After a day of communing with nature, working up a good sweat, bonding with fellow lovers of the outdoors (or all of the above), naturally one's thoughts turn to food and drink! But where to go? Never fear! I’m my relentless pursuit of information to help my fellow mountain hounds, I’ve prepared this list of restaurants in the White Mountains that are perfect for relaxing, dining and imbibing after a long day in the woods. The research was tough and the review process rigorous but the sacrifice was worth it.
The reasons why the upstairs lounge at the Common Man in Ashland (Exit 24 from I-93) is a favorite are obvious as soon as you climb the narrow spiral stairway to the second floor: comfy couches and chairs in place of the usual restaurant furniture, complimentary cheese, spreads and crackers, plus a blazing woodstove in the winter. This place invites relaxation. (Maybe too much so: I’ve fallen asleep in the chairs more than once!) The menu is simple and inexpensive (the veggie burger is excellent), the beer list is simple but they usually have their own good amber ale on draft, and you can order from the downstairs menu if you want to get fancy.
Note that the Common Man has an extensive chain of restaurants in NH. Many have upstairs lounges, but I much prefer the Ashland version (known as the Cut Above Lounge).
This spot is worth visiting just for the view of the Presidential Range. The alpenglow can be truly extraordinary. Located on Rt. 16 about a mile north of North Conway village, Moat Mountain offers a decent-size menu with an emphasis on barbecue, along with unique treats such as yam fries (a particular favorites of several of my friends). To wash it all down, try one of their excellent beers, brewed on the spot. I’m particularly fond of the pale ale and the brown ale.
Located in the Eastern Slope Inn in North Conway (conveniently across the street from IME), Flatbreads is part of a small chain started in Vermont. The menu is simple: a dozen or so unique variations of "flatbread" (pizza to the uninitiated) baked right in front of you in a wood-fired stone oven. The emphasis is on organic and/or local produce and the chain has a strong commitment to the community and the environment. The atmosphere is warm and inviting with a big fire (in addition to the flatbread oven), Buddhist prayer flags fluttering and menus featuring children's drawings.
If you're in the mood for Mexican, you could do much worse than this cute little place in Conway Village on Rt. 16. With colorful decor, lots of complimentary nachos and homemade salsa, and a good menu, this is a nice place to fire up the engines after a long day in the woods.
Another "cozy" place, the Wildcat Tavern is on Rt. 16A in Jackson Village (tum at the covered bridge on Rt. 16 in Jackson). It's a great place to visit after a day of cross-country skiing on Jackson's extensive trail system. There's a dining room featuring more expensive "country gourmet" cuisine but I've always headed to the tavern with its dark but warm interior and nice menu of "comfort foods."
This is a recent discovery, in a town I don’t pass through that often. This is strictly a lunch with great paninis and salads, plus a selection of their own amazing fresh baked goods. They’ve got a patio at the back with a beautiful view over the Ammonoosuc.
Whittier House (located right on Rt. 16 near the Rt. 25 intersection) is a perfect stop for folk heading south from Conway. It s a fairly standard place with its all-you-can-eat salad bar and classic American menu, but its extensive beer list sets it apart. With well over 100 beers on bottle and tap, you can sample to your heart's content (not forgetting, of course, that you have to drive home afterward). Just make sure you ask them for a glass at room temperature: they have a disconcerting habit of serving the beer too cold in frosted mugs.
This a favorite spot for groups to meet on their way to the trailhead in the western Whites. Located just off I-93 at Exit 20, the Tilt'n Diner is an institution (with, unfortunately, the line-ups that institutions often develop) featuring a classic diner menu. It’s also a part of the Common Man chain.
A classic breakfast stop located near the intersection of Rts. 112 and 3 in North Woodstock. Probably not on the American Heart Association's list of recommended meal choices but it'll fuel you up for the trail, path, river or mountain. And if you spend more than $10 here for everything and aren’t full, you may wish to consider dieting!
With one of the more extensive menus in the area (there’s something here for everyone), plus their own locally brewed (and excellent) beers, this is one of my all-time favorites. There’s a nice outdoor patio for warmer weather and several different dining areas inside the building (part of which is actually the old train station from the area), as well as a nice bar. Enjoy a Red Rack Ale here after a hike in Franconia Notch or along the Kanc.