New Menu Helps Garner Top Honor
By Alexander Plummer
Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 26, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Photo by Scott Yates]
HAMPTON -- The Old Salt Restaurant was recently named best area restaurant by New Hampshire magazine.
The restaurant was recognized as part of the magazine's annual best of New Hampshire contest, in which the Granite State's best food, shopping and attractions are highlighted.
"Given all the restaurants in the area, I think that we're honored by any kind of award that is given," said Michelle O'Brien, human resources director for the Old Salt.
The restaurant originally opened at Hampton Beach in 1986, but was destroyed by fire in 1999. The Old Salt's owners moved the restaurant to its current location on Lafayette road in 2000, where it is currently attached to the Lamie's Tavern, a home built in approximately 1740, according to historical records.
In 1928, Albert and Madeline Lamie purchased the property and converted it into a restaurant and tavern. Underneath the house sit the kitchen and dining facilities, which form the basis for the restaurant and tavern to this day.
The Higgins family purchased the property as a home for their popular restaurant and the rest, as they say, is dining history.
"I think it's huge to win this," Head Chef Michael Higgins said. "We have won a lot of awards in the past, but to be nominated as best regional restaurant in the state is a huge accomplishment."
The restaurant recently modified its menu to fit current dining trends, and Higgins explained just how important that shift has been.
"The award tells me that we're doing what it takes to give the customer what they want, and we are evolving to help cater to dietary needs," he said. "We now have over a hundred items on our menu."
Higgins said the most important aspect of the change centers on embracing local products, which he feels are healthier and taste better than the commercial products from outside the region.
"We got involved with New Hampshire-made products and we are using a lot of local dairy products," Higgins said. "We have made a change to zero trans Frialator fat oil, and we spent a lot of time researching that change to make sure all of our fried products are cooked without changing the product."
The New Hampshire dairy products have been especially popular as Higgins explained the new milks and cremes are all hormone free, which is significant because the pasteurization process only reaches 170 degrees with the local products, as opposed to the commercial offerings, which are ultra-pasteurized at temperatures approaching 210 degrees.
"Anything over 200 degrees really kills many of the enzymes in the product," he said. "And the enzymes are the good bacteria that you need."
While the product may have changed, the Old Salt Restaurant's community-first attitude has not. As an example, this past March, the restaurant invited area students to dinner and gave a percentage of the night's earnings back to local schools.
"I think that being a community restaurant makes such a big difference," Higgins said. "We are grounded in the town, and we work well with other local businesses to help out the community."