Hippo Best of 2020

The results are (finally) in!

Remember February?

Way way back then, before, well, just, before, you voted for your favorite pizza place, the best garden center and the butt-kicking-est fitness instructor. We counted the votes and were about two weeks away from presenting you with the answers when everything changed. We didn’t think it would be particularly helpful to give you a guide to places you couldn’t go and food you couldn’t eat, so we waited.

Now, finally, here are your picks — your favorite sub spot, the best place to shop for clothes to freshen up your wardrobe and outdoor spots for biking, canoeing or just hanging out.

Every year, what we present with our Best Of is a snapshot — here’s what readers loved and were thinking about during February (the voting month) of that year. This year, what we give you here is, like so many things right now, something of a hybrid. Some sections, like the categories that ask about places with a great crowd or spots to hang out after work with co-workers, can feel a little bit like artifacts from another world (remember “crowds”?). Some winners have modified operations right now (not all of the great bars for live music, for example, are currently offering live music) or might even be sitting out the season; we allowed businesses and events that are currently closed or canceled but give indication that they will resume in the future to still claim their win. A lot can happen in five months — businesses come and go, people move — but we did our best to track down the status of the winners. As always, this poll and the results are for entertainment purposes only and all results are (finally) final.

Despite all this, Hippo’s Best of 2020 still offers lots of places to go and delicious food to eat — and this year it feels especially worth celebrating the things that make southern New Hampshire special. We even came back in July with a new poll asking you to give a little extra love to the shops and takeout spots that helped brighten up those tough shutdown months. So get out (safely) and enjoy (with masks when needed) the unique delights of our piece of the 603. Where should you go? What should you do? Here are some ideas …

THE FINE PRINT

The vote
The results of Hippo’s readers poll are based on readers’ answers to a poll conducted online in February. Readers typed in the names of people and locations they voted for. In situations where the vote is tied or otherwise unclear, Hippo editorial staff makes an effort to determine the will of the greatest number of voters. Hippo reserves the right to disqualify individual votes, ballots and/or entries when they are incomplete or unclear, do not meet the letter or the spirit of the question asked or otherwise do not meet the requirements to make them a usable vote. Hippo’s editorial staff make the ultimate determination of the winners in the categories. Hippo’s advertising staff and its advertisers play no role in the determination of the winners. All results are final.

This survey is for entertainment purposes only and is meant to serve as a snapshot of the people and places in southern New Hampshire. Details about businesses, events and people listed may change between the time of the vote and publication — this year in particular. In some situations, winners may have modified schedules or operations or not yet have reopened since the shutdown. Businesses that have permanently closed or are closed with no indication of plans to reopen were no longer eligible.

Bests
The Best of 2020 is a celebration of all things local. Large national and international chains are, for the most part, not included in the count. Smaller chains are eligible. The “Best of the Best” designation goes to the person, place or thing that receives the most votes in the category. “Best of Manchester,” “Best of Nashua” and “Best of Concord” are awarded to the next top entries located in those areas. In categories with a “Best,” “Runner-up” and “Honorable Mention,” those there are the top vote-getters in that category.

Geography
Here, roughly, is the designation of “Manchester,” “Concord” and “Nashua” areas:

• Manchester area includes Manchester, Goffstown, Auburn, Candia, Bedford, Hooksett, Raymond, Litchfield, Derry, Londonderry, Windham, Salem, New Boston, Francestown and towns to the east along Route 101 to include towns on Route 125.

• Concord area includes Concord as well as Bow, Pembroke, Contoocook, Dunbarton, Hopkinton, Loudon, Boscawen, Chichester, Weare, Henniker, Suncook, Lee and some towns in the Lakes Region.

• Nashua area includes Nashua as well as Merrimack, Amherst, Milford, Hollis, Brookline, Hudson, Mason and Wilton.

Questions, Comments, Concerns
Did we get an address or phone number wrong? Do you have an idea for a new category? Let us know. Contact editor Amy Diaz at adiaz@hippopress.com. Corrections will appear on page 4 in future issues. Is your favorite category missing? Categories change regularly with some categories taking a sabbatical and new categories introduced, so please send your suggestions along. And, again, all results are final.

ARTS

Best Performing Arts Venue|
Best of the best:
Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester, 668-5588, palacetheatre.org. The 890-seat theater is home to its own professional, youth and teen performing companies and hosts visiting theater, music, dance and comedy acts. Its next shows are Peter Pan on Thursday, Aug. 13, and Cinderella on Tuesday, Aug. 18, and Wednesday, Aug. 19, presented by the 2020 Bank of New Hampshire Children’s Summer Series, and comedian Bob Marley Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 20 through Aug. 22, and Aug. 27 through Aug. 29.

Best of Concord: Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord, 225-1111, ccanh.com. The 1,304-seat theater hosts traveling theater shows, dance performances, musical and comedy acts, film screenings and more. Its next event with tickets still available is An Evening with Chevy Chase on Saturday, Oct. 24.

Best of Manchester: Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, 437-5100, tupelohall.com. The 700-seat venue presents music and comedy events and occasionally theatrical shows. It’s currently hosting a drive-in experience with upcoming shows including tribute bands Foreigners Journey on Friday, Aug. 14, and Saturday, Aug. 15, and The Breakers (Tom Petty tribute) on Sunday, Aug. 16.

Best of Nashua: Janice B. Streeter Theatre, 14 Court St., Nashua. The theater is home to Nashua theater companies Actorsingers and Peacock Players.

Best Art Gallery
Best of the best:
Jupiter Hall, 89 Hanover St., Manchester, 289-4661, jupiterhallnh.com. The multi-purpose arts venue features visual art exhibitions, performance art, art classes and other events. The gallery is closed until further notice, according to an announcement on its Facebook page.

Best of Concord: League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Concord Gallery, 36 N. Main St., Concord, 228-8171, concord.nhcrafts.org. The gallery and shop features a variety of traditional and contemporary fine crafts created by New Hampshire craftspeople.

Best of Manchester: Art 3 Gallery, 44 W. Brook St., Manchester, 668-6650, art3gallery.com. A fine art retail gallery featuring art in a variety of media and styles by local, regional, national and international artists. It also offers custom framing and corporate and residential art consulting. Its current exhibition, “Freshly Imagined,” features works by 70 artists and is on display through Aug. 30.

Best of Nashua: ArtHub, 30 Temple St., Nashua, 966-4429, naaa-arthub.org. The collaborative gallery and workspace features art by Nashua Area Artists Association members and other artists in the greater Nashua area. The current exhibition, “Summertime,” is on view now through the end of the year.

Best Artists Market
Best:
Concord Arts Market, 1 Bicentennial Square, Concord, concordartsmarket.net. The juried outdoor artisan and fine art market is currently running weekly on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., through September.

Runner-up: Craftsmen’s Fair, nhcrafts.org. The nine-day craft fair, hosted by the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, normally takes place at Mount Sunapee Resort starting the first week of August.

Honorable mention: Manchester Craft Market, 1500 S. Willow St., Manchester, 716-5520, manchestercraftmarket.com. The shop features handmade gifts, souvenirs, decor, gourmet foods and more by New England artisans.

Best Live Theatrical Production
Best of the best:
A Christmas Carol, a Palace Theatre professional production. The show ran at the Palace Theatre in Manchester Dec. 6 through Dec. 22, 2019.

Best of Concord: Frozen Jr., performed by the Children’s Theatre Project of The Community Players of Concord at the Concord City Auditorium on Oct. 18 and Oct. 19, 2019.

Best of Manchester: Piano Men, a Palace Theatre professional production. The show ran at the Palace Theatre in Manchester Jan. 10 through Feb. 2, 2020.

Best of Nashua: Frozen Jr., performed by youth theater company Peacock Players at the Janice B. Streeter Theatre in Nashua Dec. 13 through Dec. 22, 2019.

Best Dance Performance
Best of the best:
The Nutcracker, performed by Ballet Misha at the Dana Center in Manchester Dec. 21 and Dec. 22, 2019.

Best of Concord: In The Field Irish Dancers’ performance at the Market Days Festival in Concord on June 22, 2019.

Best of Manchester: The Nutcracker, performed by the New Hampshire School of Ballet at the Palace Theatre in Manchester on Dec. 26, 2019.

Best of Nashua: DanceWorks Movement Design’s Recital, held in Milford on June 1 and June 2, 2019.

BEAUTY & HEALTH

Best Barber Shop
Best of the best:
Lucky’s Barbershop and Shave Parlor, 50 S. State St., Concord, 715-5470, luckysbarbershop.biz. (Lucky’s also has a location in Portsmouth.)

Best of Concord: American Barber Studios, 4 Park St., Concord, 225-3052, americanbarberstudios.com

Best of Manchester: Dude’s Barber Shop, 1311 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 626-0533, dudesbarbershop.us

Best of Nashua: The Polished Man, 707 Milford Road, Merrimack, 718-8427, thepolishedman.com. (The Polished Man also has a location in Nashua.)

Best Salon
Best of the best:
5 Diamond Salon, 915 Holt Ave., Suite 4, Manchester, 459-3367, 5diamondsalon.com

Best of Concord: Salon K, 18 Pleasant St., Concord, 225-0099, salonkconcord.com

Best of Manchester: Blank Canvas Salon, 1F Commons Drive, No. 38, Londonderry, 818-4294, blankcanvassalon.com

Best of Nashua: Fancy Nancy’s Elite Hair Designers, 295 Daniel Webster Highway, Nashua, 891-0202, fancynancyssalon.com

Best Spa
Best of the best:
Renew MediSpa, 23 B Crystal Ave., Derry, 932-4701, renewmedispa.com

Best of Concord: Serendipity Day Spa & Float Studio, 23 Sheep Davis Road, Pembroke, 229-0400, serendipitydayspa.com

Best of Manchester: Pellé Medical Spa, 159 Frontage Road, Manchester, 627-7000, pellemedicalspa.com

Best of Nashua: Innovations The Salon & Spa, 228 Naticook Road, Merrimack, 880-7499, innovationsnh.com

Best Gym
Best of the best:
Dynamic Strength and Conditioning, 115 Northeastern Blvd., Nashua, 882-2348, dynamicsc.com

Best of Concord: Get Fit NH, 287 S. Main St., Concord, 344-2651, getfitnh.com

Best of Manchester: Executive Health & Sports Center, 1 Highlander Way, Manchester, 668-4753, facebook.com/executivehealthclub

Best of Nashua: SPENGA, 493 Amherst St., Nashua, 324-0355, spenganashua.com

Workout Class That Will Get You to Your Goal Fastest
Best of the best:
Smart Group Training, Get Fit NH, 287 S. Main St., Concord, 344-2651, getfitnh.com. Classes are held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday on the hour from 5 to 9 a.m., and Monday through Thursday on the half hour from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Best of Concord: Strive Ride, Strive Indoor Cycling, 10 Hills Ave., Concord, 513-9464, striveindoorcycling.com. Classes are held on Monday and Wednesday throughout the day, Tuesday and Thursday in the morning and evening, Friday in the morning and afternoon and Saturday and Sunday morning.

Best of Manchester: Boot Camp, Inspire Strength & Fitness, 200 Perimeter Road, Unit 3, Manchester, 782-7933, inspirestrengthandfitness.com. Classes are held Monday through Friday throughout the day and Saturday mornings.

Best of Nashua: Adult Group Training, Dynamic Strength and Conditioning, 115 Northeastern Blvd., Nashua, 882-2348, dynamicsc.com. Classes held Monday through Friday throughout the day, and on Saturday mornings.

Best Yoga Studio
Best of the best:
YogaBalance, 135 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 625-4000, yogabalance.info

Best of Concord: Sharing Yoga, 64 N. Main St., Concord, 520-8987, sharingyoga.com

Best of Manchester: Sol Power Yoga, 25 S. River Road, Bedford, 732-6185, solpoweryoga.com

Best of Nashua: New Hampshire Power Yoga, 704 Milford Road, Merrimack, 594-2494, nhpoweryoga.com

Best Dance Studio
Best of the best:
Dimensions in Dance, 84 Myrtle St., Manchester, 668-4196, dimensionsindance.com

Best of Concord: Concord Dance Academy, 26 Commercial St., Concord, 226-0200, concorddanceacademy.com

Best of Manchester: New Hampshire School of Ballet, 183 Londonderry Turnpike, Hooksett, 668-5330, nhschoolofballet.com

Best of Nashua: The Dance Company, 130 Route 101A, Amherst, 864-8374, thedancecompanyonline.com

BEAUTY & HEALTH PERSONALITIES

Butt-kicking-est Fitness Instructor
Best of the best:
Erin Constantin, Get Fit NH, 287 S. Main St., Concord, 344-2651, getfitnh.com

Best of Concord: Meagan Ferns, Strive Indoor Cycling, 10 Hills Ave., Concord, 513-9464, striveindoorcycling.com
Best of Manchester:
Ryan Griffin, Inspire Strength & Fitness, 200 Perimeter Road, Unit 3, Manchester, 782-7933, inspirestrengthandfitness.com

Best of Nashua: Matt Skeffington, Dynamic Strength and Conditioning, 115 Northeastern Blvd., Nashua, 882-2348, dynamicsc.com

Best Barber
Best of the best:
Jason Drapeau, 5 Diamond Salon, 915 Holt Ave., Suite 4, Manchester, 459-3367, 5diamondsalon.com
Best of Concord: AJ Caron, South Mane Barbershop, 28 S. Main St., Concord, 952-2202, southmanebarbershop.com
Best of Manchester: Rafael Robles, Lineup Barbershop, 1271 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 218-3294, lineupbarbershop.com

Best of Nashua: Rick Lindof, The Polished Man, 108 Spitbrook Road, Nashua, 718-1468, thepolishedman.com (The Polished Man also has a location in Merrimack.)

Best Hair Stylist
Best of the best:
Samantha Courtois, 5 Diamond Salon, 915 Holt Ave., Suite 4, Manchester, 459-3367, 5diamondsalon.com

Best of Concord: Kae Mason, Salon K, 18 Pleasant St., Concord, 225-0099, salonkconcord.com

Best of Manchester: Lauren Gamache Dockx, Salon North, 102 Bay St., Manchester, 483-3011, 102salonnorth.com

Best of Nashua: Erin Crowley, Fancy Nancy’s Elite Hair Designers, 295 Daniel Webster Highway, Nashua, 891-0202, fancynancyssalon.com

Friendliest Dentist
Best of the best:
Dr. Elizabeth Spindel, Spindel General and Cosmetic Dentistry, 862 Union St., Manchester, 669-9049, elizabethspindel.com

Best of Concord: Dr. Shannon Arndt, 280 Pleasant St., Concord, 228-4456, orzechowskiardnt.com

Best of Manchester: Dr. Carlivette Santamaria, Oasis Dental, 1525 S. Willow St., Unit 5, Manchester, 641-5200, oasisdentalnh.com

Best of Nashua: Dr. Charles Pipilas, 280 Main St., Suite 311, Nashua, 881-8280

Best Retail Store With Standout Service During the Shutdown
Best of the best: Junction 71

By Angie Sykeny
asykeny@hippopress.com


Modern, vintage, mid-century, bohemian, country, rustic and shabby-chic are just some of the aesthetics you’ll find at Junction 71 in Amherst. The home decor, furniture and gift shop consists of three separate units within a plaza, totaling 3,600 square feet with spaces by more than 50 artisans and dealers.

“It’s not your typical consignment or thrift shop,” said owner and operator Pam Robinson, who opened Junction 71 in June 2019. “We have a more eclectic mix. [The sellers] all have their own look, and we make sure that any new stuff we bring in isn’t stuff that we already have.”

