also sounds amazing…wait, now I have to go back!

A chicken curry next to a pile of puffed white rice.

Durbar Square

10 Market St., Portsmouth, NH // 603-294-0107

Good for gluten-free, good for vegans.

Durbar Square, Portsmouth, in a nutshell: A little slice of Nepal right in Market Square with steamed dumplings, spiced meats, curries, and chilies for everyone to enjoy.

After my friends raved about this place, I knew it was past time to visit Durbar Square. Named for the three “royal squares” in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal, this Himalayan and Nepali restaurant can be found in Portsmouth’s own royal real estate: Market Square.

Walking in for lunch one day, I head upstairs to the second-floor dining area, decorated with photos and illustrations of Nepal, as well as statues and busts of Ganesha and other Hindu figures. Nepalese t-shirts and rudraksha prayer beads are for sale if you want to feel even more immersed in this little slice of a culture half a world away. 

I order the wild boar version of Durbar Square’s popular steamed dumplings known as momos, which are served with a chili sauce. The momos pair perfectly with a plate of chicken chhoila, a spiced meat dish served with dry, puffed rice (be sure to mix the rice and the chicken together). You’ll be asked about the heat level you prefer for your chhoila. I chose 5 out of 10 for a nice spicy flavor that isn’t overwhelming.

Beyond these appetizers are a world of Himalayan and Nepali dishes to explore, highlighted by chilies (twelve different protein options, including vegan) and Tarkari curries (again a dozen to choose from, with vegan-friendly options). Many of the dishes are gluten-free. I’ll be climbing those stairs again soon to try more of what Durbar Square has to offer.

A vegetarian dish with lots of noodles, carrots and cabbage.

Green Elephant

35 Portwalk Place, Portsmouth, NH // 603-427-8344

Good for vegetarians and vegans, good for gluten free.

Green Elephant, Portsmouth, in a nutshell: A pan-Asian haven for vegetarians and vegans in Portwalk Place with noodle dishes, soups, and stir-frys that will charm even habitual carnivores.

I’m a certified meat eater (would you like to see my membership card?). So I had my doubts when Green Elephant, a vegetarian and vegan haven, opened as a cornerstone business in the rather sanitized Portwalk Place development several years ago. Would I find anything there I would like?

Then I actually went to Green Elephant and tried the fragrant coconut and tofu soup, and their signature pad thai, and I realized the true depths of my ignorance. You don’t need meat to have a good time — everyone should stampede over here for tasty pan-Asian food, period.

An offshoot of the original Green Elephant in Portland, Maine, the bistro offers a fully vegetarian menu, with clearly-marked dishes that are also vegan (no products derived from animals, period) and/or gluten-free. There are curries and stir-fries to choose from, as well as other noodle dishes and soups besides the ones that enchanted me.

The interior is modern but warm, with plenty of brick and wood offsetting the avant-garde touches among the décor (like the squash-shaped lights hanging over the bar). Green Elephant is a great place to meet with friends or take a date with food restrictions.

A sandwich with pulled pork and melted cheese next to a pickle and a pile of coleslaw.

The Kitchen

171 Islington St., Portsmouth, NH // 603-319-8630

Good for lunch, good for gluten-free.

The Kitchen, Portsmouth, in a nutshell: An upscale eatery specializing in sandwiches and salads with more to offer than the typical hoagie or sub.

The Kitchen, a refined sandwich and salad café that also offers catering, is a short walk down Islington Street from downtown Portsmouth. It’s open for both lunch and dinner hours, but lunchtime is when The Kitchen gets busy.

On a pleasant, early summer afternoon, I take a seat at an outside table in the tiny side patio; the effect is charmingly like dining in someone’s backyard. I pour a Maine-made Capt’n Eli’s root beer to wash down my incredible short-rib grilled cheese sandwich, spread with smoked paprika aioli and hot pepper relish for an extra kick. The Kitchen is where to go for a touch of upscale to your sandwich.

Other sandwiches include the excellent Italiano Sub and Meatball Diavolo, and several reubens. You can also opt for a salad, burger, limited selection of pasta, or the fancy mashed-potato cones known here as spudsters.

Anything on the menu can be prepared with gluten-free bread or pasta, with a small extra charge. Kids under ten have their own menu. Oh, and unlike most other sandwich specialists in town, here you can get a local beer or craft cocktail to go with your lunch — recommended especially when you’re basking in the sun on the patio.

Lexie’s Joint

212 Islington St., Portsmouth, NH // 603-815-4181

Good for lunch, good for gluten-free.

Lexie’s Joint, Portsmouth, in a Nutshell: A friendly place for creative burgers, fries, and milkshakes with an ever-rotating list of specials and options for non-beef-eaters too.

There are several Lexie’s Joint locations on New Hampshire’s Seacoast, but we’re headed to where the dream of peace, love, and burgers first began. The flagship Lexie’s is squeezed into a squat, unassuming storefront on Islington Street, sharing real estate with a car repair shop.

My favorite thing about Lexie’s is that you never know what kind of wild burger special will be available on any given day. And let’s not forget about the creative fries specials and milkshake specials too!

Just this week the burgers have ranged from “Mr. Swisster” (Swiss cheese and fried tomato) to the “Leaf Peeper” (muenster, pepperoncini, and bacon) to the “Marmaduke” (bleu cheese, horseradish, sweet pickled onions). The fries might be “Cowboy Like Me” (shredded cheddar, chimichurri, BBQ) or “Spicy Bistro” (parmesan, sriracha aioli, bacon, jalapenos, herbs).

