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Historic preservation and a huge selection of locally run eateries are two features that immediately stand out when walking Concord New Hampshire's Main Street. A State Capitol city of 42,000, the statehouse building is an integral part of Concord's pedestrian fabric prominently sharing the street front with highly ornate architecture, much of it constructed of brick or massive blocks of the State's signature gray granite. As much as Concord is steeped in history (2015 marks its 250th anniversary), the City clearly has a forward looking focus with a planned multi-million dollar Main St. streetscape project in the works.
Concord's sheer dining variety and growing restaurant count rivals towns triple its size largely thanks to a new generation of immigrants moving in and taking over turn-of-the-century mom & pops who either retired & moved on or closed due to changing times.
One shop bucking this trend in a big way is Granite State Candy Shoppe. Open since 1927 and now in its 3rd generation, many of the store's vast assortment of candies are made the same as when they started out. By selection, I'm talking 5 different types of malted milk balls with enough bulk candy and chocolates to pack a shopping bag bulging with a no duplicate assortment. And just in case you were doubting whether the candy gets made on site, look through their interior window in the store as well as from the street at the progress in their kitchen.
Your Concord food tour begins at White Mountain Gourmet Coffee on Pleasant Street. A few selections from their single source organic Fair Trade coffee are always brewing fresh along with an assortment of same day baked treats.
Head down to Main Street's restaurant row starting with Dos Amigos Burritos, hand crafted Mexican at taqueria prices. Since opening in 2003, they've been serving up the expected standards buttressed with house made tortillas and tasty sides like grilled corn on the cob and char-grilled jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and mushrooms.
Making a quick detour down Depot St., you'll discover the region's best Italian. Angelina's Chef Richard cooks fresh classics to order like handmade ravioli and Insalata Calamari. Just so you're not confused, Sunny's Table, an American Asian bistro is at the same address but both have separate entrances and completely different menus.
Back on Main St., longstanding Siam Orchid Thai Bistro cooks up authentic dishes like Tamarind Duck and Pad Tai you simply can't find anywhere else in New Hampshire. You can usually get a sense of how serious a community is about their cooking by checking out their go-to cooking supply store. Here in Concord, it's Things Are Cooking which carries the crockery and utensils needed to outfit your kitchen. A few doors down, 30 different types of bread are baked at Crust and Crumb. Each day, several featured flavors like their maple pecan or citrus wheat berry are sure to be warm to the touch when you buy them.
Just before crossing Main St. to the Statehouse grounds, you'll find craft beers on tap and entrees worthy of any lobbyist taking refuge at Barley House Restaurant and Tavern. Once you're in front of the Statehouse under the grandly ornate arch marking the entrance, you have access to 194 years of history under the dome and right across the street, the grave and home of Franklin Pierce, the only US President from New Hampshire.
Affordable lunchtime favorites include The Soup Gallery tucked off Main Street on a quiet brick cobbled courtyard featuring a daily roster of soups reflecting the season's bounty like carrot ginger and turkey chipotle. If you're lingering during summer, there's grab-your-own-seating outside the door. For raw & super food devotees, the smoothies at Live Juice can be just as customized as you are quirky with add ins like hemp protein and Matcha green tea powder. For self serve local delicacies and groceries, be sure to drop into the local food co-op, a growing staple in New England village centers. For the uninitiated, co-ops are essentially miniature non-corporate versions of Whole Foods where members of the cooperative decide where products like vegetables and bulk grains are purchased. The result is much more localized sourcing of produce and ingredients.
The Granite Restaurant in the Centennial Inn several blocks away from Main up on Pleasant St is the place to shoot the moon with a luxe night out. The kitchen helmed by Chef Corey Fletcher turn out Farm-to-Table smashes like a mean grilled lamb porterhouse or a hearty mushroom and goat cheese strudel . Their extensive wine list and inventive house cocktails elevate the experience that much more.
Photos & video: Steve Mirsky. Coverage made possible by participating in a partially sponsored visit.