The shop features handcrafted, locally made, new and antique products, including custom metalwork; framed wall art and paintings; upcycled and hand painted furniture; signs and flags; specialty food items like jellies and dips; and more.

“These are all very unique, one-of-a-kind pieces,” Robinson said.

Robinson decided to close Junction 71 in March, a few days before the statewide shutdown was instated. During the shutdown, she and her team posted pictures of products for sale on social media, interacted with interested buyers online and offered contactless curbside pickup. They processed more than 800 orders during the 10 weeks the shop was closed.

“I am so appreciative of our customers who have been so supportive and continued to shop with us online,” Robinson said. “They kept us in business; I don’t know that we would have made it through this without them.”

Junction 71 has reopened for in-person shopping, requiring customers to wear masks at all times and sanitize their hands at the “sanitation station” upon entry, and providing gloves to customers who want them. There will be a “socially distant social” on Thursday, Aug. 20, from 6 to 8 p.m., with a shop-wide sale, door prizes and complimentary rose wine and appetizers served outside.

Junction 71
Location:
71 Route 101A, Amherst
Hours: Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
More info: Call 213-5201 or visit junction71.business.site

Runner-up: Manchester Craft Market, 1500 S. Willow St., Manchester, 716-5520, manchestercraftmarket.com. The shop features handmade gifts, souvenirs, decor, gourmet foods and more by New England artisans. During the shutdown, customers were able to interact with the artisans directly through the “Manchester NH Craft Market Online” shopping group on Facebook, reserve items for pickup and place custom orders. The shop streamed a showing of its inventory on Facebook Live Sales every Wednesday evening (which it continues to do now every other Wednesday evening) and offered curbside pickup times, flat-rate shipping and local deliveries. Shop hours are Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

Honorable mention: Local Baskit, 10 Ferry St., Concord, 219-0882, localbaskit.com. The marketplace features all-local meal kits and individual food items like craft beer, wine, frozen meats and fish, specialty cheeses, select produce and more. During the shutdown, Local Baskit donated meals to frontline workers; created new meal kits, including a Morning Basics kit (with milk, eggs, coffee and bread), Protein Boxes, Pantry Boxes (included flour and sugar) and Longevity Baskits for older adults with low-sodium and diabetic-friendly options; offered curbside pickup for craft beer; and sponsored the NH Brewers Association’s Virtual Beer Festival. Current store hours are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m., and by appointment for later pickup and beer orders.

WHAT TO WEAR

Best Independent Clothing Store
Best of the best: Gondwana & Divine Clothing Co., 13 N. Main St., Concord, 228-1101, clothingnh.com

Best of Concord: Indigo Blues & Co., 902 Main St., Contoocook, 660-9290, indigobluesandco.com

Best of Manchester: Alapage, 25 S. River Road, Bedford, 622-0550, alapageboutique.com

Best of Nashua: Camaraderie Boutique, 175 Main St., Nashua, 402-1908, camaraderiestyle.com

Best Independent Jewelry Store
Best of the best:
Capitol Craftsman & Romance Jewelers, 16 & 18 N. Main St., Concord, 224-6166, capitolcraftsman.com

Best of Concord: Speer’s Fine Jewelry, 24 N. Main St., Concord, 224-1582, speersfinejewelry.com

Best of Manchester: Bellman Jewelers, 1650 Elm St., Manchester, 625-4653, bellmans.com

Best of Nashua: Scontsas Fine Jewelry & Home Decor, 169-173 Main St., Nashua, 882-3281, scontsas.com

Best Independent Shoe Store
Best of the best:
Alec’s Shoes, 1617 Southwood Drive, Nashua, 882-6811, alecs-shoes.com

Best of Concord: Joe King’s Shoe Shop, 45 N. Main St., Concord, 225-6012, joekings.com

Best of Manchester: Red’s Shoe Barn, 22 Plaistow Road, Plaistow, 382-7688, redsshoebarn.com. (Red’s also has a location in Dover.)

Best of Nashua: The Shoebox, 17 Route 101A, Amherst, 672-6570, shoeboxnh.com

Best Secondhand Store
Best of the best:
Mother & Child Clothing and Gifts, 135 Route 101A, Amherst, 886-6727, mothersays.shoprw.com

Best of Concord: Lilise Designer Resale, 7 N. Main St., Concord, 715-2009, liliseresale.com

Best of Manchester: OutFITters Thrift Store, 394 Second St., Manchester, 641-6691, outfittersnh.org. (The store also has a location in Concord.)

Best of Nashua: Lucky Dog Thrift Shop, 23 Elm St., Nashua, 882-3647, luckydogthriftshop.com

HOME & SERVICES

Best Car Repair Shop
Best of the best:
Pro Image Automotive, 254 Sheffield Road, Manchester, 968-5159, proimageautomotive.com. Shop offers passenger vehicle and small engine automotive repair services with a specialization in snow plows.

Best of Concord: Weed Family Automotive, 124 Storrs St., Concord, 225-7988, weedfamilyautomotive.com. Services include New Hampshire state inspections, oil changes, electrical and electronic systems, brakes, air conditioning and repairs for hybrid vehicles.

Best of Manchester: Henry’s Collision Center, 330 March Ave., Manchester, 624-4086, henrysab.com. Shop offers cosmetic services like pinstriping, painting and small dent and scratch repair, as well as mechanical fixes like wheel alignments and frame repair.

Best of Nashua: Precision Collision, 234 Amherst St., Nashua, 809-4527, find it on Facebook. Services include repainting and custom paint jobs, scratch and dent repair and suspension work with a specialization in high-end performance cars.

Best Garden Center or Nursery
Best of the best:
Demers Garden Center, 656 S. Mammoth Road, Manchester, 625-8298, demersgardencenter.com. Five acres of greenhouses help to keep the center stocked with a wide line of annuals, perennials, trees, herbs and gardening supplies like soil, fertilizer and more.

Best of Concord: Cole Gardens, 430 Loudon Road, Concord, 229-0655, colegardens.com. Find annuals, tropicals, perennials, trees and gardening supplies as well as a weekly farmers market.

Best of Manchester: Bedford Fields Home and Garden Center, 331 Route 101, Bedford, 472-8880, bedfordfields.com. Garden center offers trees, shrubs and perennials; fruit, berry and vegetable plants; and home decor and pet items.

Best of Nashua: House by the Side of the Road, 370 Gibbons Highway, Wilton, 654-9888, housebythesideoftheroad.com. Browse a wide assortment of annuals, perennials, house plants, shrubs, several greenhouses and a wide array of gardening accessories.

Most Fun Shopping Experience in an Indie Shop
Best of the best:
Manchester Craft Market, 1500 S. Willow St., Manchester, 716-5520, manchestercraftmarket.com. Shop features crafts, confections, handmade clothing and more by more than 180 local vendors and artisans.

Best of Concord: Gondwana & Divine Clothing, 13 N. Main St., Concord, 228-1101, gondwanaclothing.com. Shop offers designer clothing, jewelry and accessories that rotate with the seasons, as well as in-store styling services.

Best of Manchester: Apotheca Flowers and Gifts, 24 Main St., Goffstown, 497-4940, apothecaflowershoppe.com. Shop offers coffee, tea and pastries; a wide selection of flowers and artisan gifts; and on-site craft workshops.

Best of Nashua: M&C Clothing and Goods, 135 Route 101A, Amherst, 886-6727, m-c-clothing-and-goods.myshopify.com. Browse handmade local items as well as consigned clothing, accessories, shoes, jewelry and household wares.

BEST RESTAURANTS

Best Restaurant
Best of the best:
The Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 669-6890, puritanbackroom.com

Best of Concord: Revival Kitchen & Bar, 11 Depot St., Concord, 715-5723, revivalkitchennh.com

Best of Manchester: Copper Door Restaurant, 15 Leavy Drive, Bedford, 488-2677, copperdoor.com (The Copper Door Restaurant also has a location in Salem.)

Best of Nashua: Buckley’s Great Steaks, 438 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 424-0995, buckleysgreatsteaks.com

Best New Eatery
Best of the best:
Troy’s Fresh Kitchen & Juice Bar, 4 Orchard View Drive, No. 6, Londonderry, 965-3411, troysfreshkitchen.com. Londonderry native Troy Ward Jr. opened this quick-service eatery in June 2019 with the help of his father and other family members. Troy’s is 100-percent gluten-free and dairy-free, offering smoothies, fresh-pressed juices, grain bowls, grilled wraps, breakfast scrambles and other items with fresh, all-natural and plant-based ingredients, many of which are made in house. The eatery also serves specialty coffee drinks using the Manchester-based Hometown Coffee Roasters.

Best of Concord: Georgia’s Northside, 394 N. State St., Concord, 715-9189, georgiasnorthside.com. A takeout-only Southern kitchen and craft beer market, Georgia’s Northside quietly opened its doors in late June 2019 in the space formerly housing the Korner Kupboard general store. Owner and chef Alan Natkiel posts the ever-changing menu to Facebook each day, which will often include meats from buttermilk fried chicken to barbecue ribs, smoked brisket and pulled pork, plus fresh market sides like Texas caviar, potato salad, tomato cucumber salad, grilled corn on the cob or green beans with bacon and blue cheese. Prior to opening the eatery, the Hill, New Hampshire, native owned Georgia’s Eastside BBQ in New York City for more than a decade.

Best of Manchester: California Burritos Mexican Grill, 655 S. Willow St., No. 103, Manchester, 722-2084, californiaburritosnh.com. Its fourth location overall, this fast casual Mexican eatery arrived in the Queen City this past February. Three locations in the Granite State preceded it — the original California Burritos opened at 101 Factory St. in Nashua in late 2014, followed by two more at 35 Lowell Road in Hudson, in 2017, and 2 Cellu Drive in Nashua, in 2018. Each location serves authentic Mexican options like tacos, burritos, burrito bowls and quesadillas, plus a few specialty items, like carne asada fries (loaded french fries with steak, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, pico de gallo and salsa verde), Dos Equis-infused fish tacos, and pupusas, or traditional Salvadoran dishes that feature cheese, refried beans and chicharrón (pork) filled inside a thick handmade corn tortilla.

Best of Nashua: Greenleaf, 54 Nashua St., Milford, 213-5447, greenleafmilford.com. Greenleaf is a casual farm-to-table restaurant that arrived in Milford in early May 2019. The space formerly housed the Souhegan Valley National Bank, which was operational all the way back in 1865 — an old bank vault has even been repurposed into a private dining area. Greenleaf’s menu changes all the time, and that’s because it’s based on what the chefs can get for product from the farms they partner with. But you’ll always find some type of beef, chicken, pork or vegetarian options; some popular options have included the grass-fed burgers, as well as the risotto. In late May they introduced Greenleaf Grille, an outdoor dining concept offering several backyard barbecue options under a tented space at the rear of the restaurant.

Best Fine Dining Restaurant
Best of the best:
Hanover Street Chophouse, 149 Hanover St., Manchester, 644-2467, hanoverstreetchophouse.com

Best of Concord: Angelina’s Ristorante Italiano, 11 Depot St., Concord, 228-3313, angelinasrestaurant.com

Best of Manchester: Copper Door Restaurant, 15 Leavy Drive, Bedford, 488-2677, copperdoor.com (The Copper Door Restaurant also has a location in Salem.)

Best of Nashua: Buckley’s Great Steaks, 438 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 424-0995, buckleysgreatsteaks.com

Best Family Restaurant
Best of the best:
The Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 669-6890, puritanbackroom.com

Best of Concord: The Red Blazer Restaurant and Pub, 72 Manchester St., Concord, 224-4101, theredblazer.com

Best of Manchester: T-Bones Great American Eatery, 25 S. River Road, Bedford, 641-6100, t-bones.com (T-Bones also has locations in Bedford, Derry, Laconia and Salem, and a sixth one scheduled to open in mid-September in Concord.)

Best of Nashua: T-Bones Great American Eatery, 77 Lowell Road, Hudson, 882-6677, t-bones.com (T-Bones also has locations in Bedford, Derry, Laconia and Salem, and a sixth one scheduled to open in mid-September in Concord.)

Best Diner
Best of the best:
The Red Arrow Diner, 61 Lowell St., Manchester, 626-1118, redarrowdiner.com (The Red Arrow Diner also has locations in Concord, Londonderry and Nashua.)

Best of Concord: The Red Arrow Diner, 112 Loudon Road, Concord, 415-0444, redarrowdiner.com (The Red Arrow Diner also has locations in Londonderry, Manchester and Nashua.)

Best of Manchester: Airport Diner, 2280 Brown Ave., Manchester, 623-5040, thecman.com

Best of Nashua: The D.W. Diner, 416 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 424-1116, thedwdiner.com

Best Eatery Whose Takeout Got You Through the Shutdown
Best of the best: Presto Craft Kitchen


By Matt Ingersoll
mingersoll@hippopress.com


Last month Chef Joe Grella and his wife Jessica celebrated the one-year anniversary of Presto Craft Kitchen, a carry-out restaurant on Manchester’s West Side specializing in Italian pasta dinners and made-to-order subs known as “sticks.” Grella also incorporated his dessert catering business, Custom Eats & Sweets, into the mix by featuring all kinds of unique items out of a refrigerated case, from his wildly popular Oreo cheesecake truffles to other treats like tiramisu, cheesecake and pudding cups, cookies and cannolis.

Already primarily a takeout restaurant, Presto Craft Kitchen has stayed open for business all throughout the shutdown, offering call-ahead ordering and over-the-phone payment options to minimize surface contact. During the onset of the pandemic, the eatery provided discounts for area hospital workers and free lunches for kids who had transitioned to remote learning.

“We didn’t just want to be busy. We also wanted to know that the community could count on us,” Grella said. “We’ve remained a part of so many people’s day-to-day lives and their dinner plans.”

In January, Grella began introducing a specials menu each month of his own unique takes on jumbo arancini, pasta and “stick” sandwiches. He kept it going even as the pandemic arrived in mid-March. The specials for the month of July — chicken Parmesan arancini, roasted garlic chicken florentine pasta, and an Italian cold cut stick — were so well received that he decided to keep them for another month, through the end of August.

Grella said he was very excited about learning he had been recognized in the Hippo’s mini Best Of poll, especially since Presto Craft Kitchen is just one year old.

“I think it shows that our goal is paying off, of putting our best foot forward and putting out food for the community that we are proud of,” he said.

Presto Craft Kitchen
Where:
168 Amory St., Manchester
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Contact: Visit prestocraftkitchen.com, find them on Facebook @prestocraftkitchennh or call 606-1252

Best of Concord: Revival Kitchen & Bar, 11 Depot St., Concord, 715-5723, revivalkitchennh.com. Known more for its in-house fine dining experience than for takeout, Revival Kitchen & Bar had to quickly pivot its daily operations back in March when restaurants in New Hampshire received an executive order by Gov. Chris Sununu to close for indoor dining. The eatery started with selections like special farm-to-table meals for two and burger and beer combos. When Granite State restaurants received the green light to reopen for outdoor dining in May, Revival had an all new outdoor deck built out in front of the restaurant’s doors. Indoor dining is back as of mid-June, but takeout from Revival is still available every Tuesday through Saturday.

Best of Manchester: Union Street Takeout, 90 Union St., Manchester, 260-7663. Union Street Takeout quietly opened its doors in January, before the onset of the pandemic. But since then, manager and cook Edwin Ward said that the takeout-only eatery has quickly become a popular spot for its meal deal options, including burgers, chili dogs, subs and more, all of which are served with chips and a drink.