And… sorry, but I can’t even get into the milkshake descriptions without salivating like Pavlov’s dog. I’m having to restrain myself from driving down there right now, and it’s not even lunchtime.

Beef evaders (hey, that should be a band name) can choose from “cluck” or “beanie” (chicken or black bean) burgers. Gluten-free buns are available; just check to make sure the sauce is gluten-free, too.

Dine in or take out, that’s your choice. But if you pick the latter, you might miss out on Lexie’s tiny, perfect chocolate chip cookies, which are sometimes reserved for dine-in patrons only.

A banh mi sandwich on a baguette with meat, pickled carrots, and lots of fresh herbs.

Nikki’s Bánh Mi

697 Islington St. // 603-431-5445

Good for takeout.

Nikki’s Bánh Mi, Portsmouth, in a Nutshell: A gem literally hidden within Darleen’s Sub & Pizza serving up the fresh Vietnamese sandwiches of your dreams.

So this can be a little confusing: Nikki’s Bánh Mi coexists within the same space as a subs and pizza place called Darleen’s. It’s unclear whether one owns the other, or whether we’re experiencing a thin spot between parallel dimensions.

Regardless, just as light exists as both a particle and a wave, this small storefront on Islington is both Nikki’s and Darleen’s, in branding and menu content. You can get subs or pizza basically anywhere, but a great bánh mi is harder to find, and that’s what we’re here for.

This style of sandwich became popular in Vietnam in the 1950s, following a period of French colonization that introduced the baguette to the country. Nikki’s bánh mi comes on tasty French bread, with marinated meat complemented by pickled carrots and daikon (a winter radish), mayonnaise, cilantro, and wafer-thin-sliced cucumber.

On a recent weekday, I stop in and order two varieties of bánh mi: the Korean BBQ beef, and the lemongrass pork. I’m getting them to go for sharing with my wife at home. Most orders are takeout at Nikki’s/Darleen’s, since there isn’t much room to sit. Call ahead so your order will be ready when you get there. You can find a variety of other Asian dishes at Nikki’s Bánh Mi, too.

A red brick building with a sign reading "Ristorante Massimo."

Ristorante Massimo

59 Penhallow Street // 603-436-4000

Good for date night, good wine list.

Ristorante Massimo, Portsmouth, in a nutshell: An intimate Italian restaurant for a romantic dinner or special occasion with a classic menu and award-winning wine list.

Ristorante Massimo boasts the title of “Most Romantic Restaurant” according to everyone from Phantom Gourmet to Bon Appétit magazine. So, leave the rugrats with a sitter and take your significant other out for some world-class Italian food.

An indispensable part of the Portsmouth dining scene for almost thirty years, Ristorante Massimo can be easy to miss when you’re walking downtown. The entrance to this subterranean space is at the corner of Penhallow and the glorified alleyway Custom House Lane. A ground-level, more casual addition called Upstairs at Massimo’s opened a few years ago, but we’re headed underground for the full tux experience.

It’s hard to describe the special feeling you get heading down those stairs, as if you’re entering some private club to hang out with the shades of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Fieldstone and brick walls surround the old-fashioned chandeliers and white-linen tablecloths. Heavy curtains shield diners from the view of tourists’ sneakers passing by.

Enjoy a bucatini all’amatriciana or a Milanese-style chicken breast (or better yet, both) with an Italian or Californian wine — Ristorante Massimo has received an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator eight times, so you know you’re in good hands.

Ristorante Massimo is open for dinner only. Consider making a reservation if you’re planning to visit on a popular night.

a breakfast sandwich that looks like French toast with eggs, bacon, melted cheese, next to a pile of home fries and syrup.

The Roundabout Diner

580 US 1 Bypass // 603-431-1440

Good for families, good for lunch.

The Roundabout Diner, Portsmouth, in a nutshell: A family-friendly, old-school diner with an extensive menu, including breakfast served all day, that will have you circling back for more.

The Roundabout Diner, found on the Portsmouth Traffic Circle in the shadow of a Holiday Inn, will always hold a special place in my heart.

My wife and I got married in our living room on April Fool’s Day one year, with only a notary public and a few close relatives in attendance. Then Jane and I went out with the fam to the Roundabout to celebrate in a similarly lighthearted and unpretentious fashion.

Our first meal as husband and wife consisted of the Roundabout’s signature turkey dinner (Jane’s favorite) and a fabulous Monte Cristo on thick-cut sourdough (oh, baby!). It wasn’t the first time we celebrated a special occasion at the Roundabout with family and friends, nor would it be the last. Every time a relative comes into town, the Roundabout is a likely destination for dinner.

There’s something for everyone at the Roundabout, so bring your kids, your grandma, your cantankerous uncle, and so forth. They have one of those classic diner menus you can get lost in, roughly the size of a Harry Potter novel, listing burgers and sandwiches, genre staples like chicken pot pie and turkey meatloaf, hefty salads, and of course a voluminous list of breakfast dishes that are available day or night. I’m partial to the gigantic club sandwiches, but you really can’t go wrong!

Note also that the Roundabout is also one of the best places in town for a milkshake (the other two are the BRGR BAR in Portwalk Place, and the aforementioned Lexie’s Joint).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this rundown of great places to eat in Portsmouth. There are so many other restaurants, cafés, and gastropubs I wish I had space to include here. Be sure to keep exploring the absolutely overstuffed Portsmouth food scene after you’ve tried these nine picks!

More on Portsmouth:

Our Favorite Things to Do in Portsmouth, NH

Where to Stay in Portsmouth: The Best Hotels

See all Portsmouth posts here.

Have you been to Portsmouth, NH? What’s your favorite Portsmouth restaurant?

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