Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Portsmouth, New Hampshire - A Private Tour

It's not every day I write a blog post for one person. In fact, it seems completely weird and un-blog-like to do so. But my super-mega-girl-crush Geraldine Fishkin might be coming to town, and if she does I want to be sure she has a great time. And if other people benefit from this post, that's great too!

A note for everyone else: As most creative professionals in the seacoast area know, SEOMoz is coming to Portsmouth, New Hampshire this week. While all of my co-workers are flipping out about Rand Fishkin, the company's CEO who is coming to speak, I am way more excited to meet his wife Geraldine. (Rand Fishkin trivia for the nerds: he and I were born in the same year and in the same small farm town in NJ.) Geraldine will be tagging along on the trip, touring the area and most likely writing some funny tweets and insightfully hilarious blog posts (which is why I love her so much in the first place). I've been reading her blog for ages and I've become a little obsessed. Not in a scary, Single White Female way, but in a "she's so totally relatable, we have so much in common and I totally want to be her friend" kind of way. I'm sure she gets this a lot.

To stand out from the crowd of other potential BFFs, I've decided to add some value by putting together a list of my most favorite spots in Portsmouth as a sort of private tour of public places (in no particular order). You'll notice they're almost exclusively food related. I didn't think you'd mind.

The most fun you'll have eating breakfast in Portsmouth is at the Friendly Toast. The service can be questionable (i.e., you'll have something to blog about for WTF Wednesday, probably), but the menu is interesting, the food is great, portions are HUGE, and the atmosphere is truly unique. Unless you've been to the Cambridge location of the Friendly Toast, in which case you should skip it and head to Colby's on Daniel Street instead.

For good coffee, you really have two local options. If quality coffee (and traditional German pastries and strudel) are what you seek, try Kaffee Vonsolln on Daniel Street. If you aren't particular about the coffee or in the mood for baked goods but want a great people-watching experience, head to Breaking New Grounds in the middle of town in Market Square.
Kaffee Vonsolln Streusel & Mocha
If you're looking for delicious, made-from-scratch baked goods or a delicious, healthy and hearty lunch, stop in at Ceres Bakery. In business for more than 30 years, you will not find food this lovingly prepared anywhere else in town. Bring cash.

For great, locally brewed beer, don't miss the Portsmouth Brewery. They always have several of their own brews on tap, as well as a few Smuttynose options (their sister brewery) and usually a guest tap. If you're looking for a small snack to accompany your beer, ask for a side order of pretzel rolls. They aren't on the menu, but they're the best beer side imaginable. Also, this establishment is home to the most awkward restroom in town.

Portsmouth loves oversized sculptural signage
Now Geraldine, I know how you feel about ice cream. Which is why I'm going to point you in the right direction so you don't get swept up in all the Market Square hype of the new Kilwin's (a chain) or some other random frozen yogurt or gelato shop (there are too many to count). Go to Annabelle's for ice cream. A Portsmouth staple for 30 years, this is a scoop shop not to be missed. In fact, let me know if you're going. I'll buy you a cone.
More huge, literal food signage
My absolute favorite restaurant in town is The Black Trumpet – I've never had a bad meal (or even a bad dish) at this wonderful establishment. They use a lot of local ingredients in really interesting ways. My favorite spot within The Black Trumpet is on the 2nd level (a bit more casual than the downstairs dining, the wine bar upstairs is cozy and offers terrific views of the harbor).

You'll probably need something to do between all these meals, so I'd recommend supporting some of Portsmouth's locally-owned small businesses. My favorite shop in town is Gus & Ruby Letterpress filled with heaps of amazing greeting cards for all occasions, beautiful wall hangings, gifts, candles, bags, notecards, books and window displays that will stop you in your tracks. Not to mention the bunch of helpful, lovely ladies who work there. Full disclosure: this shop carries my handmade pet tags and I'm good friends with the owners, so I might be a little bit biased.

Odd Showroom is another favorite of mine and features the work of the very talented proprietress Amity Joy. She has filled her store wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with almost exclusively her own creations, plus some great vintage items. Knit apparel, hats, gloves and scarves, re-imagined vintage clothing, paintings, handbags, jewelry, kick-ass boots – this woman does it all and does it well.

If you have lots of time, I'd highly recommend heading over to the Strawbery Banke Museum, which is less museum and more time machine. The museum houses an entire neighborhood from the past, and you can tour individual homes and shops to learn about the community throughout history, dating all the way back to the 17th century.

And if you find yourself tempted to cross the bridge into my home state of Maine, I strongly recommend a meal (or even just a drink) at the Black Birch in downtown Kittery, which is attached to the occasionally-open art gallery Buoy and housed in an old post office. Fantastic beer list, cozy atmosphere, great bar – they even play vinyl while you dine.

Look, I've even created a map for you! It's so easy! Let me know where we should meet. :)

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