Best of Nashua: Papa Joe’s Humble Kitchen, 237 South St., Milford, 672-9130, find them on Facebook. When the pandemic hit, Papa Joe’s felt its effects early on, spacing out the scheduling of its large volume of orders and choosing not to cook Easter dinners for the first time in more than two decades. The longtime Milford staple has always been known for its cooked-to-order gourmet burgers — of which there are countless customizable options — and it’s continued to feature specialty burgers every week.

FOOD SHOPPING

Best Bakery
Best of the best: Bread & Chocolate, 29 S. Main St., Concord, 228-3330

Best of Concord: The Crust & Crumb Baking Co., 126 N. Main St., Concord, 219-0763, thecrustandcrumb.com

Best of Manchester: Klemm’s Bakery, 29 Indian Rock Road, Windham, 437-8810, klemmsbakery.com

Best of Nashua: Buckley’s Bakery & Cafe, 436 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 262-5929, buckleysbakerycafe.com (Buckley’s Bakery & Cafe also has a location in Hollis.)

Best Butcher
Best of the best:
The Tuckaway Tavern & Butchery, 58 Route 27, Raymond, 244-2431, thetuckaway.com

Best of Concord: Concord Beef & Seafood, 75 S. Main St., Concord, 226-3474, find them on Facebook @concordbeefandseafood

Best of Manchester: Mr. Steer Meats & More, 27 Buttrick Road, Londonderry, 434-1444, mrsteermeats.com

Best of Nashua: The Flying Butcher, 124 Route 101A, Amherst, 598-6328, theflyingbutcher.com

Best Farmers Market
Best:
Concord Farmers Market, concordfarmersmarket.com; after its opening date was delayed by a week, the market began its 2020 season on May 9. It’s expected to continue every Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, on Capitol Street in Concord (near the Statehouse), through October.

Runner-up: Nashua Farmers Market, downtownnashua.org/local; this market began its 2020 season on June 21 and will continue every Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., through Oct. 18. Due to several lane closures on either side of Main Street to accommodate outdoor dining space for restaurants, this year’s market moved from its normal spot between Temple and Pearl streets down to the area in front of City Hall Plaza (229 Main St.).

Honorable mention: Bedford Farmers Market, bedfordfarmersmarketnh.org; the market began its 2020 season on June 16 and will continue on Tuesdays, from 3 to 6 p.m., through Oct. 13. The market is a new spot this year, in the parking lot of the former Harvest Market (209 Route 101, Bedford), which closed its doors earlier this year.

DELICIOUS DISHES

Best Dish or Drink You Had in the Last Year
Best of the best:
Chicken tenders at The River Casino & Sports Bar, 53 High St., Nashua, 881-9060, therivercasino.com. These hand-battered tenders are available with your choice of blue cheese, ranch, honey mustard, honey barbecue, sweet chili, Caribbean jerk sauce or mild, medium or hot inferno sauce.

Best of Concord: Garlic chicken nachos at Hermanos Cocina Mexicana, 11 Hills Ave., Concord, 224-5669, hermanosmexican.com. These nachos feature hand-cut yellow or blue corn tortilla chips with chicken, cheese and jalapenos, topped with garlic dressing.

Best of Manchester: Mudslides at The Puritan Backroom Restaurant, 245 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 669-6890, puritanbackroom.com. Options include the original mudslide with Baileys Irish cream, Kahlua coffee liqueur and vodka, as well as an Almond Joy mudslide, a maple mudslide and a Milky Way mudslide.

Best of Nashua: Filet mignon at Buckley’s Great Steaks, 438 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 424-0995, buckleysgreatsteaks.com. The filet mignon available at Buckley’s features a red wine demi-glace and comes with creamy mashed potatoes and the vegetable of the day.

Best Barbecue
Best of the best:
KC’s Rib Shack, 837 Second St., Manchester, 627-7427, ribshack.net

Best of Concord: Smokeshow Barbeque, 89 Fort Eddy Road, Concord, 227-6399, smokeshowbarbeque.com

Best of Manchester: Goody Cole’s Smokehouse and Catering Co., 374 Route 125, Brentwood, 679-8898, goodycoles.com

Best of Nashua: Smokehaus Barbecue, 278 Route 101, Amherst, 249-5734, smokehausbbq.com

Best Breakfast
Best of the best:
Tucker’s, 1328 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 206-5757, tuckersnh.com (Tucker’s also has locations in Concord, Dover, Merrimack and New London.)

Best of Concord: Tucker’s, 80 South St., Concord, 413-5884, tuckersnh.com (Tucker’s also has locations in Dover, Hooksett, Merrimack and New London.)

Best of Manchester: Purple Finch Cafe, 124 S. River Road, Bedford, 232-1958, purplefinchcafe.com (The Purple Finch Cafe reopened on Aug. 1.)

Best of Nashua: Tucker’s, 360 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 413-6477, tuckersnh.com (Tucker’s also has locations in Concord, Dover, Hooksett and New London.)

Best Restaurant for Weekend Brunch
Best of the best:
The Foundry Restaurant, 50 Commercial St., Manchester, 836-1925, foundrynh.com

Best of Concord: The Red Blazer Restaurant and Pub, 72 Manchester St., Concord, 224-4101, theredblazer.com

Best of Manchester: Tucker’s, 1328 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 206-5757, tuckersnh.com (Tucker’s also has locations in Concord, Dover, Merrimack and New London.)

Best of Nashua: Tucker’s, 360 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 413-6477, tuckersnh.com (Tucker’s also has locations in Concord, Dover, Hooksett and New London.)

Best Burgers
Best of the best:
The Barley House Restaurant & Tavern, 132 N. Main St., Concord, 228-6363, thebarleyhouse.com (The Barley House also has a location in North Hampton.)

Best of Concord: Vibes Gourmet Burgers, 25 S. Main St., Concord, 856-8671, vibesgourmetburgers.com

Best of Manchester: The Tuckaway Tavern & Butchery, 58 Route 27, Raymond, 244-2431, thetuckaway.com

Best of Nashua: Papa Joe’s Humble Kitchen, 237 South St., Milford, 672-9130, find them on Facebook

Best Fish & Chips
Best of the best:
The Peddler’s Daughter, 48 Main St., Nashua, 821-7535, thepeddlersdaughter.com

Best of Concord: Johnson’s Seafood and Steak, 1334 First New Hampshire Turnpike, Northwood, 942-7300, find them on Facebook @johnsonsnorthwood

Best of Manchester: Goldenrod Restaurant, 1681 Candia Road, Manchester, 623-9469, goldenrodrestaurant.com

Best of Nashua: The Lobster Boat, 453 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 424-5221, lobsterboatrestaurant.com (The Lobster Boat also has locations in Litchfield and Exeter.)

Best Mac & Cheese
Best of the best:
Mr. Mac’s Macaroni & Cheese, 497 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 606-1760, mr-macs.com (Mr. Mac’s also has locations in Portsmouth and Massachusetts)

Best of Concord: O Steaks & Seafood, 11 S. Main St., Concord, 856-7925, magicfoodsrestaurantgroup.com (O Steaks & Seafood also has a location in Laconia)

Best of Manchester: The Tuckaway Tavern & Butchery, 58 Route 27, Raymond, 244-2431, thetuckaway.com

Best of Nashua: Pressed Cafe, 108 Spit Brook Road, Nashua, 718-1250; 3 Cotton Road, Nashua, 402-1003 (this location is drive-thru only); and locations in Massachusetts; pressedcafe.com

Best Essential New Hampshire Dish
Best:
Chicken tenders at The Puritan Backroom Restaurant, 245 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 669-6890, puritanbackroom.com

Runner-up: Poutine at Chez Vachon, 136 Kelley St., Manchester, 625-9660, find them on Facebook

Honorable mention: Lobster roll at The Beach Plum, 3 Brickyard Square, Epping, 679-3200; 2800 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, 433-3339; 16 Ocean Blvd., North Hampton, 964-7451; thebeachplum.net

Best Nachos
Best of the best:
Hermanos Cocina Mexicana, 11 Hills Ave., Concord, 224-5669, hermanosmexican.com

Best of Concord: Dos Amigos Burritos, 26 N. Main St., Concord, 410-4161, dosamigosburritos.com (Dos Amigos Burritos also has a location in Portsmouth, and a third location in Dover under the name “Dos Mexican Eats.”)

Best of Manchester: La Carreta Mexican Restaurant, 545 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 628-6899; 1875 S. Willow St., Manchester, 623-7705; lacarretamex.com (La Carreta also has locations in Derry, Londonderry, Nashua and Portsmouth.)

Best of Nashua: La Carreta Mexican Restaurant, 139 Daniel Webster Highway, Nashua, 891-0055, lacarretamex.com (La Carreta also has locations in Derry, Londonderry, Portsmouth and two locations in Manchester.)

Best Noodle Bowl
Best of the best:
Buba Noodle Bar, 36 Lowell St., Manchester, 935-7864, bubanoodle.com

Best of Concord: Whiskey & Wine, 148 N. Main St., Concord, 715-8575, whiskey-wine.business.site

Best of Manchester: Pho Golden Bowl, 12 Lake Ave., Manchester, 622-2000, phogoldenbowlnh.com

Best of Nashua: You You Japanese Bistro, 150 Broad St., Nashua, 882-8337, youyoubistro.com

Best Pizza
Best of the best:
Alley Cat Pizzeria, 486 Chestnut St., Manchester, 669-4533, alleycatpizzerianh.com

Best of Concord: Constantly Pizza, 39 S. Main St., Concord, 224-9366, constantlypizza.net (Constantly Pizza also has a location in Penacook.)

Best of Manchester The Pizza Man of Hooksett, 254 W. River Road, Hooksett, 626-7499, thepizzamandelivers.com (The Pizza Man also has locations in Manchester, and in Lyndonville, Vt.)

Best of Nashua: Nashua House of Pizza, 40 E. Hollis St., Nashua, 883-6177, nashuahouseofpizza.com

Best Poutine
Best of the best
: Chez Vachon, 136 Kelley St., Manchester, 625-9660, find them on Facebook

Best of Concord: Vibes Gourmet Burgers, 25 S. Main St., Concord, 856-8671, vibesgourmetburgers.com

Best of Manchester: New England’s Tap House Grille, 1292 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 782-5137, taphousenh.com

Best of Nashua: Bar One, 40 Nashua St., Milford, 249-5327, find them on Facebook @baronenh

Best Salad and/or Grain Bowls
Best of the best:
Pressed Cafe, 108 Spit Brook Road, Nashua, 718-1250; 3 Cotton Road, Nashua, 402-1003 (this location is drive-through only); pressedcafe.com (Pressed Cafe also has locations in Burlington, Mass., and Newton, Mass.)

Best of Concord: Live Juice, 5 S. Main St., Concord, 226-3024, livejuicenh.com

Best of Manchester: Troy’s Fresh Kitchen & Juice Bar, 4 Orchard View Drive, No. 6, Londonderry, 965-3411, troysfreshkitchen.com

Best of Nashua: Big Kahunas Cafe & Grill, 380 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 494-4975, nhkahuna.com (Big Kahunas opened a sister restaurant in Hooksett, Big Kahunas Smokehouse, in July)

Best Sandwich
Best of the best:
Steak & Cheese sub at Sub Station, 1292 Hooksett Road, Suite H, Hooksett, 625-1800, substationhooksett.com. A shaved steak sandwich with your choice of American or provolone cheese. Subs can also be customized with teriyaki or barbecue sauce.

Best of Concord: The Black Russian sandwich at Beefside Restaurant, 106 Manchester St., Concord, 228-0208, beefsidenh.com. A white turkey breast and roast beef sandwich with Thousand Island dressing and Swiss cheese on pumpernickel bread, with hand-cut house fries.

Best of Manchester: Steak & Cheese sub at Nadeau’s, 776 Mast Road, Manchester, 623-9315; 100 Cahill Ave., Manchester, 669-7827; 805 Canal St., Manchester, 644-8888; 1095 Hanover St., Manchester, 606-4411; nadeaus.com. Steak & cheese subs can be ordered as steak tips or shaved steak. (Nadeau’s has a fifth location in Exeter and a sixth location in Concord that is temporarily closed.)

Best of Nashua: The Roman sandwich at Marc’s Pizza & Subs, 704 Milford Road, No. 5, Merrimack, 883-7000, eataroman.com. The sandwich includes mortadella, cooked salami, Genoa salami, imported ham, capicola and provolone cheese.

Best Seafood
Best of the best:
Surf Restaurant, 207 Main St., Nashua, 595-9293, surfseafood.com (Surf also has a location in Portsmouth.)

Best of Concord: Makris Lobster & Steak House, 354 Sheep Davis Road, Concord, 225-7665, eatalobster.com

Best of Manchester: Hooked Seafood Restaurant, 110 Hanover St., Manchester, 606-1189, hookedonignite.com

Bets of Nashua: The Lobster Boat, 453 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 424-5221, lobsterboatrestaurant.com (The Lobster Boat also has locations in Litchfield and Exeter.)

Best Subs
Best of the best:
Nadeau’s, 776 Mast Road, Manchester, 623-9315; 100 Cahill Ave., Manchester, 669-7827; 805 Canal St., Manchester, 644-8888; 1095 Hanover St., Manchester, 606-4411; nadeaus.com (Nadeau’s has a fifth location in Exeter and a sixth location in Concord that is temporarily closed.)

Best of Concord: Constantly Pizza, 39 S. Main St., Concord, 224-9366, constantlypizza.net (Constantly Pizza also has a location in Penacook.)

Best of Manchester: Sub Station, 1292 Hooksett Road, Suite H, Hooksett, 625-1800, substationhooksett.com

Best of Nashua: Bill Cahill’s Super Subs, 8 Kimball Hill Road, Hudson, 882-7710, find them on Facebook @billcahills

Best Tacos
Best of the best:
Dos Amigos Burritos, 26 N. Main St., Concord, 410-4161, dosamigosburritos.com (Dos Amigos Burritos also has a location in Portsmouth, and a third location in Dover under the name “Dos Mexican Eats.”)

Best of Concord: Hermanos Cocina Mexicana, 11 Hills Ave., Concord, 224-5669, hermanosmexican.com

Best of Manchester: La Carreta Mexican Restaurant, 545 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 628-6899; 1875 S. Willow St., Manchester, 623-7705; lacarretamex.com (La Carreta also has locations in Derry, Londonderry, Nashua and Portsmouth.)

Best of Nashua: California Burritos Mexican Grill, 101 Factory St., Nashua, 718-8745; 2 Cellu Drive, Nashua, 417-6151; californiaburritosnh.com (California Burritos Mexican Grill also has locations in Hudson and Manchester.)

BEST RESTAURANT FOR

Specialty Diet
Best of the best: Troy’s Fresh Kitchen & Juice Bar, 4 Orchard View Drive, No. 6, Londonderry, 965-3411, troysfreshkitchen.com

Best of Concord: Hermanos Cocina Mexicana, 11 Hills Ave., Concord, 224-5669, hermanosmexican.com

Best of Manchester: Republic Cafe, 1069 Elm St., Manchester, 666-3723, republiccafe.com (Republic Cafe is currently operating under the roof of its sister restaurant, Campo Enoteca, at 969 Elm St. in Manchester.)

Best of Nashua: Pressed Cafe, 108 Spit Brook Road, Nashua, 718-1250; 3 Cotton Road, Nashua, 402-1003 (this location is drive-thru only); pressedcafe.com (Pressed Cafe also has locations in Burlington, Mass., and Newton, Mass.)

