In a recent article in the Boston Globe, writers Patricia Harris and David Lyon described Claremont, New Hampshire as a “surprisingly foodie town.” And it’s true – as the city’s economy has improved, the restaurant sector has bounced back in a big way. From where I sit in the Planning and Development office, this is crucial – millennials love good food, and we love millennials. A screenshot would show that food pictures account for a significant volume of my Facebook news feed. In order to continue to attract young people to Claremont, our bar and restaurant scene has to thrive.
Two restaurants in Claremont’s historic downtown are a big reason for all the positive press – NeW Socials Bar and Grille and the Revolution Cantina. I caught up with owners Isabel Guillen and Shane Bodkins to talk about running two restaurants in New Hampshire, their feelings about where our City is headed, and their insider secrets to their own menus.
First, can you say a little bit about the two restaurants you run? What types of cuisine does each serve?
Isabel Guillen (IG): NeW Socials is American cuisine. The new is actually an acronym for New England World. The idea was to offer a menu that was locally influenced but with a global flare.
Shane Bodkins (SB): NeW Socials offers upscale pub food, prepared fresh in small batches, rather than relying on the typical pre-made and frozen. We believe in preparing everything from scratch in-house, making for a healthier and more satisfying guest experience.
IG: Revolution Cantina is a Mexi-Latin Kitchen. Although a good portion of the menu is Mexican cuisine, we also offer a variety of Latin American dishes that are some of our favorites. Some recipes are family recipes while others are inspired by visits with friends or even restaurants we go to while traveling.
And where did the name for Revolution Cantina come from?
SB: Being introduced to real Latin American food over the past four years has completely changed my perception of that cuisine. To me, Latin food was synonymous with Mexican food. Tasting and learning the difference was a whole new world for me. So I wanted to share that with my people – the people of Claremont. So for me, changing people’s reality as to what Latin food is a revolutionary change. The “love” written backwards in the name not only softens the aggressiveness of the “Revolution”, but confirms our passion in what we are trying to do, and the ingredients we use. There is much love, and thought put into every aspect of Revolution Cantina.
So what’s it like to be young and to own two restaurants?
IG: Never a dull moment. We sometimes talk about starting a YouTube channel since some of the things that happen in this industry, you just can’t make up. They are so out there, bizarre, funny, sometimes challenging but never, never boring. We love what we do, we love our guests and although sometimes there’s the burn out factor, we are forever grateful we get to do this for our community and for ourselves.
SB: It’s like being a professional juggler. It’s exciting when every day you get to learn something new. You get to be humbled, proven wrong, have anxiety, and experience enjoyment, satisfaction, and complete happiness…. sometimes all in the same moment. I have spent almost 20 years in this business and it has allowed me my ultimate goal, which is to contribute something positive to the town that raised me while doing it on my terms.
I imagine that you have a very specific understanding of our region based on your business – what do you see from your desk?
IG: What desk?! We see an area that’s evolving and changing for the better. We see that regionally, Claremont is being viewed differently under much brighter/ rosier lenses. We see that for ourselves as well and are very excited about the future.
Do you have a favorite dish from each restaurant? Something that has your mark on it?
IG: Every birthday I’d ask my mom to either make me peanut soup or silpancho. The peanut soup is on our menu at Revolution and we run the silpancho for specials. Absolutely delicious.
SB: It’s got to be burgers at New Socials. More specifically our burger night on Thursdays – I love the creativity and freedom we have to create 10 different burgers every 7 days. How can you not be excited about that?
Both of your restaurants are right in the middle of Opera House Square in Claremont. What do you see when you look out your windows? What excites you about the City? New Hampshire?
IG: I see a community eager for change… a community that is on the verge of transforming itself into a destination. That’s exciting.
SB: I see a community in large part working hard to institute change in its expectations of itself.
NeW Socials and the Revolution Cantina are two important staples of Claremont’s downtown restaurant scene. They add color and options to the fare in our little City. The Cantina was recently featured in New Hampshire Magazine’s Restaurant issue under the Ethnic Food section – yet another award for Isabel and Shane.
And the best part? NeW Socials and the Cantina are just two of our restaurants. There are four more restaurants on the same two blocks! And even more once you start exploring!