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2023 in Seacoast NH and Maine Restaurants: Openings and Closings for Year

From new restaurants opening to old ones being revived, 2023 was another vibrant year for the dining scene in Seacoast New Hampshire and southern York County, Maine. Here’s a look back at the openings and closings that happened this year.

Cheese Louise opens in Portsmouth

On New Year’s Day, Portsmouth woke up to a new restaurant. The night before, on New Year’s Eve, Cheese Louise opened its doors on Congress Street. The artisan grilled cheese restaurant is the small chain’s fourth location and its second year-round location. Hailing from the North Conway area, Cheese Louise was founded in 2018 by Bryce Harrison and his high school friends James Gaudreault and Ian Lubkin when they were all still studying in college.

Two Bees Cafe + Patisserie opens in Dover

Dover native Rebekah Krieger and her husband Ross opened Two Bees Cafe + Patisserie in Dover in mid-January. The official grand opening took place Jan. 20. The French-inspired cafe is located at 100 First St. in Dover.

Teatotaller closes in Somersworth

Teatotaller’s Somersworth cafe owner Emmett Soldati surprised everyone when he announced the business would close on Sunday, Jan. 22 to make way for Fold’d Community Diner, a recovery-friendly, full-service breakfast and lunch spot overseen by SOS Recovery. Teatotaller, known for its boba pastries and LGTBQ+ programming, maintains its Concord location, and later in the year Soldati announced plans to open a new Seacoast location in Dover.

Portsmouth Feed Company & Provisions closes

Portsmouth Feed Company & Provisions, opened by Henry Pariseau in June 2021, closed early in the year. It was locked and remained dark for weeks before the closure was confirmed. The restaurant was located in the former New Hampshire Bank building in Market Square. The building, built in 1803, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and previously was the location of Ri Ra Irish Pub.

Cafe Nostimo of Portsmouth closes

Cafe Nostimo, which had been recently renamed Nostimo Greek, on March 17 closed after 16 years in business. Co-owners and co-founders Dean and Nancy Mottos decided to sell the business when Joe Scarlotto, co-owner of The Shanty Family Tavern in Portsmouth and Rollinsford, The Hammer Pub and Grille and Lazy Jack’s in Portsmouth, proposed the deal so he could open The Golden Egg Diner, reviving the well-known eatery on Sagamore Avenue in Portsmouth, which closed in 2020. Zottos noted since the COVID-19 pandemic the restaurant industry has been crippled by rising costs of food, labor shortages and long hours, adding Portsmouth has a lack of affordable housing for the workforce.

Otto Pizza expands into Portsmouth

Otto Pizza opened its Portsmouth location on April 6 in the former home of Cornerstone West End, which closed in December 2022. The Portland, Maine-based pizza chain moved into the Frank Jones Brewery building in the West End. The Portsmouth Otto Pizza became the company’s 22nd location throughout New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts,. Its first location in New Hampshire opened in Exeter in September 2022.

Hearth Food Garden opens

Hearth Food Garden, a new 15,000-square-foot culinary center and public lounge inside developer Mark McNabb’s Brick Market in Portsmouth, began opening in phases in May. Heidi Feinstein, founder of the popular Life Alive organic, plant-based cafes in Massachusetts, developed the concept for the nature-oriented dining and community marketplace.

Exeter’s Takeout Station closes

After only six months in business, the Takeout Station located in the train station in downtown Exeter announced its closure. Owner K.C. Cargill and chef Brian Colford had opened the take-out restaurant at 64 Lincoln St. in November 2022 with the goal of bringing train riders something more than the average fast-food joint. Cargill, who co-owns Lexie’s with his wife Alexis Wile-Cargill, said the decision to close was due to low volume of traffic. The Takeout Station’s last day was May 27.

Tideline Public House food trucks open

Co-owners Scott and Karen Letourneau gradually opened the Tideline Public House food trucks in May, then their outdoor Salt Shed Taproom and finally the indoor Town Landing and Crow’s Nest taprooms, and Tideline Mercantile inside the restaurant’s main building in June. The official grand opening was on June 5 and culminated over a year of transforming the old Durham Town Hall on Route 108 in Durham into the restaurant, taproom and food truck park.

Earth Eagle Brewings’ homebrew supply shop relocates

Earth Eagle Brewings moved its longtime homebrew supply shop to Somersworth from its original Portsmouth location in May. The new shop space is located in Barclay Square on Route 108 in Somersworth next to Earth Eagle North, the brewery’s manufacturing facility and second brewpub. The former shop space in Portsmouth, which connects to the original Earth Eagle brewpub, will house an expansion of the brewery’s dining and bar seating. Expected to open in June, the expansion will also feature a wide range of brewery merchandise and four-packs to go.