Best Guilty Pleasure Food
Best of the best:
Cheesy bread at Romano’s Pizza, 27 Colby Court, Litchfield, 424-0500, romanosnh.com

Best of Concord: Drunken mac and cheese at Tandy’s Pub & Grille, 1 Eagle Square, Concord, 856-7614, tandyspub.com

Best of Manchester: Chicken tenders at The Puritan Backroom Restaurant, 245 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 669-6890, puritanbackroom.com

Best of Nashua: Chicken tenders at The River Casino & Sports Bar, 53 High St., Nashua, 881-9060, therivercasino.com

SWEET TREATS

Best Baklava
Best of the best: Glendi, stgeorge.nh.goarch.org. Glendi is a popular three-day festival celebrating Greek culture through food, music and dancing that’s usually held in mid-September at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Manchester (2020’s Glendi celebration has been canceled).

Best of Concord: Cookies and Cakes Hooray, 585 Union Ave., Laconia, 528-2253, cookiesandcakeshoo.wixsite.com/website

Best of Manchester: Amphora Restaurant, 55 Crystal Ave., Derry, 537-0111, amphoranh.com

Best of Nashua: JajaBelle’s, 143 Main St., Nashua, 769-1873, jajabelles.com (In February, JajaBelle’s relocated to its current location from down the street, in the former space of Graffiti Paintbar.)

Best Candy or Chocolate Shop
Best of the best:
Granite State Candy Shoppe, 13 Warren St., Concord, 225-2591, granitestatecandyshoppe.com (Granite State Candy Shoppe also has a location in Manchester.)

Best of Concord: Kellerhaus, 259 Endicott St. N, Weirs Beach, 366-4466, kellerhaus.com

Best of Manchester: Van Otis Chocolates, 341 Elm St., Manchester, 627-1611, vanotis.com

Best of Nashua: Nelson’s Candy and Music, 65 Main St., Wilton, 654-5030, nelsonscandymusic.com

Most Craveable Cookie
Best of the best:
Peanut butter cookie (Union Street Takeout, 90 Union St., Manchester, 260-7663)

Best of Concord: M&M cookie (Pats Peak Ski Area, 686 Flanders Road, Henniker, 428-3245, patspeak.com)

Best of Manchester: Triple chip cookie (The Cake Fairy, 114 Londonderry Turnpike, Hooksett, 518-8733, cakefairynh.com. According to Brianna Lucciano, whose mother Lisa owns The Cake Fairy, the bakery was set to reopen on Aug. 12.)

Best of Nashua: Chocolate chip cookie (Buckley’s Bakery & Cafe, 436 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 262-5929, buckleysbakerycafe.com. Buckley’s Bakery & Cafe also has a location in Hollis.)

Best Locally Made Doughnuts
Best of the best:
Klemm’s Bakery, 29 Indian Rock Road, Windham, 437-8810, klemmsbakery.com

Best of Concord: Brothers Donuts, 426 Central St., Franklin, 934-6678, find them on Facebook @brothersdonuts

Best of Manchester: The Local Moose Cafe, 124 Queen City Ave., Manchester, 232-2669, thelocalmoosecafe.com

Best of Nashua: Crosby Bakery, 51 E. Pearl St., Nashua, 882-1851, crosbybakerynh.com

Best Ice Cream
Best of the best:
Hayward’s Homemade Ice Cream, 7 Daniel Webster Highway, Nashua, 888-4663, haywardsicecream.com (Hayward’s also has a location in Merrimack.)

Best of Concord; Arnie’s Place, 164 Loudon Road, Concord, 228-3225, arniesplace.com

Best of Manchester: The Puritan Backroom Restaurant, 245 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 669-6890, puritanbackroom.com

Best of Nashua: The Big 1, 185 Concord St., Nashua, thebig1icecream.com

DRINKS

Best Beer Selection (at bar/restaurant)
Best of the best:
New England’s Tap House Grille, 1292 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 782-5137, taphousenh.com

Best of Concord: Area 23, 254 N. State St., Concord, 552-0137, thearea23.com

Best of Manchester: The Thirsty Moose Taphouse, 795 Elm St., Manchester, 792-2337, thirstymoosetaphouse.com (The Thirsty Moose also has locations in Dover, Exeter, Merrimack and Portsmouth.)

Best of Nashua: The Thirsty Moose Taphouse, 360 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 670-0270, thirstymoosetaphouse.com (The Thirsty Moose also has locations in Dover, Exeter, Manchester and Portsmouth.)

Best Beer Selection at a Retail Shop
Best of the best:
Bert’s Better Beers, 545 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 413-5992, bertsbetterbeers.com (In mid-December 2019, Bert’s Better Beers moved from Hooksett to its current location in Manchester.)

Best of Concord: Local Baskit, 10 Ferry St., Suite 120A, Concord, 219-0882, localbaskit.com

Best of Manchester: Lazy Dog Beer Shoppe, 27 Buttrick Road, Suite B4, Londonderry, 434-2500, lazydogbeer.com

Best of Nashua: The Beer Store, 433 Amherst St., Nashua, 889-2242, thebeerstorenh.com

Best New Hampshire Winery
Best:
Labelle Winery, 345 Route 101, Amherst, 672-9898, labellewinerynh.com (LaBelle Winery also has a location in Portsmouth.)

Runner-up: Zorvino Vineyards, 226 Main St., Sandown, 887-8463, zorvino.com

Honorable mention: Flag Hill Distillery & Winery, 297 N. River Road, Lee, 659-2949, flaghill.com

Best New Hampshire-made Cider or Mead
Best:
Ancient Fire Mead & Cider, 8030 S. Willow St., Building 1, Unit 7-2, Manchester, 203-4223, ancientfirewines.com

Runner-up: Moonlight Meadery, 23 Londonderry Road, No. 17, Londonderry, 216-2162, moonlightmeadery.com

Honorable mention: Contoocook Cider Co. (Gould Hill Farm), 656 Gould Hill Road, Contoocook, 746-1175, contoocookcider.com

Best New Hampshire Brewery
Best of the best:
603 Brewery, 42 Main St., Londonderry, 404-6123, 603brewery.com

Best of Concord: Lithermans Limited Brewery, 126 Hall St., Unit B, Concord, 219-0784, lithermans.beer

Best of Manchester: Pipe Dream Brewing, 49 Harvey Road, Londonderry, 404-0751, pipedreambrewingnh.com

Best of Nashua: Able Ebenezer Brewing Co., 31 Columbia Circle, Merrimack, 844-223-2253, ableebenezer.com

Where They Make Your Coffee Perfect Every Time
Best of the best:
Revelstoke Coffee, 100 N. Main St., Concord, revelstokecoffee.com

Best of Concord: White Mountain Gourmet Coffee, 15 Pleasant St., Concord, 228-3317, wmgconline.com

Best of Manchester: Cafe La Reine, 915 Elm St., Manchester, 232-0332, cafe-la-reine.square.site

Best of Nashua: A&E Coffee & Tea, 135 Route 101A, Amherst, 578-3338, aeroastery.com (A&E Coffee & Tea also has a cafe location in Manchester and a wholesale roastery in Nashua.)

FOOD PERSONALITIES

Most Inventive Chef
Best of the best:
Chris Viaud, Greenleaf, 54 Nashua St., Milford, 213-5447, greenleafmilford.com

Best of Concord: Corey Fletcher, Revival Kitchen & Bar, 11 Depot St., Concord, 715-5723, revivalkitchennh.com

Best of Manchester: Nicole Leavitt, Purple Finch Cafe, 124 S. River Road, Bedford, 232-1958, purplefinchcafe.com (The Purple Finch Cafe reopened on Aug. 1.)

Best of Nashua: Michael Buckley, Michael Timothy’s Dining Group (MT’s Local Kitchen & Wine Bar, 212 Main St., Nashua, 595-9334, mtslocal.com; Buckley’s Great Steaks, 438 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 424-0995, buckleysgreatsteaks.com; Surf Restaurant, 207 Main St., Nashua, 595-9293; 99 Bow St., Portsmouth, 334-9855; surfseafood.com; Buckley’s Bakery & Cafe, 436 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 262-5929; 9 Market Place, Hollis, 465-5522; buckleysbakerycafe.com)

Restaurant with the Friendliest Staff
Best of the best:
Talia’s Breakfast and Eatery, 44 Nashua Road, Londonderry, 260-5339, taliaseatery.com

Best of Concord: Tucker’s, 80 South St., Concord, 413-5884, tuckersnh.com (Tucker’s also has locations in Dover, Hooksett, Merrimack and New London.)

Best of Manchester: The Pizza Man of Hooksett, 254 W. River Road, Hooksett, 626-7499, thepizzamandelivers.com (The Pizza Man also has locations in Manchester, and in Lyndonville, Vt.)

Best of Nashua: T-Bones Great American Eatery, 77 Lowell Road, Hudson, 882-6677, t-bones.com (T-Bones also has locations in Bedford, Derry, Laconia and Salem, and a sixth one scheduled to open in mid-September in Concord.)

OUTDOORS

Best Farm for Pick-Your-Own
Best of the best:
Lull Farm, 65 Broad St., Hollis, 465-7079, livefreeandfarm.com. Pick-your-own opportunities include strawberries, apples and pumpkins. (Lull Farm also has a seasonal farm in Milford.)

Best of Concord: Carter Hill Orchard, 73 Carter Hill Road, Concord, 225-2625, carterhillapples.com. Pick-your-own opportunities include peaches, blueberries and apples.

Best of Manchester: Mack’s Apples, 230 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, 434-7619, macksapples.com. Pick-your-own opportunities include apples and pumpkins.

Best of Nashua: Brookdale Fruit Farm, 41 Broad St., Hollis, 465-2240, brookdalefruitfarm.com. Pick-your-own opportunities include strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, black raspberries, blackberries, apples and pumpkins.

Best City Park
Best of the best:
White Park, 1 White St., Concord, 225-8690, concordnh.gov/facilities/facility/details/White-Park-21. Amenities include a baseball field, a basketball court, playground equipment, a pool, walking trails, soccer fields, a roller hockey rink, a sledding trail and an ice skating rink.

Best of Concord: Rollins Park, 116 Broadway St., and parking at 33 Bow St., Concord, 225-8690, concordnh.gov/facilities/facility/details/Rollins-Park-17. Amenities include paved walking paths, a full-sized playground, picnic tables with shelter, baseball and softball fields, a basketball court, tennis courts, a pool and ice skating.

Best of Manchester: Livingston Park, 156 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 624-6444, manchesternh.gov/Departments/Parks-and-Recreation/Parks-Trails-and-Facilities/Parks/Livingston-Park. Amenities include a baseball diamond, a soccer field, a running track, a green space, two playgrounds, walking trails, fishing, ice skating and a pool with a slide.

Best of Nashua: Greeley Park, 100 Concord St., Nashua, 589-3370, nashuanh.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/Greeley-Park-29. Amenities include baseball and softball fields, a playground, picnic areas, horseshoes, a tennis court, walking trails, a wading pool and sledding.

Best State Park
Best:
Pawtuckaway State Park, 7 Pawtuckaway Road, Nottingham, 895-3031, nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/pawtuckaway-state-park. The park features more than 5,000 acres of land and trails, overnight camping, a large beach on the lake, boat rentals, a picnic pavilion and a playground.

Runner-up: Bear Brook State Park, 61 Deerfield Road, Allenstown, 485-9874, nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/bear-brook-state-park. 10,000 acres and 40 miles of trails makes it the largest developed state park in the Granite State. Activities include biking, hiking, camping, archery, swimming and fishing.

Honorable mention: Hampton Beach State Park, 160 Ocean Blvd., Hampton, 926-8990, nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/hampton-beach-state-park. In addition to the sunny shoreline fit for all beachgoing pleasure, the park offers year-round recreation like swimming, fishing, picnicking and RV camping with full hook-ups in the campground.

Best Bike Trail or Spot for a Bike Ride
Best of the best:
Nashua River Rail Trail, Nashua. The 12.3-mile asphalt rail trail connects Nashua to Ayer, Mass.

Best of Concord: Bear Brook State Park, 61 Deerfield Road, Allenstown, 485-9874, nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/bear-brook-state-park. The park features 40 miles of trails with opportunities for biking on various terrains and inclines.

Best of Manchester: Goffstown Rail Trail, Goffstown. The Goffstown Rail Trail is unpaved and runs for 7.5 miles from Goffstown to Manchester.

Best of Nashua: Mine Falls Park, Whipple Street, Nashua, 589-3370, nashuanh.gov/491/Mine-Falls-Park. The 325-acre park features around eight miles of trails.

Best Hike in Southern New Hampshire
Best:
Mount Monadnock, Jaffrey/Dublin, 532-8862, nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/monadnock-state-park. The 3,165-foot mountain features more than 35 hiking trails of various levels of difficulty leading to the summit.

Runner-up: Mount Major, Alton, blog.nhstateparks.org/mt-major-family-friendly-hike. The main trail is 1.5 miles to the 1,785-foot peak, which offers panoramic views of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Honorable mention: Pack Monadnock, 13 Miller Park Road, Peterborough. Three hiking trails and a 1.3-mile paved, driveable road lead to the 2,290-foot summit.

Best Lake to Canoe or Kayak
Best:
Lake Massabesic, Manchester, 624-6482, manchesternh.gov/departments/water-works/lake-massabesic-watershed. Three public boat launches allow for canoeing and kayaking over the 2,500-acre lake.

Runner-up: Pawtuckaway State Park, 7 Pawtuckaway Road, Nottingham, 895-3031, nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/pawtuckaway-state-park. The park offers canoe and kayak rentals and has a public canoe and kayak launch on Pawtuckaway Lake.

Honorable mention: Newfound Lake, boat launch at Wellington State Park, 614 W. Shore Road, Bristol, 744-2197, nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/wellington-state-park. The 4,106-acre lake is about 2.5 miles wide and seven miles long. Kayak rentals are available at the park.

Best Route for a Motorcycle Ride
Best:
Kancamagus Highway, kancamagushighway.com. It offers a 34.5-mile scenic drive from Lincoln to Conway along New Hampshire’s Route 112, with views of the White Mountains, the Swift River and Lower Falls.

Runner-up: Route 1A on the Seacoast, or the Coastal Byway, visit-newhampshire.com/seacoast/scenic-drives. An 18.4-mile drive along New Hampshire’s coastline through Portsmouth, Rye and Seabrook.

Honorable Mention: Route 3A, northern segment. The 31-mile drive runs from Franklin to Plymouth and offers scenic views of the Lakes Region.

Best Road Race
Best:
Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter Run & Walk for Food & Shelter, Nashua, held in April, 889-7770, nsks.org/run-and-walk-for-food-and-shelter. The race includes a Kids Sprint, 10K Run, 5K Run and 3K walk. All proceeds benefit the programs of the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter.

Runner-up: Payson Center for Cancer Care Rock ’N Race, Concord, held in May, 225-2711., giveto.concordhospital.org/rock-n-race/home. The race includes a five-mile run and a one-mile walk. All proceeds benefit the HOPE Resource Center at Payson Center for Cancer Care at Concord Hospital.

Honorable mention: Hollis Fast 5K, Hollis, held in June, hollisfast5k.com. The unique 5K course drops 224 feet from start to finish, earning the title of the fastest 5K in New England. All proceeds are distributed by the Hollis-Brookline Rotary Club to local charities to be used to fund educational scholarships.

