Restaurant Boom in Hampton

by Brittany Givens

Hampton Union, April 3, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Chef Myles Underwood, of the Savory Square Bistro in
Hampton, prepares lamb shanks in a cinnamon demi
glaze that will be served with a winter white bean
cassoulet. [Rich Beauchesne photo]

HAMPTON — Mike Danger, owner of Bai Cha Thai restaurant in Hampton, had been looking to bring his restaurant to Hampton for four years.

He finally got the chance last August when he drove by a vacant space where the restaurant now stands.

Danger said that initially business was slow, but with the support of the other restaurants in downtown Hampton, Bai Cha is now expanding business.

Bai Cha is one of a number of new restaurants recently established or coming soon to the downtown Hampton area looking to become part of the restaurant community.

"Good luck to everyone else," Danger said. "All of the owners are friendly and helpful. I think they'll help the new businesses."

Recent additions, such as Savory Square Bistro and Bai Cha, will also be joined by The Community Oven, Still Stillwells Ice Cream, Flatbread Co. pizza, and Pearl's Hamburgers in the next couple of months. All of these locations are in the area of downtown or not far away on Lafayette Road. Smuttynose Brewing Co. is constructing a $16 million brewing facility and restaurant on Towle Farm Road that is expected to open in 2013.

Ron Boucher, owner of the Savory Square Bistro, stressed that the new restaurants are joining the community already created by the older establishments in downtown Hampton, such as the Galley Hatch, Old Salt and 401 Tavern.

"(All of the other restaurants) are very supportive," Boucher said. "We're all in this together."

When Boucher first brought his culinary school to Hampton in 2009, he said that he received a great deal of support from the other restaurants in town and he felt very welcome.

"It's absolutely terrific," Boucher said. "The new businesses create an opportunity for Hampton to be a restaurant destination. There's lots of variety. Everyone is conscientious of their own individuality. All of the restaurants are unique."

Savory Square Bistro, which opened on Feb. 1, is an addition to Boucher's culinary school as part of an apprentice program. The French-American restaurant makes all of the food fresh in their kitchen and highlights local ingredients with a different menu for each season.

Arielle Wolfe will be opening her second ice cream shop, Still Stillwells Ice Cream, in Hampton on April 15. She thinks it will add more traffic downtown with the warm weather coming.

"I hear Hampton gets pretty busy during the summer," Wolfe said. "With all the new restaurants going in, it can only be helpful."

The Community Oven, which opened March 31, brings a new brick pizza restaurant to the area. Owner Shane Pine hopes his restaurant can be a large part of this community-oriented spirit.

Ron Jillian's restaurant, a longtime eatery at 822 Lafayette Road, is scheduled to open later this week at a new location at 853 Lafayette Road.

Pearl's Hamburgers and Flatbread Co. recently gained approvals from the zoning board. Pearl's Hamburgers will be a 1950s-esque hamburger trailer located at the corner of Lafayette Road and Swain Court. Flatbread Co., which will replace Me and Ollie's on High Street, will bring the popular pizza restaurant to downtown Hampton.

The older establishments in downtown Hampton were in full support of the new restaurants joining the community.

John Tinios, owner of the Galley Hatch, thinks that the new competition in downtown Hampton is a good thing.

"It gives people more reason to come to Hampton," Tinios said. "It'll be a nice little dining community."

Tinios is also taking advantage of the recent surge of new businesses as he plans to open a new café in the Galley Hatch lobby in mid-April. The café will have a full bakery, cappuccinos, lattes, and breakfast wraps.

Dan "Desi" Lanio, co-owner of 401 Tavern, echoed Tinios's feelings saying that the restaurants want to create a walking community, like Portsmouth or Newburyport, Mass., where people can walk around from restaurants to stores.

"Everyone has their own clientele," Lanio said. "We're not fighting for customers. Everyone realizes it's good for the community."

Lanio said two "miracle miles" — Hampton Beach and downtown Hampton — are finally coming together for the good of Hampton.

Ken Wehry, general manager at Las Olas Taqueria, also believes that the new restaurants will be welcomed.

"We wish them the best of luck as (other businesses) did when we came in," Wehry said.