The Golden Egg Diner reopens

The Golden Egg Diner, a local favorite on Sagamore Road in Portsmouth for almost four decades, reopened in a new location at 72 Mirona Road in Portsmouth on May 9. In February 2020, the Golden Egg was sold by founder Debbie Gosselin and her husband, Tom, to Julie and Michael Bean and Tim Maheras. The restaurant closed for renovations. But that June, the new owners announced it would not reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The combination of renovations and new social distancing requirements combined to make opening the restaurant not viable financially. In January 2022, the Portsmouth Planning Board approved a proposal to demolish the Golden Egg building and replace it with a new building with six condominium units. Two years ago, Joe Scarlotto and his wife, Shannon, who own The Shanty Family Taverns in Portsmouth and Rollinsford as well as Lazy Jack’s and The Hammer Pub and Grille in Portsmouth, purchased the Golden Egg name from its owners and obtained all the business’ classic recipes. The Scarlottos approached Nostimo Greek’s owners Dean and Nancy Zottos about purchasing their restaurant and they accepted, clearing the way for the Scarlottos to open the new Golden Egg Diner at the Mirona Road location, across the street from The Shanty.

Battery Steele Kitchen and Bar opens in Wells

Battery Steele Kitchen and Bar opened in June on Mile Road in Wells in the location where Varano’s served diners for years. The restaurant is an expansion of the brewery and tasting room that Jake Condon owns and operates on Industrial Way in Portland. Condon told Seacoastonline when the restaurant opened he was branching into the world of dining because there are so many microbreweries that one needs to diversify to distinguish themselves and succeed.

Sol closes temporarily

Sol Southern Kitchen and Lounge in Portsmouth announced it would be closed temporarily to begin renovating the State Street building they’re located in to create workforce apartments for its staff. Portsmouth Hospitality, the city restaurant holding company which owns the American South and Creole-inspired eatery among several downtown restaurants, closed the restaurant July 9. The renovations, according to Portsmouth Hospitality’s chief operating officer Neil Scibelli, will include the creation of four to five workforce housing apartments on the second floor of Sol, which presently is fitted with the restaurant’s second bar. The bar will be removed while a community living room and bathrooms will be added to the space, one intended to be used by Portsmouth Hospitality’s J-1 student employees and other workers, according to owners.

Big Bean Cafe opens in Exeter

Owners Jon and Arley Wells opened The Big Bean Café on Thursday, July 27, at 163 Water St., in Exeter, offering favorites from the menu at their Newmarket location. The new restaurant is in the former location of The Tavern at River’s Edge, overlooking the Squamscott River. The small chain’s first and original location is at 118 Main St. in Newmarket, where it has been for the past 27 years. The Wellses are the third owner of the restaurant. They opened a Big Bean Cafe in Durham in 2019 and closed it in June to focus on the Newmarket and Exeter locations.

Five 81° Northeast opens in Portsmouth

May and Ton Sonta opened Five 81° Northeast at 581 Lafayette Road in Portsmouth, adjacent to Tour restaurant, in August. The married couple and business partners have overseen the Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro at PortWalk in downtown Portsmouth since 2015 and continue there while adding the new Thai restaurant in the mix. May Sonta is the cook behind the new Thai menu. She learned by cooking with her family members in her home country of Thailand.

Newmarket’s Horseshoe Cafe closes

Owners Nori and Sarah Kozuma closed the well-loved Horseshoe Cafe in Newmarket after seven years as August became September. The owners announced the cafe’s closure on Facebook on Aug. 31, 2023, and on Sept. 1, the cafe was closed. Within 24 hours, the post received hundreds of comments. In 2019, Food & Wine magazine recognized Horseshoe Café as one of the top 100 coffee shops in America. The recognition came after Food & Wine named Horseshoe Café’s coffee as the best in the state of New Hampshire earlier that spring. In 2022, Yelp’s rankings placed Horseshoe Cafe No. 81 on its list of 100 best eateries in New England.

Colby’s Breakfast & Lunch closes after almost 20 years

Restaurant co-founder and owner Jeremy Colby announced the closure of Colby’s Breakfast & Lunch on Sept. 11, one month shy of the restaurant’s 20th anniversary. An Instagram post announced the closure, pointing to staffing shortages. In 2003, Colby was working at Roxanne’s Restaurant when he bought the restaurant with former business partner Keith Barringer. Colby, a longtime waiter at the former New York-style Goldi’s Deli on Penhallow Street, later became the sole proprietor of Colby’s in 2007. The Daniel Street spot was Karen’s Restaurant before becoming Roxanne’s.

Caffe Kilim in Dover closes

Caffe Kilim, which has operated in Portsmouth for more than three decades, closed its Dover location on Sept. 17. Emmett Soldati, the owner of Teatotaller, who sold the cafe’s original location in Somersworth to SOS Recovery earlier this year, announced his plan to open a new Teatotaller in Caffe Kilim’s location on Hale Street. Soldati also owns and operates a Teatotaller in Concord.