ENTERTAINMENT

Best Bowling Alley
Best of the best:
Leda Lanes, 340 Amherst St., Nashua, 889-4884, ledalanes.com

Best of Concord: Boutwell’s Bowling Center, 152 N. State St., Concord, 224-0941, boutwellsbowl.com

Best of Manchester: Lakeside Lanes, 2171 Candia Road, Manchester, 627-7722, lakesidelanes.com

Best of Nashua: Merrimack Ten Pin Center, 698 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 429-0989, merrimacktenpin.com

Best Bookstore or Comic Book Store
Best of the best:
Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com

Best of Concord: MainStreet BookEnds of Warner, 16 E. Main St., Warner, 456-2700, mainstreetbookends.com

Best of Manchester: The Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester, 836-6600, bookerymht.com

Best of Nashua: The Toadstool Bookshop, Somerset Plaza, 375 Amherst St., Nashua, 673-1734, toadbooks.com. (The Toadstool also has locations in Peterborough and Keene.)

Best Game Night
Best of the best:
Boards & Brews, 941 Elm St., Manchester, 232-5184, boardsandbrewsnh.com. A board game cafe.

Best of Concord: Trivia Night, Area 23, 254 N. State St., Concord, 552-0137, thearea23.com. Held every Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Best of Manchester: Trivia Night, The Farm Bar & Grill, 1181 Elm St., Manchester, 641-3276, farmbargrille.com. Not currently running.

Best of Nashua: Trivia Night and Bingo Night, The Pasta Loft Restaurant, 241 Union Square, Milford, 672-2270, pastaloft.com. Not currently running.

Best Escape Room
Best of the best:
Granite State Escape, 795 Elm St., Manchester, 935-7455, escapenh.com

Best of Concord: Escape Room Concord, 240 Airport Road, Concord, 225-2271, escaperoomconcordnh.com

Best of Manchester: LOK’d Room Escape, Mall of New Hampshire, 1500 S. Willow St., Manchester, 945-3113, lokdrocks.com

Best of Nashua: Key to Escape, 3 Bud Way, Nashua, 809-4018, keytoescape.com

Best Place to See a Movie
Best:
Red River Theatres, 11 S. Main St., Concord, 224-4600, redrivertheatres.org. The theater is not currently open but is screening movies through its virtual cinema program, featuring a line-up of new and older independent films; see the website for details.

Runner-up: Chunky’s Cinema, 707 Huse Road, Manchester, 206-3888, chunkys.com. (Chunky’s also has locations in Nashua and Pelham.)

Honorable mention: Chunky’s Cinema, 151 Coliseum Ave., Nashua, 880-8055, chunkys.com. (Chunky’s also has locations in Manchester and Pelham.)

EVENTS

Best Community Event
Best of the best: Market Days Festival, Concord, intownconcord.org. A three-day street festival, hosted by Intown Concord, featuring shopping, games and live entertainment on Main Street. Typically held in June, this year’s event has been reimagined as Market Month, with “Mini Market Days” going on every weekend in August.

Best of Concord: Midnight Merriment, Concord, intownconcord.org. A holiday event, put on by Intown Concord, featuring food, shopping, entertainment and more. This year’s event is tentatively scheduled for Friday, Dec. 4.

Best of Manchester: Intown Taco Tour, Manchester, intownmanchester.com. An annual street festival organized by Intown Manchester in May. Restaurants create and sell their own unique tacos, and attendees vote on their favorites. Intown stated that this year’s event has been postponed, with a new date TBD.

Best of Nashua: Winter Holiday Stroll, Nashua, downtownnashua.org. A holiday event, presented by Great American Downtown, featuring live music, food, holiday shopping, a candlelight stroll and a tree-lighting ceremony downtown. It’s normally held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but Great American Downtown stated that the status of this year’s event is TBD.

Best Food or Drink Event
Best of the best:
Glendi, Manchester, stgeorge.nh.goarch.org. A three-day festival hosted by St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral celebrating Greek culture through food, music and dancing. The festival is usually held in mid-September but has been canceled this year.

Best of Concord: New Hampshire Brewers Festival, Concord, granitestatebrewersassociation.org. The annual festival, presented by the New Hampshire Brewers Association in July, invites craft breweries from all over the state to pour their original brews for beer-lovers.

Best of Manchester: Intown Taco Tour, Manchester, intownmanchester.com. An annual street festival organized by Intown Manchester in May. Restaurants create and sell their own unique tacos, and attendees vote on their favorites. Intown stated that this year’s event has been postponed, with a new date TBD.

Best of Nashua: Great American Ribfest, Merrimack, greatamericanribfest.com. The three-day event at Anheuser-Busch features professional barbecue vendors from across the country as well as other food vendors, a beer experience, live entertainment, kids activities and more. It’s typically held on Father’s Day weekend but was canceled this year.

Best Event to Show Off Your Cosplay
Best
: Granite State Comic Con, Manchester, granitecon.com. A two-day comic and pop culture convention produced by Double Midnight Comics, featuring guest celebrities and comic artists, educational panels and workshops, costume contests, gaming, vendors and more. It’s normally held in September, but this year’s event has been canceled.

Runner-up: Queen City Kamikaze, Manchester, facebook.com/queencitykamikaze. A one-day comic and pop culture convention held in March, featuring a cosplay contest, video game and tabletop game tournaments, live game shows, panels, vendors, artists and more.

Honorable mention: Free Comic Book Day, freecomicbookday.com, at Double Midnight Comics (245 Maple St., Manchester, 669-9636; 67 S. Main St., Concord, 669-9636, dmcomics.com) and Jetpack Comics (37 N. Main St., Rochester, 330-9636, jetpackcomics.com). The annual worldwide event, held the first Saturday in May, encourages comic book shops to hand out free comic books created specially for that day. The largest FCBD celebration in the state is the Rochester Free Comic Book Day Festival, a partnership between the City of Rochester and Jetpack Comics, featuring local comic creators, vendors, live entertainment, food, a cosplay contest and more throughout downtown. Double Midnight Comics in Manchester hosts a popular cosplay contest at its Manchester store. This year’s FCBD has been reworked as Free Comic Book Summer. Every Wednesday, now through Sept. 9, participating local comic book shops will put out five or six different free comics.

Best Parade
Best:
Manchester St. Patrick’s Parade, saintpatsnh.com.

Runner-up: Litchfield Memorial Day Parade

Honorable mention: Manchester Christmas Parade, intownmanchester.com. Typically held in early December.

FUN — WITH PEOPLE!

Best After-Work Hang-Out Spot
Best of the best:
The River Casino & Sports Bar, 52 High St., Nashua, 881-9060, therivercasino.com

Best of Concord: Area 23, 254 N. State St., Concord, 552-0137, thearea23.com

Best of Manchester: Strange Brew, 88 Market St., Manchester, 666-4292, strangebrewtavern.net

Best of Nashua: The Thirsty Moose Taphouse, 360 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 670-0270, thirstymoosetaphouse.com. (The Thirsty Moose also has locations in Manchester, Dover, Exeter and Portsmouth.)

Best First Date Place
Best of best:
Boards & Brews, 941 Elm St., Manchester, 232-5184, boardsandbrewsnh.com. A board game cafe.

Best of Concord: Angelina’s Ristorante Italiano, 11 Depot St., Concord, 228-3313, angelinasrestaurant.com

Best of Manchester: Mint Bistro, 1105 Elm St., Manchester, 625-6468, mintbistronh.com

Best of Nashua: Buckley’s Great Steaks, 438 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 424-0995, buckleysgreatsteaks.com

Most Impressive Date Spot
Best of the best:
Hanover Street Chophouse, 149 Hanover St., Manchester, 644-2467, hanoverstreetchophouse.com

Best of Concord: Angelina’s Ristorante Italiano, 11 Depot St., Concord, 228-3313, angelinasrestaurant.com

Best of Manchester: Bedford Village Inn, 2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford, 472-2001, bedfordvillageinn.com

Best of Nashua: Buckley’s Great Steaks, 438 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 424-0995, buckleysgreatsteaks.com

Best Crowd at Whatever
Best:
Get Fit NH, 287 S. Main St., Concord, 344-2651, getfitnh.com

Runner-up: The River Casino & Sports Bar, 52 High St., Nashua, 881-9060, therivercasino.com

Honorable mention: Area 23, 254 N. State St., Concord, 552-0137, thearea23.com

FAMILY FUN

Best Family or Kids Event
Best of the best:
Market Days Festival, Concord, intownconcord.org. A three-day street festival, hosted by Intown Concord, featuring shopping, games and live entertainment on Main Street. Typically held in June, the event has been reimagined this year as Market Month, with “Mini Market Days” going on every weekend in August.

Best of Concord: Deerfield Fair, deerfieldfair.com. One of the largest agricultural fairs in the state, featuring rides, entertainment, food and more. It’s usually held for four days in September, but this year’s event has been canceled.

Best of Manchester: Glendi, Manchester, stgeorge.nh.goarch.org. A three-day festival hosted by St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral celebrating Greek culture through food, music and dancing. The festival is usually held in mid-September but has been canceled this year.

Best of Nashua: Kids Con New England, Nashua, kidsconne.com. The first and largest comic convention in New England created just for kids. Held in June, the one-day event features comic-centric activities, workshops and panels, gaming, family-friendly comic book creators and children’s book authors and artists.

Best Place to Take Your Kids
Best of the best:
Fun City Trampoline Park, 553 Mast Road, Goffstown, 606-8807, funcitygoffstown.com. Closed until further notice, according to its Facebook page.

Best of Concord: Krazy Kids, 60 Sheep Davis Road, Pembroke, 228-7529, gokrazykids.com. An indoor playground and party venue. Currently running summer camps, but the indoor play area is closed to the public until further notice, according to the website.

Best of Manchester: Aviation Museum of New Hampshire, 27 Navigator Road, Londonderry, 669-4820, nhahs.org. Open only on select dates until further notice. Upcoming dates are Saturdays, Aug. 15 and Aug. 29.

Best of Nashua: Nuthin’ but Good Times, 746 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 429-2200, nuthinbutgoodtimes.com. An indoor playground and party venue.

Best Indoor Play Area
Best of the best:
Fun City Trampoline Park, 553 Mast Road, Goffstown, 606-8807, funcitygoffstown.com. Closed until further notice, according to its Facebook page.

Best of Concord: Krazy Kids, 60 Sheep Davis Road, Pembroke, 228-7529, gokrazykids.com. An indoor playground and party venue. Currently running summer camps, but the indoor play area is closed to the public until further notice, according to the website.

Best of Manchester: Cowabunga’s, 725 Huse Road, Manchester, 935-9659, mycowabungas.com. An indoor inflatable playground and party venue. Currently closed, but plans to reopen this month.

Best of Nashua: Nuthin’ but Good Times, 746 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 429-2200, nuthinbutgoodtimes.com. An indoor playground and party venue.

Best Kids Summer Day Camp
Best of the best:
Melody Pines Day Camp, 510 Corning Road, Manchester, 669-9414, melodypines.com

Best of Concord: New Hampshire Audubon Nature Day Camp, McLane Audubon Center, 84 Silk Farm Road, Concord, 224-9909, nhaudubon.org. (Camp is also held at the Massabesic Audubon Center in Auburn.)

Best of Manchester: Boys & Girls Club of Manchester’s Camp Foster, 36 Camp Allen Road, Bedford, 625-5031, begreatmanchester.org

Best of Nashua: YMCA of Greater Nashua’s Camp Sargent, 141 Camp Sargent Road, Merrimack, 880-4845, campsargent.org

Best Place to Hold a Kids Birthday Party
Best of the best:
Cowabunga’s, 725 Huse Road, Manchester, 935-9659, mycowabungas.com. An indoor inflatable playground and party venue. Currently closed, but plans to reopen this month.

Best of Concord: Krazy Kids, 60 Sheep Davis Road, Pembroke, 228-7529, gokrazykids.com. An indoor playground and party venue. Currently running summer camps, but the indoor play area is closed to the public until further notice, according to the website.

Best of Manchester: Fun City Trampoline Park, 553 Mast Road, Goffstown, 606-8807, funcitygoffstown.com. Closed until further notice, according to its Facebook page.

Best of Nashua: Wild Salamander Creative Arts Center, 30 Ash St., Hollis, 465-9453, wildsalamander.com.

PETS

Best Doggie Day Care
Best of the best:
American K9 Country, 336 Route 101, Amherst, 672-8448, americank9country.com. Day care and boarding for dogs and cats and training classes in dock jumping, obedience, agility and more for dogs.

Best of Concord: Paws on Pine, 913 Pine St., Contoocook, 568-4022, pawsonpinenh.com. A small boarding and day care center for dogs that specializes in Flower Essence aromatherapy for dogs.

Best of Manchester: All Dogs Gym & Inn, 505 Sheffield Road, Manchester, 669-4644, alldogsgym.com. Training, boarding and day care services for dogs as well as classes in various dog sports.

Best of Nashua: Cloud K9, 29 Columbia Circle, Merrimack, 424-6166, cloudk9.net. Day care and boarding for dogs with an enclosed turfgrass play area.

Best Dog Groomer
Best of the best: Sarah’s Paw Spa, 16 Manning St., Derry, 512-4539, sarahspawspa.com. A certified grooming service with a custom tub and full spa experience that includes tooth brushing, nail painting and aloe facial cleanses.

Best of Concord: Bark Now, 237 S. Main St., Concord, 229-3700, barknow.com. Full grooming treatments available as well as facials, luxury baths, paw pedicures and Reiki energy therapy.

Best of Manchester: Hollywood Hounds Pet Spa, 250 Wallace Road, Bedford, 472-7387, hollywoodhoundsnh.com. A full-service pet spa using only all-natural, hypoallergenic materials and offering basic grooming, flea and tick removal and emergency de-skunking.

Best of Nashua: Cloud K9, 29 Columbia Circle, Merrimack, 424-6166, cloudk9.net. Grooming services include blow-outs, brush-outs, ear cleaning and plucking and nail trims and cuts. Package deals with half-day day care and grooming are available.

Best Place to Let Your Dog Off Leash
Best of the best: Hudson Dog Park at Benson Park,19 Kimball Hill Road, Hudson, 886-6000, hudsonnh.gov/bensonpark/page/dog-park. A fenced-in public dog park that includes two separate areas for large and small dogs. Dog waste bags are available.

Best of Concord: Terrill Park, Old Turnpike Road, Concord, 225-8690, concordnh.gov/facilities/facility/details/Terrill-Park-28. The 21-acre park features a fenced-in dog park for both large and small dogs.

Best of Manchester: Hooksett Dog Park, 101 Merrimack St., Hooksett, 668-8019, hooksett.org/parks-recreation-cemeteries-division/pages/dog-park. Two off-leash fenced-in play areas for small and large dogs. Dog waste bags are available.

Best of Nashua: American K9 Country, 336 Route 101, Amherst, 672-8448, americank9country.com. Fenced-in dog park available at the doggie day care, free of charge.

Best On-Leash Dog Outing
Best of the best:
Mine Falls Park, Whipple Street, Nashua, 589-3370, nashuanh.gov/491/Mine-Falls-Park. A 325-acre park with forest, wetlands, open fields and around eight miles of trails.

Best of Concord: Downtown Concord, North Main Street, Concord. The open lawn green space of the Statehouse lawn, the weekly Farmers Market and Market Days offer a great chance for humans and dogs alike to get out and about in the Capital City.

Best of Manchester: Livingston Park, Hooksett Road, Manchester, 624-6444, manchesternh.gov/Departments/Parks-and-Recreation/Parks-Trails-and-Facilities/Parks/Livingston-Park. Includes a loop walking trail that circles Dorr’s Pond.

