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Best Kept Restaurant Secrets

Bonta in Hampton, NH /Jack Bingham

We’re about to spill the beans about some of the best restaurants in the region. We should probably keep them to ourselves, but they are too good not to share. Check out Pepperland Cafe, Chapman Cottage, Duckfat in Maine and Bonta in Seacoast NH.




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Best Kept Secrets
    Pepperland Café, South Berwick, ME
    Chapman Cottage, York Harbor, ME
    Duckfat, Portland, ME
    Bonta, Hampton, NH

In South Berwick, Maine the word is out -- Pepperland Cafe is the place to dine for lunch or dinner. Located at 279 Main Street, in the former Flynn’s Market (a longtime local landmark), and across from the Sarah Orne Jewett house, this dynamic little restaurant offers comfort food cuisine with a strong southern twist. The folks running Pepperland successfully blend a variety of regional themes into their cooking, thanks to their own backgrounds. Lindsey Altshul, owner and manager, hails from New York City; co-owner and chef John Medlin is from San Antonio, Texas, while the other chef/partner, Kevin Hahn, live in South Berwick.  

Pepperland Cafe opened in July 2005. "We’re open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until everyone is fed," smiles John. "We also offer a Sunday brunch from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. And everything we serve is available for take out."

The food is creative yet homey, and has a strong local following. They regularly sell out of their homemade meatloaf with mushroom gravy, their crab cakes and Hawg Wings. 

"Our crab cakes are very popular, and it takes patience to make them the way we do," says John. "We don’t use a lot of breadcrumbs, but what we do use we add in as small amounts over 20 minute intervals. This gives the cakes time to shape up. We use lump crab meat and we serve the cakes with a three onion remoulade of scallions, Vidalia and Bermuda. They come with a southwestern succotash of grilled corn, red pepper, Spanish onion, and a Mexican oregano mixture. You can also get our crab cakes for brunch as a Benedict, with a poached egg on top and hash browns on the side."  

Also by Crystal Ward Kent

Hawg Wings are like Buffalo chicken wings, but come from small crosscut pieces of pork shank. They are braised, floured and fried, then topped with a traditional buffalo hot sauce, and served with ancho cabbage slaw, crispy polenta, and bleu cheese dressing. "The secret to the polenta is that we serve it crispy on the outside and like a corn mush on the inside," says John. "It’s a unique taste." 

They are famous for their crisp Vidalia onion rings with hot mustard aioli (try eating just one!), and for their pork chops. "People just love the pork chops," says John. "We see folks grazing on the bone! We cook the chops in a cast iron pan, then add a prosciutto bourbon sage demi glace, and serve them with collard greens sautéed with onion and bacon oil. We always make sure that our vegetables and potatoes are in equal portion. You’ll get a full plate here." 

Another favorite is their chicken-fried steak with sausage gravy, homefries, eggs, toast and coffee, which is available for brunch. Or, try their Asian Chicken Salad which is tea-smoked, free-range chicken tossed with mandarin oranges, cabbage greens, cashews, wontons and a sweet chili vinaigrette for a perfect luncheon meal.

Most of what we use is made right here--like our jellies, jams, breads and sauces--or organically grown from local producers," says Lindsey. "We feel that makes a difference. We get our chicken, pork and farm fresh eggs from Kellie Brook Farm, and our beef from The Farmer’s Shed here in South Berwick. Our goat cheese comes from Heart Song Farm in Gilmanton Ironworks, New Hampshire. We also run a very ‘green’ restaurant. We do all our own recycling--you won’t see any styrofoam here; we even have a compost pile that is used to feed the pigs. 

"I was involved in an organic market project before coming here," he continues. "So my focus in opening Pepperland Cafe is to use local produce and to build a bridge with local growers and suppliers. We want to be a part of the community, as a place to eat, and as a business partner." 

OUTSIDE LINK: Pepperland Cafe official web site
(207) 384-5535.


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