New Hampshire has long been known as a fast food jungle and a haven for "no sales tax" bargains. Just a couple of years ago, New Hampshire was the first state in New England to open a third Hooters "family restaurant" (believe it or not, that's how Hooters is now trying to position themselves). People interested in culture stayed away from the state in droves, except to purchase liquor at the state run stores with convenient access to the Interstates.
There are some, however, that are striving to make New Hampshire a Chowhound's dream.
Choppers Grill (and Bar) recently opened on West Broadway, next to the E-Z Money Pawn Shop and across the street from the Dependsable adult home. Like a lot of restaurants in New Hampshire, this one is located in a converted barn, although this restaurant maintains more authenticity than others, with hay and straw strewn about the floor for a more realistic experience.
The menu at Choppers Grill (and Bar) is different than most Salem eateries, offering a single "prixe-fixe" menu for lunch and dinner.
One is immediately drawn to the kitschy decorations, including an old tarnished and faded metal street sign that reads, "Mass. Residents--Please leave!" with authentic bullet holes underlining the sign's intentions. Another more recent sign on the wall reads, "So, What's Sununu?" It brought back memories of a New Hampshire long gone by.
Our hostess (and waitress) was Sally, and she was dressed as if she were Daisy Duke from the 1970's television series. My dinner companion and I were seated at a lovely, but battered table with trendy mismatched tableware. "You don't see plastic forks and paper plates too often nowadays," my companion remarked, bringing back memories of Weathervane restaurants from an era long gone. The antique "chairs," which were fashioned from old milk crates, were a bit uncomfortable at first, but the two of us persevered and we got used to them quickly.
There were a lot of teenage kids hanging around, milling about the place when we visited. When the waitress came over, she explained that it was "Teenage Tuesday," where kids sixteen years and older are allowed to purchase beer and tequila from 3pm, just after school lets out, until 7pm. "It's proving to be a popular tradition here," she remarked. When we asked about whether or not the police took kindly to this "tradition," the waitress simply laughed. "The owner has been on the force for ten years. Nobody's going to shut us down!"
As I mentioned above, the menu is "prixe-fixe" which means there are no prices--nor even any menus. What you get is whatever tickles the fancy of the chef that particular day. Before we could enquire about the food faire du jour, the waitress brought over our appetizers and two 64-ounce frosty Pilsner glasses of Budweiser. When asked, the waitress described our fried appetizer as "Fried Clam Strip Strips," which is basically, clam strips without the clams. (Clams were out of season, the waitress explained.)
The dinner special that evening was something called "haggis," which, the waitress explained, is very popular in parts of Europe, although she was a bit vague about which parts, or even where Europe was located--"Out thataway," she explained, pointing vaguely north. The haggis had an interesting texture, with meat accompanied by onion and oatmeal. There was also a side dish of turnips and three or four complimentary shots of Scotch Whiskey for each of us. My dining companion, who doesn't drink much, surprised me by gulping down her shots quickly, saying that they enhanced the flavor of the meal. I have to agree.
Desert (included in the prixe-fixe) was a "New Hampshire Cheese Cake" which was made with feta cheese and a chocolate sauce that eerily reminded me of something called "Bosco" when I was growing up. A "hot toddy" made with cinnamon and heated Miller Lite beer finished off the meal.
The prices were reasonable, about $26 for the two of us, and that included the appetizer, beer, main course, several shots of Scotch, the hot toddy, and dessert.
The only minor problem was when we were exiting the restaurant. A few of the kids were passed out on the floor, making it tricky to get to the door without stepping on an outstretched limb, although the bartender was trying his hardest to drag them to an out of the way corner.
All in all, it's a wonderful restaurant and shows just how far that New Hampshire is going out of its way to become a haven for the gourmet crowd.