Best of Nashua: Benson Park,19 Kimball Hill Road, Hudson, 886-6000, hudsonnh.gov/bensonpark. A 166-acre recreational spot with plenty of walking trails.

NIGHTLIFE

Best Bar for Live Music
Best of the best:
The Shaskeen Pub and Restaurant, 909 Elm St., Manchester, 625-0246, theshaskeenpub.com. Regular live music has not yet resumed, but there will be a trial run performance by Marty Quirk on the patio on Sunday, Aug. 16, at 3 p.m.

Best of Concord: Area 23, 254 N. State St., Concord, 552-0137, thearea23.com. Live music every Friday and Saturday night and Saturday afternoon.

Best of Manchester: Strange Brew, 88 Market St., Manchester, 666-4292, strangebrewtavern.net. The bar stated that it will not be having any live music in the near future due to Covid-19 regulations.

Best of Nashua: The Pasta Loft Restaurant, 241 Union Square, Milford, 672-2270, pastaloft.com. The bar stated that it does not have live music at this time.

Best Bar with an Outdoor Deck
Best of the best:
The Derryfield Restaurant, 625 Mammoth Road, Manchester, 623-2880, thederryfield.com

Best of Concord: Downtown Cheers Grille & Bar, 17 Depot St., Concord, 228-0181, cheersnh.com

Best of Manchester: Murphy’s Taproom, 494 Elm St., Manchester, 644-3535, murphystaproom.com

Best of Nashua: The Pasta Loft Restaurant, 241 Union Square, Milford, 672-2270, pastaloft.com.

Best Pub
Best of the best:
The Shaskeen Pub and Restaurant, 909 Elm St., Manchester, 625-0246, theshaskeenpub.com

Best of Concord: The Barley House Restaurant & Tavern, 132 N. Main St., Concord, 228-6363, thebarleyhouse.com. (The Barley House also has a location in North Hampton.)

Best of Manchester: Strange Brew, 88 Market St., Manchester, 666-4292, strangebrewtavern.net

Best of Nashua: The Peddler’s Daughter, 48 Main St., Nashua, 821-7535, thepeddlersdaughter.com

Best Sports Bar
Best of the best:
Billy’s Sports Bar & Grill, 34 Tarrytown Road, Manchester, 622-3644, billyssportsbar.com

Best of Concord: The Draft Sports Bar and Grill, 67 S. Main St., Concord, 227-1175, draftsportsbar.com

Best of Manchester: The Thirsty Moose Taphouse, 795 Elm St., Manchester, 792-2337, thirstymoosetaphouse.com. (The Thirsty Moose also has locations in Merrimack, Dover, Exeter and Portsmouth.)

Best of Nashua: The Thirsty Moose Taphouse, 360 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 670-0270, thirstymoosetaphouse.com. (The Thirsty Moose also has locations in Manchester, Dover, Exeter and Portsmouth.)

Best Regular Event at a Bar
Best of the best:
Famous Friday Rubber Chicken Toss at The River Casino & Sports Bar, 52 High St., Nashua, 881-9060, therivercasino.com. Held every Friday at 7 p.m. Players get three rubber chickens. Sink one rubber chicken into the pot and win a six-piece chicken tenders dinner; sink two, win a 12-piece chicken tenders dinner; sink all three, win $200.

Best of Concord: Open Mic Night at Area 23, 254 N. State St., Concord, 552-0137, thearea23.com. Every Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Best of Manchester: Queen City Improv at Stark Brewing Co., 500 Commercial St., Manchester, 625-4444, starkbrewingcompany.com. The Manchester-based improvisational theater troupe typically performs at the bar monthly, but shows have been put on hold until further notice.

Best of Nashua: Open Mic at Fody’s Tavern, 9 Clinton St., Nashua, 577-9015, fodystavern.com. Fody’s is planning to resume open mic soon.

Where to Go when you want to See and be Seen
Best of the best:
The Shaskeen Pub and Restaurant, 909 Elm St., Manchester, 625-0246, theshaskeenpub.com

Best of Concord: Tandy’s Pub & Grille, 1 Eagle Square, Concord, 856-7614, tandyspub.com

Best of Manchester: The Derryfield Restaurant, 625 Mammoth Road, Manchester, 623-2880, thederryfield.com

Best of Nashua: The River Casino & Sports Bar, 52 High St., Nashua, 881-9060, therivercasino.com

NOTABLE LOCALS

Friendliest Mechanic
Best of the best:
Mike Alton, Pro-Image Automotive, 254 Sheffield Road, Manchester, 644-8480, proimageautomotive.com

Best of Concord: Gunnar Wicklund, Wicklund’s Automotive Center, 240 N. State St., Concord, 224-2102, wicklundsauto.com

Best of Manchester: Ralph Brutus, Brutus Auto Repair & Service, 148 Merrimack St., Manchester, 624-8881, brutusauto.com

Best of Nashua: Chad Tanguay, Merrimack Auto Center, 9 Webb Drive, Merrimack, 216-9596; 150 Amherst St., Nashua, 546-0157; merrimackautocenterllc.com

Best Local Music Act
Best
: Alli Beaudry, allibeaudry.com

Runner-up: Matt the Sax, find him on Facebook @mattthesax

Honorable mention: Songs With Molly, find them on Facebook @songswithmolly

Friendliest Librarians
Best:
Concord Public Library, 45 Green St., Concord, 225-8670, concordpubliclibrary.net (The Concord Public Library reopened to the public on July 13, operating under limited hours.)

Runner-up: Bedford Public Library, 3 Meetinghouse Road, Bedford, 472-2300, bedfordnhlibrary.org (The Bedford Public Library is currently closed to the public, but contact-free curbside pickups are available every Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m.)

Honorable mention: Aaron Cutler Memorial Library, 269 Charles Bancroft Highway, Litchfield, 424-4044, cutlerlibrary.blogspot.com (The Aaron Cutler Memorial Library is currently closed to the public, but porch pickups are available every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.)

New Hampshire-based Celebrity Who Seems Like They’d Be the Most Fun at a Party
Best: Pete Psaledas, Director of Distributor Relations at Presence Marketing and a Litchfield resident

Runner-up: Fred “Fritz” Wetherbee, “Fritz Wetherbee’s New Hampshire,” as seen on WMUR’s New Hampshire Chronicle

Honorable mention: Steven Tyler, frontman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band Aerosmith

Favorite Fictional Granite Stater
Best:
The Old Man of the Mountain (a series of cliff ledges resembling the profile of a man’s face, The Old Man of the Mountain was a popular tourist attraction at Franconia Notch State Park until its collapse in May 2003.)

Runner-up: President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (who is portrayed by Martin Sheen in the critically acclaimed political drama series The West Wing.)

Honorable mention: Binky Sears (a fictional character often featured in Fritz Wetherbee’s stories in “Fritz Wetherbee’s New Hampshire,” as seen on WMUR’s New Hampshire Chronicle.)

LIVING HERE

Happiest Place in NH
Best:
Get Fit NH (287 S. Main St. in Concord; getfitnh.com, 344-2651). Get Fit NH is currently offering both in-person and virtual fitness classes.

Runner-up: The White Mountains (The Forest Service’s website, fs.usda.gov/whitemountain, sells day-use passes online to the White Mountain National Forest as well as maps and more. At visitwhitemountains.com, you can find more about visiting the area, including advice on alternative hiking and parking sites when popular locations are crowded.)

Honorable mention: Hampton Beach (Though many of the regular Hampton Beach events have been canceled for this summer, you can still find outdoor movies on Monday nights and nightly live music starting at 7 p.m. See hamptonbeach.org.)

Best Thing About Living in NH in the Winter
Best:
Skiing (As one reader said “Skiing is Awesome.”)

Runner-up: Snow

Honorable mention: Snowshoeing

Best Thing We Forgot to Ask About
Best:
Best New Hampshire Product/Best Jams and Jellies made in NH: Laurel Hill Jams & Jellies (laurelhilljams.com). Find them at stores throughout the area including Bedford Hannaford and Christmas Tree Shops in Nashua and Salem; see a list on the website.

Runner-up: Best Tattoos: Arrows and Embers Tattoo (117 Manchester St. in Concord; arrowsandemberstattoo.com, 988-6067)

Honorable mention: Best Massage Therapist: Bethany Chabot, LMT 444 Hands, Innately Integrative Massage & Energy Therapy, located in The Wellness Center at Family Chiropractic of Merrimack, 36 Baboosic Lake Road, Merrimack, 834-2758, 444hands.com.

Soundtrack to your summer

7 performers talk about playing in a time when local music is center stage

In the midst of live music’s strangest season — with most national acts having canceled their tours — local talent is getting a lot of love.

“From farmer’s markets to on stage gigs, everyone has been so attentive and so appreciative,” Paul Driscoll said. “I’ve gotten some of the best and most generous feedback this year.”

MB Padfield, a Granite State native who heads home from L.A. every summer, agrees.

“People are bored of being bored and I think they’re far more receptive now that they’ve had this time to really reflect on priorities in their life,” she said. “Quarantine was a really big pause button.”

Here’s a look at seven performers currently playing around the state.

Gabby Martin

Performing since 2017, Gabby Martin is from Rochester and currently lives in Thornton.

What should people know about your music?

First of all, I see myself as a local kid — I really do love the state of New Hampshire. I love the venues and just being able to meet members of the community that I normally would not interact with. … Musically, I love performing covers. I do write music as well but there’s something really special about recreating music that people know and love in my own way.

What did you do during quarantine?

One thing that makes me unique from some of the other artists is that I’m also in grad school so that keeps me busy. During quarantine I did a live concert every Sunday and also learned some new equipment, played with some software. I am not one of those that wrote an entire album or anything like that.

When did you start playing out again?

May 22 at Schilling Beer Co. in Littleton.

How’s your summer going so far?

It’s going well. The biggest challenge would be the weather. I’ve been playing at Schilling Brewery in Littleton about once a weekend and that’s been a good addition, something that I didn’t have on the books before the beginning of the summer. It’s going well and it’s very nice to be back out with people.

What are some of your favorite venues?

Schilling Beer … the Copper Doors, Kettlehead Brewing, and I love Hart’s Turkey Farm — it’s a classic New Hampshire venue.

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

I’m finding it’s going very quickly compared to last summer.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

I’m pretty active on Facebook and Instagram and I also have a YouTube page.

Typical set list

“Bennie and the Jets” – Elton John

“Bobbie McGee” – Janis Joplin

“Big Yellow Taxi” – Joni Mitchell

“Valerie” – Amy Winehouse

“Angel from Montgomery” – John Prine

“Wish I Knew You” – The Revivalists

“Love Song” – Sara Bareilles

“Put Your Records On” – Corrine Bailey Rae

“Sunrise – Norah Jones

“Ironic” – Alanis Morissette

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 7 – Lone Wolf Brewing, Wolfeboro

Aug. 8 – Tumbledown Café, Sanbornville

Aug. 9 – Ore Mill, Warren

Aug. 11 – Common Man, Ashland

Aug. 13 – Sea Dog Brewing, Exeter

Aug. 27 – Revolution Taproom, Rochester

MB Padfield

Performing since she was 16, MB Padfield is originally from Manchester and is now based in North Hollywood, California. She comes back to New England to perform from the end of June to Labor Day since she moved to L.A. in 2017.

What should people know about your music?

The elevator pitch is I’m a pretty versatile live performer but my original music is grounded in pop and songwriting, so I’d like people to know that I’m a songwriter and that I write original music as well as play it in addition to live performances.

What did you do during quarantine?

I was just writing. I was songwriting and working on recording. I’m prepping, I want to do a record and I’m in the place I think mentally now where I’m really ready to do that, and I have the songs. So I spent the entire quarantine time just writing and making good music and then learning new stuff — spending time on, you know, things that I think were on the to-do list but I haven’t gotten to yet. … I wanted to learn a new computer program, I wanted to learn more about bass, and I think I was able to have that time so I could really dive in.

When did you start playing out again?

June 24 at Murphy’s Taproom in Manchester [a weekly residency for the summer].

How’s your summer going so far?

Everything has honestly been really great other than the fact that I lost more than half of my work — shows that I booked at the beginning of 2020 and canceled and then rebooked and then with the shutdown they canceled again. … But crowds want to be entertained and they are a bit more receptive. … In a world of background noise, I feel like now has been the time where we’re able to really step out from that.

What are some of your favorite venues?

I love playing at Bernie’s Beach Bar, it has a big stage, and at Wally’s; Hampton Beach feels like the Las Vegas strip.

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

I’m still taking requests for private parties and events and I’m still looking to book new venues and more venues. For the most part things have been status quo, or they have been in the past couple of weeks. Hopefully the Covid numbers will continue to decline and we’ll be able to start really moving past this.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

All my shows are on my website, mbpadfield.com

Typical set list

“Give Me One Reason” – Tracy Chapman

“Pretty for a Living” – MB Padfield

“Whole Lotta Love” – Led Zeppelin

“Havana” – Camila Cabello

“Into You” – MB Padfield

“The Real Slim Shady” – Eminem

“War Pigs” – Black Sabbath

“Full Throttle” – MB Padfield

“Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” – Lauryn Hill

“The Cat Song” – MB Padfield

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 8 – Bernie’s Beach Bar, Hampton Beach

Aug. 9 – Wally’s, Hampton Beach

Aug. 10 – Bernie’s Beach Bar, Hampton Beach

Aug. 12 – Murphy’s Taproom, Manchester (Wednesday residency)

Aug. 13 – Stumble Inn, Londonderry

Brad Bosse

Brad Bosse, originally from Milford, has been performing full time for eight years. He currently lives in Hooksett and has a summer place in Wells, Maine.

What should people know about your music?

I’m upbeat. I bring a good time. I do everything from Sinatra to Notorious B.I.G. to Sublime to Kenny Chesney. I kind of do it all, but I kind of make it into my own style.

What did you do during quarantine?

I was super bummed just because I’m a driven guy [and am] used to working all the time. The first couple of days, it was nice to have some time off, but I forecast my schedule six to eight months out and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I have no income.’ … I went on unemployment [so] I was making some money. I did a couple of livestreams … I called them Pajama Jams … but sitting in front of your phone in your bedroom playing guitar just doesn’t have the same effect as playing live. Then I said, when have I had this much time to just relax and write music, to not have to perform? Just picking up my guitar … it was nice to just do it for the pure joy of music again.

When did you start playing out again?

The first Monday that New Hampshire opened up outdoor dining May 20 at Penuche’s, then I played Wednesday at Stumble Inn in Londonderry, then Thursday at Tuscan Kitchen in Salem.

How’s your summer going so far?

It’s been really good. I was worried about the weather, because you just never know, and I personally super lucked out … every [time] it’s rained it was either before or after my gig. I’ve only gotten rained out twice. In regards to people coming out it’s a sense of normalcy that’s nice. … I love my job. It’s work, but at the same time I like that with music I get to forget anything else in life for three hours and just get lost in the music. I missed that, and it’s nice to have that again.

What are some of your favorite venues?

Instabar — that’s a new and really fun place. Stumble Inn is great … and Tuscan [Market & Kitchen in Salem].

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

More of the same. … I was doing Friday, Saturday and Sunday doubles every single week last summer, and I decided to stop, but when somebody offers me a gig, I have such a hard time saying no even though I know the day is going to kick my ass. This summer … I picked up a couple, because I had gigs set up before Covid hit, then I booked all these new dates.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

My Brad Bosse Music Facebook page is the best place.