Behind The Plate opens

Behind The Plate, a baseball-themed eatery, opened on Islington Street in Portsmouth’s West End in October. Owner John Edwards and his wife, co-owner and chef Martha Edwards got the idea for the restaurant when John Edwards and his brother made an 11-day road trip to nine Major League Baseball stadiums in 2018. They found new foods in each city they visited, such as pierogies in Pittsburgh, where they went to a Pirates game. The couple has created a menu based on ballpark specialties around the country.

The District closes

The District on Congress Street in Portsmouth closed at the end of October. Open since July 2011 next to the Vaughan Mall and across from The Music Hall, the restaurant announced its closure on Oct. 27. “We would like to thank all of our customers and staff that have made the past 12-plus years possible. A business is only as good as the employees it has,” The District shared on social media. “A special thank you to our past employees who made everything possible and in turn kept customers coming back. (Twelve) seasons in downtown Portsmouth is something to be proud of.”

Fold’d Community Diner opens in Somersworth

Fold’d Community Diner opened in Somersworth in October. Owned by SOS Recovery Community Organization, the recovery-friendly restaurant is located in the High Street location where Teatotaller was. The diner will employ people in recovery and those who have been incarcerated.

Gravy in Wells closes

Veteran chef Mark Segal closed Gravy on Monday, Nov. 13. He moved Gravy to the location at 231 Post Road, Route 1, in Wells in June of 2022 from its original location in Somersworth. Segal opened there in the old railroad station in February 2020.

The Shanty Family Tavern opens in Rollinsford

The Shanty Family Tavern, popular in Portsmouth, opened a second location at 489 Portland Ave. in Rollinsford, just over the Dover city line, in November. The Shanty is in the building where Alexander’s Italian Restaurant operated for decades. Joe Scarlotto purchased the property along with partner Bob O’Leary. Scarlotto and O’Leary co-own three Portsmouth restaurants: The Shanty on Mirona Road, The Hammer Pub and Grille on Pleasant Street and Lazy Jack’s on Ceres Street. Scarlotto and O’Leary originally located The Shanty in Dover at 471 Central Ave.

In March 2021, while the property was undergoing renovations, a two-alarm fire three days before a planned grand opening hit the restaurant. They had been working to open for 18 months, delayed in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. Scarlotto at the time said they had hired employees and spent more than $400,000 on remodeling the dining room and bar.

Lithermans Brewing, 603 Bar-B-Q open in Portsmouth

Lithermans Brewing Company and 603 Bar-B-Q, two Concord-based businesses, opened a restaurant and taproom on Congress Street in Portsmouth on Nov. 22. The two businesses are moving into the space where The District was located. The District closed at the end of October. Litherman’s was founded in 2016 and was bought in the spring by Erin Inman and Chet Schrader, while the barbecue business is a food truck founded and opened by Ben Normandeau on Memorial Day. The food truck has parked outside of Lithermans’ flagship Concord location and partners with them inside the new Portsmouth location.

Board charcuterie restaurant opens in Kittery

Co-owners Chloe Scala and Patrick Glynn opened Board, a charcuterie restaurant and wine bar, in Kittery’s Foreside on Dec. 1. The 5 Shapleigh Road sit-down eatery also has a small market with wine, cheese, meats and charcuterie boards to go.

Raleigh Wine Bar and Eatery closes

Raleigh Wine Bar and Eatery announced it would close permanently on Saturday, Dec. 16 after its dinner service. “We want to thank all our wonderful guests for supporting us these past six years and indulging our creative spirits with both the culinary and beverage programs,” owners Nimi Idnani and Rush Patel said in a Facebook post. The Portsmouth couple opened the renovated 1,700-square-foot storefront at 67 State St., with views of the Memorial Bridge, in 2017. They hired well-known local Jeremy Glover as Raleigh’s chef.

The Rail at La Stazione opens in Somersworth

The Rail at La Stazione opened in mid-November at 400 High St. in Somersworth. After extensive renovations to the former Old Rail Pizza location, The Rail at La Stazione offers an all new, upscale Italian dining experience. Diners can dine in or takeout from their lunch and dinner menus.

Fly By Café closed in Exeter

Fly By Café & Takeaway closed after 2½ years. The eatery at 161 Water Street was owned by Matthew and Karen Sharlot of Amesbury, Massachusetts. “Fly By Café has been a labor of love for us and we appreciate all of you for being a part of our fun and tasty adventure!” the owners posted on a notice on the café’s door.

Sassy Biscuit closes in Dover

The Sassy Biscuit Co. in Dover announced on Monday, Dec. 11 it was going to close permanently. Owner Jilan Hall Johnson opened the restaurant in the renovated Orpheum Building in August of 2020. The Dover restaurant was the second Sassy Biscuit location. The original Sassy Biscuit is located in Billings, Montana, and will remain open.

Source: Seacoastonline