Portsmouth has one of the best cafe scenes in northern New England, nearly comparable to Cambridge’s or Boston’s. There are numerous places in the compact downtown alone where you can get a decent-to-very-good cup of coffee and better-than-average baked goods; new coffeehouses open all the time. There’s a Starbucks (of course), but my favorite spotsto quaff a coffee drink or pot of tea with a book is Portsmouth Book & Bar, 40 Pleasant Street (tel. 603/429-9197), which hits the trifecta: good coffee drinks, an outstanding selection of draft beers (mostly from Maine and New Hampshire), and a really nicely curated selection of new and used books. Comfy couches, and the sandwiches aren’t bad either.
Along with the dining options listed below, the Wentworth by the Sea resort a few miles south is a good place for a sit down dinner at either the Salt Kitchen & Bar or the more casual (and seasonal) Latitudes bar and grill. The fare at Salt is top-rate, served beneath a remarkable (and original) frescoed dome; entrees might include grilled swordfish, lobster with filet mignon, seared yellowfin tuna, a clambake, a lobster pie, or something more Continental. There is a moderate dress code: Men are asked to wear a collared shirt. The Latitudes grill has a simpler menu, but offers something the main inn can’t—an outdoor patio of tables, softly lit at night, with lovely views overlooking the water.
If you want a bit more of a bite to go with your coffee, Portsmouth’s got that covered, too. Two places leap to mind. The tie-dyed Friendly Toast, 121 Congress Street (tel. 603/430-2154), serves a variety of eggs and other breakfast dishes all day long, plus heartier items such as burgers. The setting’s eclectic, with vinyl booths and all kinds of nutty kitsch on the walls. There’s a brunch rate on weekends—always a good sign. The funky little Ceres Bakery, 51 Penhallow St. (tel. 603/436-6518), on a side street off the main square, has a handful of tiny interior tables; grab a sandwich, cookie, or slice of cake to go, and walk to the waterfront rose gardens nearby.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.