Typical set list

“Steal My Kisses” – Ben Harper

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – “Rolling Stones

“No Diggity” – Blackstreet

“Franklin’s Tower” – Grateful Dead

“Fly Me to the Moon” – Frank Sinatra

“Humble” – Kendrick Lamar

“Danny’s Song” – Kenny Loggins

“Give Me One Reason” – Tracy Chapman

“Closer to the Sun” – Slightly Stoopid

“Small Worlds” – Mac Miller

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 7 – The Oven, Epping

Aug. 8 – Community Oven, Hampton

Aug. 9 – Instabar, Hampton & Cheers, Concord

Aug. 11 – McGuirks, Hampton Beach

Aug. 14 – Stumble Inn, Londonderry & The Oven, Epping

Aug. 15 – Community Oven, Hampton

Aug. 16 – Instabar, Hampton

Aug. 18 – McGuirks, Hampton Beach

Paul Driscoll

Paul Driscoll, who was born in Stoneham, Mass., grew up in Everett, Mass., and spent most of his life in Colorado, is now based in Milford and has been performing for three and a half years.

What should people know about your music?

I always want to give people something new, whether it’s my original music or something that I know that they probably haven’t heard yet. … If it’s one of my own songs and it goes over that’s something I’ll always come back to, because it’s just the best to be able to, like, make someone bob their head or get up and dance to your own song.

What did you do during quarantine?

That first month or so I think like a lot of people I was just wishing that it was just kind of going to blow over really quick. I was stuck in a place of not really being motivated besides doing online shows. I wasn’t writing a lot and my head was a little foggy. Over the past few months I’ve really come out of that and I’ve started writing more from different points of view. I feel like I’ve become a lot more thoughtful as a songwriter and as an entertainer.

When did you start playing out again?

May, at Trombly Gardens in Milford.

How’s your summer going so far?

I’ve been playing a lot. … There are some places that I’ve never played before that reached out to me just because they need local music in some capacity.

What are some of your favorite venues?

Fresh Chicks Market in Peterborough is really awesome and the farmers always tip well with baked goods and all that stuff. So that’s really cool. And definitely Trombly Gardens in Milford.

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

The shows have picked up exponentially so now it’s pretty much back to a normal schedule, just playing outside pretty much instead of all the indoor shows. I’m also three songs into my second album as far as writing and I’ve got a little bit of a concept going. So a lot of writing and a lot of playing. Just trying to stay creative.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

My Facebook page, Paul Driscoll Music.

Typical set list

“Hold On” – Tom Waits

“Thirteen Silver Dollars” – Colter Wall

“Lenny’s Song” (original)

“Old Paint” (traditional)

“Dancing in the Dark” – Bruce Springsteen

“Whitehouse Road” – Tyler Childers

“Million Pound Man” (original)

“These Days” – Black Keys

“Poor Man’s Son” – Noah Gunderson

“Ain’t Nobody’s Problem” – Sawmill Joe

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 8 – Moonlight Meadery, Londonderry

Aug. 10 – Fresh Chicks Local Outdoor Market, Peterborough

Aug. 22 – Concord Arts Market

Sept. 6 – Trombly Gardens, Milford

April Cushman

Originally from Brookline and now living in Swanzey, April Cushman has been playing guitar since she was 5. As an adult, she’s been performing for five or six years and is now a full-time musician.

What should people know about your music?

As a songwriter I feel like I’m really trying to stay on my own path and … to know that my music is telling stories that are true to me, telling stories that other people can relate to…. I grew up with a lot of country, folk and rock, and I’m trying to stay on the Southern rock side of things versus the country pop scene that’s really popular right now.

What did you do during quarantine?

I lost almost four months’ worth of shows, so I tried to try to keep as much contact with my fans as I possibly could. Thank goodness for social media. I was able to do a bunch of online shows, going live across the country. … My husband, my daughter and I do a lot of fishing and four-wheeling, so we tried to stay outside and enjoy life as much as we could and just kind of hang tight until things started to open again. It was a difficult time.

When did you start playing out again?

My first was an acoustic show at a venue I never played before in Hampton called WHYM Brewery. It was nice to sit there and play for three hours and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, people are real!’

How’s your summer going so far?

Great. I had recorded and released my first single about a month ago … got that all out of the way and came back home. I started gigging again, and it has been rolling.

What are some of your favorite venues?

I’ve been hitting up the craft brewery scene really hard, because all these places have really great patios and little stages away from everyone [like] Backyard Brewery in Manchester [and] Smuttynose in Hampton.

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

I’m really looking forward to playing Fletcher Murphy Park in Concord on Aug. 8 with my band. It will be the first time we’ve been on stage together since the beginning of February.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

The best way is through my website — aprilcushman.com. A lot of people follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

Typical set list

“Walking In Memphis” – Mark Cohn

“In A Small Town” – Original

“Soundtrack to My City” – Original

“Dust On The Bottle” – David Lee Murphy

“Fire And Rain” – James Taylor

“Once Upon A Time” – Original

“Come To My Window” – Melissa Etheridge

“Ain’t No Stopping You” – Original

“Skin And Bones” – Liz Longley

“Humble and Kind” – Lori McKenna

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 6 – Village Trestle, Goffstown

Aug. 7 – Murphy’s Taproom, Bedford

Aug. 8 – Fletcher-Murphy Park, Concord

Sept. 4 – Murphy’s Taproom

Ryan Williamson

Ryan Williamson, who grew up in Concord and still lives there, has been performing for almost three years.

What should people know about your music?

I tell everyone from the beginning that all the sounds I’m going to play are going to be played live. I use a lot of looping stuff but I don’t use any pre-recorded sounds; I make all of it myself. I play all kinds of genres … anything from Lee Brice country to Taylor Swift and Usher. Stuff that you wouldn’t expect to hear out of a solo guitarist.

What did you do during quarantine?

For the first couple weeks I just enjoyed not playing gigs all the time and kind of decompressed — I actually really liked that for a while. I started messing around with GarageBand, recording my original stuff, working on a range of different things trying to stay creative. I did a couple of online shows, which was really weird, because I’ve played at places where there are no people in the crowd, but this time there were definitely no people … but I got some good feedback on it. It was fun to try new stuff. That went on until the gigs came back.

When did you start playing out again?

End of May, at Backyard Brewery in Manchester.

How’s your summer going so far?

The last couple of weeks I have been really busy, and the next couple of months are really busy too, so I don’t feel like I’ve lost a whole lot. A lot of places have done a really good job creating outdoor seating areas for their patrons, and on the off chance that it’s raining, some places are still doing inside seating if people are comfortable with that.

What are some of your favorite venues?

I love Backyard Brewery and little places like Firefly in Manchester. Fratello’s in Nashua — the city has done a really good job opening up the Main Street area to have outdoor seating. You’re like hybrid busking out there. I’m on the street corner playing to patrons of a restaurant and to anyone who’s walking down the streets. That’s a new experience for me.

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

I’m going to be just playing gigs; I can’t go anywhere. Normally my family and I would go to our house in Canada, but we’re not allowed to go there, so I’m just going to be here playing gigs at various places around New Hampshire.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

I’m pretty bad at Facebook, but I try to keep my website up to date — ryanwilliamson.com.

Typical set list

“Moondance” – Van Morrison

“Hard to Love” – Lee Brice mashup with “Learning to Fly” – Tom Petty

“I Don’t Care” – Ed Sheeran

“Rhiannon” – Fleetwood Mac

“Slow Burn” – Kacey Musgraves

“Dancing in the Dark” – Bruce Springsteen

“Delicate” – Taylor Swift

“Faithfully” – Journey

“Die a Happy Man” – Thomas Rhett mashup with “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” by John Mayer

“Watermelon Sugar” – Harry Styles

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 7 – Cactus Jack’s, Manchester

Aug. 8 – Backyard Brewery, Manchester

Aug. 11 – Murphy’s Taproom, Bedford

Aug. 14 – WHYM Brewery, Hampton

Aug. 15 – Cactus Jack’s, Manchester

Aug. 16 – KC’s Rib Shack, Manchester

Aug. 17 – Homestead, Merrimack

Aug. 18 – Fratello’s, Nashua

Aug. 20 – Firefly, Manchester

Maddi Ryan

Maddi Ryan of Methuen, Mass., who has been performing since she was 16, just finished her senior year of college at Boston University and moved back to her home town.

What should people know about your music?

I always want to be genuine and honest with listeners and I want to do something people resonate with, like, yeah, I’ve gone through that. I want to connect with people and be that friend through my music. I usually lean toward more of the pop country realm, because I love the attitude behind it. Singers like Maren Morris, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood — I feel the emotions.

What did you do during quarantine?

I was finishing up my senior year of college, which was interesting, but I was also writing, writing, writing all the time. I annoyed my parents with the loud sounds coming out of my room. Me and the drummer I play with, Charles Greenwood, we were playing some livestreams and writing, reflecting and thinking of the next steps of where I want to be when this is all over.

When did you start playing out again?

June 27 was my first gig, at Liberty & Union Ale House in Taunton.

How’s your summer going so far?

It’s going pretty well. Most of these gigs are outside so it’s very dependent on the weather, which luckily has been holding up.

What are some of your favorite places to play?

Bonfire in Manchester is always such a fun time. All the places I play are awesome; it’s hard to pick a favorite.

What’s the rest of your summer look like?

Playing shows of course, and it looks like a lot of recording — I’ve put all my energy into [working in] my basement, trying to get some writing done and make demos. Looking forward to putting out some music in the near future.

How can people keep up with your shows and projects?

My Maddi Ryan Music Facebook page and my website too.

Typical set list

“Free Fallin’” – Tom Petty

“Stuck Like Glue” – Sugarland

“Folsom Prison Blues” – Johnny Cash

“Lonely” – Maddi Ryan

“Come Together” – The Beatles

“Hotel California” – Eagles

“Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown Band

“Tennessee Whiskey” – Chris Stapleton

“Zombie” – The Cranberries

“My Church” – Maren Morris

Upcoming appearances

Aug. 7 – Bonfire, Manchester

Aug. 28 – Old School Bar & Grill, Windham

Featured Image: MB Padfield. Courtesy photo.

It’s a ’gram jam

Hampton haven for tacos, tunes and selfies

Walking into Instabar, one is greeted by a riot of color, light and kitsch: wild graphics, a wall of speakers offered for art, not sound, a hollowed out Winnebago remade as a conversation pit, and positive vibes like “Make today Magic” drawn in funky fonts on the floor. Every night, live music flows from a corner stage.

The festival of senses is about more than a fun night out, though Tex-Mex tacos, local craft beer and margaritas do provide that. Instabar is a place that exists in equal measure for pleasure and posting, dedicated to the Instagram generation. Each tableau — there are more than 20, and they change regularly — is a potential scene for selfies, a nod to the notion that an experience is more awesome when shared online.

It’s the brainchild of Scott Millette, a former competitive snowboarder and fight promoter turned filmmaker. His work in branding and marketing led Millette to Austin, Texas, last year, where he discovered Rainey Street, an old neighborhood turned nightlife hub brimming with food trailers, bars made of freight containers and other oddities. He found the scene ideal for iPhone snapping and uploading.

Dawn Kingston, a photographer who works extensively with influencers and artists like Shawn Mendes, Machine Gun Kelly and Cameron Dallas, told him about an emerging business model focused on the selfie crowd.

“Pop-up museums like Happy Place and Ice Cream Museum, the one made famous on the Kardashians,” Millette said by phone recently. “They all had individual rooms that were basically built just to take Instagram photos of yourself. I was like, ‘Wow, this is a whole other market.’ These places had tickets that were selling out in minutes.”

Millette hatched a plan to combine it with a focus on his favorite food and bring it home to New Hampshire.

“I thought those two things coming together would be a really cool experience,” he said.

His old friend Shane Pine liked the idea of using the back of his Hampton restaurant, Shane’s Texas Pit, and he liked the food focus, which Millette hoped would draw the surfer crowd and be true to the Lone Star State.

“One thing you can get that’s amazing all the time in Texas is a taco, whether you go to a big restaurant or get it out of a truck at 3 in the morning,” Millette said.

Losing 87 pounds on an all-Mexican food diet a couple of years ago gave Millette the experience to build a menu. He then recruited artists to create the space.

“Carmen Fernandez, a friend of mine from Portsmouth, Christian Hardy, a filmmaker, musician and an artist I’ve worked on other projects, Kendall Vocca and Alyssa Pine,” he said. “We all worked together; I just essentially would curate it, but sometimes I would just guide them in a certain area.”

Kingston helmed the crucial Instagram rollout. To her surprise, Millette insisted the location would be a mystery right up to opening night.

“Social media is all about engagement,” he said. “The first question is, where is it? We tell them it’s a secret and they can’t know without an invite. That made our Instagram quite explode, to like 700 views per story.”

Live entertainment is integral to Instabar’s mission.

“What is art without music?” Millette asked. “Nothing without a good soundtrack. It’s so important to me … and this restaurant is based on being authentically Austin, which claims to be the live music capital of the world.”

April Renzella, David Corson, Rob Pagnano, Brad Bosse, Sam Robbins and Amanda McCarthy have all appeared there since Instabar opened in late May. Comedy happens June 24 at 6:30 p.m., when Manchester standup Mike Koutrobis performs ($10/ticket).

Millette has other ideas brewing as well, like help sessions with professional photographers for people looking to take more flattering shots.

“We have this whole environment of great backdrops,” he said. “We could do an Eight Steps to Up Your Bumble Game type of night that includes live music after, where people come out and take awesome selfies, and get to meet other singles.”

Instabar @ Shane’s Authentically Austin
Where
: 61 High St., Hampton
Reserve: instabarnh2020.eventbrite.com
Thursday, June 18 – TBA
Friday, June 19 – Dave Corson
Saturday, June 20 – Rob Pagnano
Sunday, June 21 – Alex Potenza
Monday, June 22 – TBA
Tuesday, June 23 – Dave Corson
Wednesday, June 24 – Amanda McCarthy
Thursday, June 25 – Dave Corson
Friday, June 26 – King Kyote
Saturday, June 27 – Dave Corson
Sunday, June 28 – Brad Bosse

The Music Roundup 20/06/18

Get some ’cue: Enjoy outdoor dining with music from Austin McCarthy in an oasis whose opening marks the semi-official start of summer. As Jimmy Buffet sings, “Thank God the Tiki bar is open, thank God the Tiki torch still shines.” McCarthy is an easygoing singer songwriter with a list of covers ranging from Grateful Dead to City & Color, along with some tasty originals. Thursday, June 18, 4 p.m., KC’s Rib Shack, 837 Second St., Manchester. For reservations, go to facebook.com/kcsribshack.

Funny man: Veteran standup Robbie Printz was inspired by attending an Eddie Murphy show to break into comedy, deciding to parlay a childhood spent making up his own SNL skits into a career telling jokes. He’s appeared on Comedy Central and A&E’s venerable Evening at The Improv, and won the Boston Comedy Fest. Printz headlines an 18+ show with Carolyn Plummer and Pat Collins. Friday, June 19, 8 p.m., Amherst Country Club, 72 Ponemah Road, Amherst. Tickets $20 at playamherst.com.

Party down: Offering another sign of revival, The Trichomes play the first show since lockdown at a venue with “live music” right there in its name. Dubbed a Dirty Thirty Birthday Bash for someone named Cheeze, the event requires mask-wearing and Jewel will cap capacity at 30 percent. The Newmarket-based headliners are an eclectic bunch, moving between funk, rock and jazz with ease. Friday, June 19, 7 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester. Tickets $10 at the door.

