Date night. The famous, clichéd, date night. You may get an eye roll from your single, bitter friend when plans for a date night with your honey comes up in conversation, but let’s face it, date nights are lovely. However, we are creatures of habit and sometimes find ourselves hitting the same spot and menu items time and time again. If this is you, read on. If this is not you, because you’re single, read on. Grab your best bud and treat yourself.
1. The Black Birch: Kittery, ME (American Gastropub)
If you haven’t made it over to the Black Birch yet, you’re missing out. This cozy place has it all. No reservations mean you’ll probably have some time to kill after putting your name in. No problem. Grab a drink at the bar (the cocktails are killer) and sneak through the back hallway to the adjacent art gallery. The wait will be worth it; the ambiance, food, and drink make this place a home run for date nights. The lighting is low and the acoustics are perfect – you hear your partner, but not your neighbors over the chatter and tunes bumping from the record player. On top of this, the wait staff is first-rate; these folks are well-oiled machines. Food? Oh yeah, we were talking about a restaurant. The menu changes with the season and is teeming with creative plates of varying sizes. It’s a perfect place to pick a few courses to split. Your mouth has never been happier.
2. Anju Noodle Bar: Kittery, ME (Asian Fusion)
Anju is another restaurant with no reservations, but don’t you worry. The Wallingford Dram is right next door. You’ll be glad you have a wait, and may even wish it was longer. Ramen – and cold winter days – may be the first food that comes to mind when you think of a noodle bar, but don’t let this deter you in the warmer months. Anju’s ever-changing menu has something for everyone (yes you, vegans and vegetarians!), at any time of the year. This might sound silly, but their green salad is bomb. Combine it with some wings or a bun and you’ve got yourself an excellent spread.
3. Jumpin’ Jays: Portsmouth, NH (Seafood)
Jumpin’ Jays may not be as trendy as it once was, but it’s straight up solid. They easily have the greatest fish selection of any Portsmouth restaurant. Pro tip: make a reservation for a Tuesday night. Why? Tuesday night is “Buck a Shuck”, also known as $1 oyster night. And, unlike neighboring restaurants, it goes all night. Combine this with happy hour at Maison Navarre across the street for high-end French wine and appetizer deals. À votre santé!
4. The Wilder: Portsmouth, NH (American Gastropub)
The Wilder is a one-stop shop. The food and drinks are on point; there’s no need to ever leave. Seriously, just camp out until Sunday brunch. This place is owned by Julian Armstrong and Michael Pazdon of Anju and Wallingford Dram, so it’s no surprise they’ve crushed it again. Have you ever had a frozen painkiller? Head over on a Tuesday for Tiki Tuesday and you can. On Tuesdays, they churn out a special tiki inspired menu with a handful of tropical drinks and bites. Say bye to the work day and aloha to a chill night out.
5. Loco Coco’s Tacos: Kittery, ME (Mexican)
Looking for a more casual (and inexpensive) night out? Call in a takeout order to Loco Coco’s Tacos in Kittery. This Mexican food is just how to should be: simple and fresh. Swing in, grab your burritos – and maybe a margarita if it’s not quite done – and head over to Seapoint beach. Build a fire, pop open a bottle of wine, and kick back on a blanket. Beware: this beach allows dogs in the evening hours so you can count on a handful of happy pups getting in their daily steps.
6. The Oak House: Newmarket, NH (American Pub)
The Oak House has become a go-to spot for my partner and I. Their menu has a wide range of salads, sandwiches, burgers, and entrees and it’s all great and relatively inexpensive. They also put in an admirable effort to always have a handful of vegan and vegetarian options. If burgers are your vice, swing by on a Monday for Burger Monday. All burgers are half off…how can you go wrong? If you make it before 6:00pm, you’ll be just in time for happy hours deals: $1 off drafts (they have one of the best locally sourced draft lists) and $6 appetizers. Hurry!
7. Chauncey Creek: Kittery, ME (Seafood)
Looking for some time on the water? Hop in a boat or kayak and cruise over to Chauncey Creek. This seasonal hot-spot is the perfect oasis on a beautiful summer night. You’ll sit in the fresh air at picnic tables and indulge in the seacoast’s pride and joy: lobster. Sure, lobster isn’t the cheapest bug-like creature, but you can balance it by bringing your own…well, almost anything. At Chauncey Creek, you can bring anything that they don’t sell. This means beer, wine, salads, birthday cake – you name it. Pack a cooler and camp out.