Portsmouth Restaurant Week

By Craig Hariman
On March 21, 2014

Students have recovered from beer week, which ended March 3, and they should be able to see straight again after St. Patrick's Day in time to make their way into Portsmouth for Restaurant Week April 3-12.

Restaurant Week Portsmouth and the Seacoast gathers participating restaurants in the area, all offering special three course meals at a set price for dinner, with some offering a lunch as well.

The set prices are a less expensive way to try some new fine dining options around town without racking up a three-figure tab. Prices are generally per person and do not include beverages, taxes or gratuity. 

Five participating restaurants are offering the three course menus for $16.95 during their regular lunch hours. 

Lunch is between 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Blue Mermaid Island Grill, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Vida Cantina. At Epoch lunch is from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., while it's 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Portsmouth Gas Light.

Somewhere between lunch and dinner is the wine bar menu at Rudi's. Instead of lunch they optioned for smaller portions and a drink instead of a full meal. This will also give some bang for your buck while still enjoying Rudi's atmosphere.

The dinner list is lengthier and includes 40 additional restaurants in Portsmouth and a few in the surrounding New Hampshire towns of Dover, Rye and Exeter, as well as the Maine towns of Kittery and York. 

At $29.95 per person, this is a great way to experience new culinary tastes you may normally be priced out of. Eating exciting food in an elegant atmosphere can make for a memorable night, even on a student budget.

This hasn't been a big attraction for students at UNH in the past. After several broad inquiries in classes and stopping random students on campus, is was evident that Restaurant Week was not on the UNH community's radar.

Are the prices still too high for a college budget? There are no special discounts for students beyond those already in place for the event.

"Unfortunately, the specific discount is the three course pre-fixed prices of $16.95 and $29.95 lunch or dinner for all Restaurant Week patrons," Alli Miller, the events and social media coordinator for the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, said.

"I mentioned wanting to do a student rate for New Hampshire and Seacoast students by presenting their college ID," Miller said. "However, this idea has been tabled for Spring 2014 [Restaurant Week] and will be discussed for future Restaurant Weeks."

It may not be the taste of the food for students as well. While it is an opportunity to explore different foods from an eclectic mix of cultures, people might run into some new, interesting flavors and textures they might not particular like.

"I am really picky eater and I have a rudimentary diet that I follow because I get really bad headaches and stomach cramps. In other words, I follow a vegan diet, plus I eat eggs, but I avoid most gluten," Annah Todd, a junior, said. "For me, going out is more about the person I'm with, the architecture of the building, or the city I am in." 

"Since Restaurant Week entails a pre-fixed menu, which always includes a ton of meat and cheese, I am definitely not jumping at the opportunity," Todd said. "If my significant other was dying to go somewhere, I would go, of course, but like I said, dining out is more about the experience for me rather than the food."

Whether making it a date night or hanging with friends, attendees can definitely make a night of it by adding a trip to The Music Hall in downtown Portsmouth. They are presenting the Singer Songwriter Festival during the same period. The full schedule and tickets can be seen on their website at http://www.themusichall.org/calendar/program/portsmouth_singer_songwriter_festival.

Reservations may be a better option during Restaurant Week, as deals at higher-end restaurants may draw larger crowds, especially for dinner. A few places actually require reservations, so check an individual establishment's policy.

Also, it may be wise to check each restaurant's hours because they vary from place to place.

The complete list of participating restaurants can be found at http://www.portsmouthchamber.org/restaurantweek.cfm/ along with each restaurant's description, hours and directions. For more information, check out Restaurant Week Portsmouth & the Seacoast on Facebook.

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