Good times: Born in Florida, raised on blues and gospel, Pete Peterson is a fixture on the regional scene, both solo and with Rhythm Method and Family Affair, bands that include his daughter Yamica. The seasoned musician’s set list includes a mixture of soul, classic rock and rhythm & blues. He appears at the Salem location of a restaurant chain that’s lately gone all in on live music. Saturday, June 20, 6 p.m., T-Bones Great American Eatery, 311 South Broadway, Salem. Call 893-3444.

Country sound: Recently celebrating her first album, April Cushman performs acoustic songs on a Concord bar and restaurant’s patio. The self-described “hillbilly songwriter” released In a Small Town on June 12; it was engineered by Nashville producer Colt Capperrune. The title song pays tribute to Swanzey, where Cushman grew up, and local spots like Jeanne’s Family Diner. Thursday, June 25, 5 p.m., Cheers NH, 17 Depot St., Concord. More at facebook.com/aprilcushmanmusic.

Back on stage

Country singer Nicole Knox Murphy playing out again

After 10 weeks of playing weekly sets from her home in Candia for Facebook fans, on May 29 Nicole Murphy was elated to finally be back at Auburn Pitts Bar & Grill, the place where she returned to being a country singer after raising a family for 15 years. Guitar in hand and a backing track machine at her side, strumming and singing beneath an outdoor tent, Murphy gave her first performance in front of a live audience since Covid-19 shut down the local music scene in mid-March.

The multiple New Hampshire Country Music Awards winner called the experience “awesome” in a recent phone interview.

“All my regulars came out that weren’t too nervous,” Murphy said, noting that fans gleaned from her Friday night livestreams added a few new faces to the crowd. “It was just a fantastic night; the weather was perfect, and everybody did what they were supposed to do.”

With that return done, Murphy’s calendar is filling up again, even at a few places that are trying live music for the first time. She’s booked a Thursday residency for the rest of June at an events center in Windham that isn’t booking weddings and private parties.

“They’ve decided because of the coronavirus to do a bar and restaurant,” she said. “They have everything set out on their back patio.”

She’s also set to play at a country club in her hometown.

The pandemic hit Murphy’s bottom line hard — to the tune of $6,500 in lost gigs — but the virtual tip jar she set up for online shows helped more than a bit.

“That’s my grocery money,” she said.

When WMUR interviewed her and fellow performer Chad Lamarsh for a story on the state of live music, there was an immediate bump in Facebook Live love.

“The night after, I got like double and triple the money for my tips,” she said. “That was really nice.”

Murphy has at least one more online show on her calendar. Taste of New Hampshire is an annual event that will be virtual for this, its 15th year. A fundraiser for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Concord and Central New Hampshire, it features a silent auction and live music over five days.

“I’ll record myself for 30 minutes [and] send it to them,” she said. “Then they’ll play it between June 15 and June 19.”

Everything else will be happening at places where she was busy before Covid-19, including Granite Tapas in Hooksett, Main Street Grill in Pittsfield and The Bar in Hudson. Both excitement and trepidation mark her return to live performing.

“I’m looking to be cautious,” she said, concerned that the virus will resurge. “I’m nervous; I’m thinking I’ll book up my calendar again, and then all of a sudden they’ll say, ‘Oh no, we’re back in lockdown and nobody can go out.’”

She spent a lot of her time in quarantine working on new songs, and polishing up a couple. “I’m So Done” was released at the end of May. “The 802,” an ode to her Vermont roots (she was a working musician and a beauty show contestant in her teenage years), will hopefully hit streaming sites in a few weeks.

Developing new material was more relaxing for Murphy than in the past.

“The last couple of projects. … I haven’t had the quietness that I needed to focus on music writing,” she said. “This whole lockdown shut my weekends down, so I just started going up to my music room with a pad of paper and working.”

The extra time at home with her husband was both encouraging and productive.

“Just me and him, doing things that we’ve been wanting to do that we’ve put off because we’ve all been so busy,” she said. “Now that I had all these weekends free, we could work on projects.”

She’s happy it was temporary, however.

“It’s been good that way, but … I really miss singing.”

Nicole Knox Murphy. Photo by Tyke Frost.

Nicole Knox Murphy
Where:
Castleton Banquet & Conference Center, 58 Enterprise Dr., Windham
When: Thursday, June 11, June 18 and June 25, 5:30 p.m.
More: facebook.com/nicole.knoxmurphy
Also:
Saturday, June 13, 7 p.m., The Bar, 2B Burnham Road, Hudson
Sunday, June 14, 4 p.m., Cheers, 17 Depot St., Concord
Saturday, June 20, 5:30 p.m., Candia Woods Golf Links, 313 South Road, Candia

Album Reviews 6/11/2020

Bird Friend, I Am the Hand (self-produced)

Desolate but hopeful hipster-chill direct from Manchester, New Hampshire, here, mainly an unplugged-guitar solo project for chef-cook-bottle-washer Geoff Himsel with some help from his girlfriend, Carson Kennedy. The entry point here would be Sufjan Stevens, but it’s of course more raw and quirky than that; throw a little Eels in the crockpot and that oughta do it. Himsel is a fan of fingerpick-style guitarists like Neil Young and John Fahey, which explains the rather full sound of this mildly quirky bareness; this sort of thing is a snapshot of an artist getting things off his chest, redolent of movie opening-credit scenes depicting world-weariness, animations drawn in crayon. You get it, I’m sure, but don’t be scared of this just because the guy’s a local; there’s some nice creativity here, as heard in such things as a segue consisting of recorded rain and train station sounds; some not-cheap-sounding handclaps (“Ohio”); a reed line played on a clarinet or somesuch (“Cuando Era Caballero”) and so on. All told then, Pitchfork wouldn’t necessarily throw this out of bed unless the writer broke his vape pen. There’s a psychedelic angle to this that needs to be mentioned, like a twee version of Wooden Shjips or whatnot. He knows what he’s doing, is what I’m saying. A

The Brazilian Gentleman, L & L (Internet & Weed Records)

Meanwhile on the dwarf planet Pluto, we have this New Yawk City collective of underground scene veterans with weird record collections, banded together to make what amounts to a Throbbing Gristle-ized version of Battles. To translate that depthlessly annoying music-wonk-ese, there’s a lot of gently rendered industrial noise here woven into the very listenable melodies, and that will surely lead a good number of critics to tag it as an EDM project and bag it just to get away from it. I wouldn’t be wildly surprised to hear something like this from The Orb, but it does get disconcerting, evoking the feeling of having boarded the wrong galactic battle cruiser (“Star Stuck in It”). But it’s not supposed to be an easy ride, as becomes plain in the hooted and dentist-drilled “Metals,” which is a pure let’s-ride-the-subway-and-disorient-the-straights earbud trip. “All Natural” is chill drone pocked with world-music-ish loops; “You’re Boring” explores some Frank Ocean-ish fever-dream bliss. A-

Retro Playlist

On the quarantine goes, and for that, the only remedy is focusing on good stuff, like criminally underrated British art-rock bands.

After so many years, I’m convinced I’m the only “bloke” in New Hampshire who’s a huge fan of Wire, a four-piece that’s been around since the 1970s. They were more noise-punk back in the day, but then college rock happened in the late ’80s and their comparatively mellow album A Bell is a Cup Until It is Struck was suddenly rising in something resembling an actual Top 20 chart. I babbled about their 2013 album Change Becomes Us in this space, and I still absolutely love it, from the skronky, nonsensical “Eels Sang” to the soul-healing “Reinvent Your Second Wheel,” both sung by their permanently weird bassist Graham Lewis. I’ve met and hung out with rock stars before, but he’s the only one who’d reduce me to a puddle of uncool if I ever got a chance to meet him.

Another band I always try to sell to anyone who can’t escape my presence is Elbow, from the town of Bury in Manchester, U.K. In 2011, I told you guys about their then-new Build a Rocket Boys! LP, which, as usual for the band, was shortlisted for a Mercury Prize, this time on the strength of tunes like “Lippy Kids,” a hauntingly gorgeous rock ballad that made you rethink all those scary kids in hoodies, who are, I assure you, just as scared as you. Try it, you’ll like it.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Email esaeger@cyberontix.com for fastest response.

PLAYLIST
A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases
• The next general-release date for CDs is Friday, June 12, when you can buy To Love is to Live, the debut album from Jehnny Beth, the lead singer from Savages! No, not the DJ, you know, Savages! No, come on, not Screaming Lord Sutch’s old backup band; we’re talking about the way-cool Savages, the one made up of girls, and they’re pretty cool, like this Jehnny Beth lady sounds a lot like Siouxsie Sioux, and their music is all post-punk, noisy, deconstructionist and awesome. That leaves only one question: Is there any earthly reason for Jehnny Beth to make a solo album when she’s in such an awesome band? Well, by cracky, I’m going to toddle off to YouTube to see if this is worth anything. Ah, here we are, a single called “Heroine.” It’s got an understated jazzy 1970s drum track with grooving bass, some spooky sampling, and Jehnny Beth’s Siouxsie karaoke going full force. It’s not something I’d picture Siouxsie singing, but come on already, this isn’t a Siouxsie song, just an OK tune that Siouxsie probably wouldn’t sing, because it’s largely uneventful until the literal last five seconds. I don’t know, am I being too picky here? Be honest.
• Wait, this should be a good one, the new album from Norah Jones, Pick Me Up Off the Floor! This will be her eighth full-length, and she is officially a folk-jazz goddess, because she is awesome, and at least she’s not trying to become a media conglomerate like everybody else who lucks into a hit record, like, the only real acting she’s done was on the 2010 indie film Wah Do Dem, which only got made because the director won cruise ship tickets (back then, the Village Voice called it nothing more than “a glorified vacation video”). Sounds good to me, because hopefully now we won’t have to worry about Norah Jones doing anything more than playing herself on Sesame Street and 30 Rock and spending most of her time singing, which she does on the title track of this new album, a torchy, feathery, very slow, Maria Muldaur-like piano-crooner.
• Paul Weller was the frontman for the mod-punk band The Jam during the 1970s and early 1980s, but only people in England cared, but then they had an annoying ska-punk hit in the U.S. called “Start,” which was created simply by recycling the Beatles’ “Tax Man,” and then it was basically over, everyone recite the Funeral Prayer, and then the Beastie Boys sampled the tune for the song “Alive.” But wait, here is Paul Weller again, with a solo album, called “Sunset,” which means you’re probably wondering if there’s a song on there that sounds like that Beastie Boys song or whatever. I sure am, so I shall endeavor to stomach the new single, “Village.” Wow, it’s wicked ’70s-chill-funk, and he sounds like Peabo Bryson somewhat. There’s wicked mellow electric piano in there, like your grandparents could probably “get reacquainted” with this song playing in the background, nudge-wink. Talk about sassy!
• To end this week with our sanity hopefully intact, let’s go investigate the new Built to Spill album, titled Built to Spill Plays the Songs of Daniel Johnston! I can’t imagine what this will sound like, probably fluffy, despicable, hipster versions of equally aggravating Daniel Johnston songs. Yes, here’s one, “Bloody Rainbow.” Sounds like a twee version of a Roy Orbison B-side. I do not like this, Sam I Am.

Laughing again

Stand-up comedy comes out of quarantine

As live entertainment gradually returns, the challenges for comedians are twofold. First, there’s the practical aspect of how to present a show. This is, after all, a discipline that relies on an audience. While on lockdown, Juston McKinney played to his wife, two sons and dog on the couch of his Newmarket home, with his mother-in-law and dad watching on iPads, and posted it to his Facebook page. That’s the kind of performance withdrawal he experienced.

McKinney is accustomed to packed opera house shows, but said in a recent phone interview that he’ll be glad to hit open mic nights when they return. Such events have smaller audiences that are easier to socially distance. They’re also key to working up new material.

“I’m kind of jonesing because I was doing an open mic every week … a new seven to eight minutes,” he said. “I’ll tell you this: I never thought I would look forward to having four people in an audience so much in my life. I would kill for four people right now.”

As for the prospect of doing his still-scheduled fall shows at Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury and Manchester’s Palace Theatre under the current safety rules, McKinney is concerned. He expects, though, that even working with a spaced out crowd will improve over webcasts in quarantine.

“Comedy is an art form that should be done in a controlled environment — sound, lights, crowd — and we’ve lost all control of that now,” he said. “My biggest fear is someone’s never seen me ever before and the only time they see me is on one of these Zoom things and they’re like, ‘I don’t know.’ You’ve gotta see me live, not in my home office.”

Fortunately, the clouds are slowly parting for stage-hungry standups like McKinney.

Live efforts have launched, beginning May 22 with a parking lot show at Tupelo Music Hall Drive-In in Derry. Tupelo owner Scott Hayward hopes to do them every Thursday in June and beyond. Kathleen’s Irish Pub in Bristol will hold Cottage Comedy Al Fresco with JJ Jones and four other comics on June 6 in its patio area. Curlie’s Comedy Club in Rochester offers a hybrid, with pay-per-view livestreams and tickets to watch through the window from their outside deck.

The second part is equally tricky: what’s funny in a post-pandemic world?

At Tupelo, host Mike Smith joked about home schooling and masks (“everyone looks like they’re going to rob a 7-Eleven”). He then handed off to opener Paul Landwehr, who complained about having to watch decades-old Celtics games on ESPN, then closed by proposing marriage to his longtime girlfriend from the stage (she said yes). That was a novel way to avoid the elephant in the parking lot.

Mike Koutrobis followed with a set not much different from what he’d been doing in February. “I’m a little rusty,” he texted just prior to the show. Boston comic Graig Murphy offered a mixture of pre- and post-pandemic humor, quipping about drive-by birthday parties and trying his best to do crowd work, while telling jokes that would be funny crisis or not.

The latter is a path urged by Nick Lavallee, who along with Dave Carter has booked weekly comedy at Shaskeen Pub in Manchester since 2013.

“The last thing people want to hear right now is untested content about the thing that they’re bombarded with day in and day out,” he said in a recent phone interview. “If a comic who hasn’t worked in three months goes up in front of a paying audience and tries riffing on material that hasn’t been done yet … they’re going to struggle.”

On the other hand, Lavallee continued, the hunger for live standup means comics could get some leeway as they return to form.

“You’re going to have to just throw some spaghetti on the wall, see what sticks, and it’s a good time to do it because you can also do things you might be embarrassed about, like, ‘I tried something during the pandemic and it didn’t work.’ You can own it. You can blame your bombs on this. We all have thick skin, we’ve been doing this for so freaking long.”

More than a few are poised to make comedy hay from the coronavirus. Curlie’s owner Joshua Guptel, who does comedy as Jay Grove, talked about it on stage recently: “This is not funny,” he said. “But there’s a lot of funny in it.”

Upcoming comedy shows
Where
: Kathleen’s Irish Pub, 99 Lake St., Bristol
When: Saturday, June 6, 6 p.m.
Reservations: call 744-6336
Performing: JJ Jones, Al Christakis, Paul Landwehr, Randy Williams and Mona Forgione

Where: Curlie’s Comedy Club, 12 Union St., Rochester
When: Saturday, June 6, and Saturday, June 13
Tickets: $20 per table at Eventbrite.com
Performing: Steve Scarfo (June 6) and Amy Tee (June 13)

Where: Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry
When: Thursdays, 6 p.m. (tentative)
Tickets: $75 per car at tupelohall.com; $20 per person for restaurant seating (starts June 12)

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