How does a spot like Applecrest Farm Bistro manage to fly under the radar? The complex, less than 20 minutes off Route 1 in Hampton Falls, N.H., boasts an ice cream stand, an impressive indoor farm market, a snack corner with homemade goods and a coffee bar, and a full-service restaurant that serves three meals a day.
I stumbled across the place purely by accident when insane traffic at the Hampton, N.H., tolls on Interstate 95 tempted me to try a new “long” shortcut. I was so startled by the place that I nearly drove off the road.
The restaurant is in its second full season. The single dining room features barn board, Tivoli lighting wrapped around rough-hewn beams, rustic tables, farmhouse-style chairs, and a fireplace tucked into one wall. Each table had fresh flowers, and the general vibe was the sort of rural chic that appeals to couples anticipating a quiet dinner and to jeaned families looking forward to flatbread pizzas and burgers. The half-moon space features floor-to-ceiling windows along a curved wall that overlooks an appealing outdoor patio and the rolling hills of an orchard. The indoor dining area and the outdoor patio each can accommodate about 50 people.
Locally sourced foods are a serious topic at Applecrest Farm Bistro. Heck, you have to walk through an impressive indoor farm stand just to get to the dining room. Rather than detail each local item, I’ll give you a quick example that makes the point: Our dinner breadbasket contained sourdough bread that was made in-house and served with honeyed butter. The honey came from the bees buzzing around the orchard.
The restaurant’s drive for “local” extends to the beverages. House-made raspberry/hibiscus soda with Tito’s vodka ($11)? Yes, thank you. How do you top that for a summertime treat, you ask? When you discover that they make a bacon bloody mary ($7.50) with a house-infused applewood bacon vodka, that’s how.
The dinner menu includes a selection of house-made charcuterie ($6 each or three for $16). The items were served on slate slabs and accompanied by assorted veggies, homemade chutneys, mustards, etc. The house-cured country ham was a tasty beginning, especially when contrasted with the appealingly sharp Great Hill Blue cheese.
Small plates, which change on a regular basis, can range from fried Vermont quail ($14) and charred broccoli ($8) to buttermilk fried oysters ($12). There are less than 10 entrees on the daily menu, augmented by the occasional special. But they cover a wide range of palates.
The house-made rigatoni ($19) had a unique twist. The dish featured chicken sausage and porcini mushrooms along with pancetta and arugula. Garlic crumbs coated most of the pasta and gave many pieces an extra flavor kick.
Ordering meatloaf in a farmhouse bistro is almost a necessity. But this was a grilled meatloaf ($22) with thin slices stacked like pieces of breakfast ham. Served with smoked mozzarella and roasted carrots, and doused with a foraged mushroom sauce, this dish was denied all-star status only because of the lukewarm mashed potato base.
I actually gasped when I read the dessert menu. A Creamsicle creme brulee ($8)? My first reaction: How many will they let me order? My second: I’ve been disappointed too many times by gimmicky items that read well but never quite matched my expectations. Not this time. The mix of orange and vanilla was a delight, the consistency and crust done just right. The salted French chocolate pudding served in its own mini jam jar ($8) was hardly a disappointment, but it paled in comparison to the creme brulee.
At meal’s end, my wife and I agreed we would happily reorder everything we’d sampled during future visits to Applecrest Farm Bistro … and there will be future visits.
I can’t imagine why anyone who’s spending a week or two in the Hampton Beach area would pass up this site. Besides a great night out, it’s also a fun way to kill a rainy afternoon: Get some ice cream, stroll through the farm store and head over to the coffee bar for a latte and a snack.
But please leave all the Creamsicle creme brulees for me.
Applecrest Farm Bistro
Hampton Falls, N.H.
Breakfast: Monday-Saturday, 8 to 11 a.m.
Lunch: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m.
Sunday brunch: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dinner reservations accepted.