Posted June 2, 2009 by Kate Hamman
Blink and you could possibly miss New Hampshire's coastline, and the city of Portsmouth right along with it. Take the time, however, and you'll find yourself in a New England coastal village perfect for a late-summer or early-fall stroll. This once-industrial city has a revamped downtown area that houses fashionable boutiques in old brick buildings, as well as funky and fresh cuisine alongside the staples of fried seafood.
Friendly Toast: The only word that comes to mind when describing this retro-funky-alternative-artsy diner is "wow." The ambiance here consists of one part obscure (spaceman bottle collection), one part bizarre (gigantic Kewpie doll), and a reasonable dose of color (crimson walls). Now it only makes sense that a place this eclectic would follow suit with its food, and that it does, but with the most delicious results. For example, the Orleans Fries—thin sweet potatoes sprinkled with brown sugar and Tabasco served with sour cream—are bits of deep-fried sweet and spicy for $8.25. Portions are massive across the menu, so visit when you're hungry.
Breaking New Grounds: When God invented coffee shops; Breaking New Grounds must have broken the mold. This is not your traditional, run-of-the-mill chain coffeehouse. People behind-the-counter feel like long-lost neighbors, the fresh pastries are flaky and fruit-filled, and the coffee is rich and thick. No one is rushing or pushing, and there are plenty of places to sit and contemplate life, either at one of the many tables inside or outdoors on the brick sidewalk. Espresso drinks are comparable to the pricey drinks at major chains, but well worth it for the peace of mind.
Gulliver's Travel Books & Maps: When it comes to travel, this little bookshop is your ticket to a trip around the world. Located down a side alley, it may be a little difficult to find. But once you descend the stairs, you'll be greeted with maps to almost anywhere in the world and will probably never get lost again. This basement of books is also filled with guides to, tales of, and advice on different destinations across the globe, so if you suffer from perpetual wanderlust, this is the place to get your fix. Books are priced accordingly, but browsing doesn't cost a thing.
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(Photo: Friendly Toast-Robert Jasper)