Across the board, Portsmouth is a delightful city. Its waterfront locale, gorgeous parks, striking church steeples, historic homes, and constant events and shows make it an idea destination from anywhere in the state or region. It’s also filled with dozens of amazing restaurants, including several favorites I’ve written about: The Green Elephant, The Friendly Toast, and an ice cream standby, Annabelle’s.
A few weeks ago, Dustin from the Portsmouth Gas Light reached out to me to stop by their restaurant. I jumped at the opportunity to visit Portsmouth and was excited for a food and entertainment adventure. Upon further research (and as established by my lengthy visit) the Gas Light is actually four distinct restaurants and spaces, which I’ll break down in a minute. Dustin and his team graciously hosted me and my friend in all four spaces, so I want to send a big thank you to them for their generosity and behind-the-scenes VIP experience!
When we first arrived, we were welcomed downstairs in the pizza pub. The large family-friendly space is casual and inviting, and this acoustic guitar player was setting up when we sat down. As you’ll soon see, live music is a theme here! While waiting for the music to start, we started off the evening with some fun summery cocktails.
These beauties were super sweet and bubbly. Called the Champagne Sangria, they are filled with Absolut Raspberri, champagne, brandy, strawberries and fruit juices. They were perfect for a hot summer night. Since we visited, they have also migrated over to a no-plastic straws policy, so expect a paper one if you order this.
For dinner, we couldn’t ignore the fact that we were in a pizza pub, so we went with the Memorial Bridge pizza. The wood-fired brick oven makes for delicious smoky pizza, which is only available on this level of the building. Our cheese-heavy pizza (in the best way possible) was topped with a homemade pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella, Romano cheese, and fresh basil. This one is definitely a crowd pleaser! For the more adventurous, there are lots of different pizza options, all named after Portsmouth people and landmarks, as well as burgers, calzones, salads, and sandwiches.
After enjoying our pizza and drinks with acoustic accompaniment, we were shown the back patio! The Gas Light Deck is where the first party is at night. There were so many people there that night I couldn’t really tell you what the setup looked like, but everyone was having a good time. The great live band and twinkly lights in the massive trees made for a great atmosphere. During the day, Portsmouth’s largest outdoor courtyard is a bustling lunch venue that serves drinks and the Grill menu outside and in. It’s a great little outdoor dining space right in downtown, where you can still smell the salty ocean breeze!
After listening to the band for a while, we headed back inside to check out the Grill. The Grill has some really cool history; originally built in 1837, this was the home of the city’s first utility, Portsmouth Gas Light Co. (hence the name.) Despite a recent fire that shut the place down for months, the building is still standing and continues to pay homage to its history.
This space is a little more formal, with a nice bar and views of the kitchen. The atmosphere is still relaxed though, and there was ANOTHER acoustic band playing. Having just eaten a good portion of pizza, we weren’t super hungry but still wanted to try some Grill eats. We ordered one of the daily specials – broccolini with Parmesan, dried cranberries, and walnuts. This was delicious! The broccolini had a slightly grilled flavor and the combination of salty and sweet was a nice touch. It was kind of a salad, but with a lot more heft and substance to it.
We also ordered the hummus platter, because who doesn’t love a good homemade hummus? The Dueling Hummus flavors were roasted red pepper and white-bean, served with lots of fresh veggies and pita chips. Both were pretty flavorful and had great texture, and were a perfect snack with the crunchy chips and veggies. You could certainly eat either of these dishes as a meal, that is of course if you don’t want to try one of their burgers, lobster rolls, or house-made beer battered fish and chips!
After eating as much as we could, we were led to the third floor nightclub! While we could hear the music from the street, we were not truly prepared for the size of this place. Portsmouth’s only nightclub spans the entire third floor of the building and was packed with people. We had a small table in the VIP roped off area, so we had excellent people-watching and our own server! The VIP tables are available by reservation and are very affordable. There were several bachelorette parties taking advantage of the comfy couches and dancing the night away.
Despite nightclubs potentially having a negative connotation, this place was really safe, clean, and fun. People were dancing to the pulsing music, but the servers and staff were super nice and kept everything responsibly under control. Even with the loud crowd, everything was peaceful and fun, and if I can repeat myself here, the people watching was bar none.
So what did we think about the whole experience? This beautiful old building is home to some great restaurants, really friendly staff, and top notch entertainment. I will definitely return for lunch or dinner outside on the patio. They offer a wide variety of menu items, including seafood, close to the beach, but without the really high price tags of other nearby establishments. If live music is your thing, definitely check them out! You can see the up-to-date music lineups on their website. Whether you’re bringing kids to the beach or want a late night dance party with your friends (and maybe run into some ex-Patriots players?!) – the Portsmouth Gas Light is a fun place to be.
You can check out the Portsmouth Gas Light for yourself at 64 Market Street, conveniently located right next to the parking garage in the heart of downtown. The restaurants and deck are open 7 days a week, and the nightclub is open Fridays and Saturdays from 9 pm to 1:30 am. If you stop by anytime soon, tell them I sent you!
Have you discovered any unique, tasty food or drinks lately? Let us know! Be sure to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your ideas of any New Hampshire related food/drink/venue/organization that you think should be featured in our “Eat Drink Play” blog posts.