The Oar House

Thursday, July 8th marked the beginning of yet another heat wave on the east coast and the start of a fabulous girls weekend with my mom and sister. After hours of unnecessary traffic starting in NJ and ending with rush hour in NH, I figured the ladies would want to stretch their stiff legs, entertain their hungry stomachs and focus their eyes on the beautiful Piscataqua river, so we went for a lovely stroll to 55 Ceres Street.

The Oar House deck, is located opposite the Oar House restaurant on Portsmouth Harbor and offers a picturesque landscape much preferred over bumpers, highway mile markers and cubicle walls. Before Thursday, this magnificent waterfront location was one I had yet to stick my fork into (yes, pun intended). From the deck, the tranquilizing Portsmouth Harbor can be seen from every direction. Surrounded by my family in the heart of Portsmouth, I was in heaven.

Me & the cuz, Eliz ....................................................................Lindsay and Mom

Prime dinner time (7pm) didn't hinder our ability to be seated promptly. While we gabbed and giggled, I sipped on the Oar House sangria, mom threw back a corona and Elizabeth impressed me with her old man drinking skills yet again by ordering a sidecar: cognac, cointreau, lemon juice. The sangria was not sangria, it was a devastating red wine spritzer with a lonely orange slice. The sidecar was deemed not a true sidecar, super sweet and made for the tastebuds of an older woman not man. Beverage fail.

I will confess, I take an extraordinary long time to decide what to order when dining out. I'm sorry but it matters. With an abundance of good looking entrees, the Oar House's menu offered no help; freezing not just mine, but all of our inner foodies. Questions and personal preferences echoed at the table: Do I want to create a meal with appetizers: the fresh Maine crab cakes with clam chowder? Do I want the Sweet Coconut Encrusted Mahi Mahi or do I want a different taste of the sea with each bite from the the Oar House Sampler? Do I want meat, seafood or pasta? Like I said, it matters.

I do believe it was around this time that we placed our salad orders and our waitress, prompted by a question from our table, told us the fresh bread we saw on the surrounding tables was taking a while because it was coming from the oven. OH, well when you put it that way, sure I'll wait. For the record when you do not serve bread right away and all of your other tables are enjoying rolls, you should offer a reason. Just sayin'. People like bread.

Eliz and I split the beet salad to start. The golden beets were a pleasant surprise, as was the generous portion. Earthy but sweet, if you like beets you would enjoy this salad. The super fresh arugula and massive non-oily artichokes completed the dish.

Beets, artichokes, chick peas, red onion and parmesan peppercorn dressing served over arugula. 9~
Enter bread basket. Not fresh. Not warm. Not from the oven. Not taking a picture. Don't lie to your tables, if you forget to bring the rolls, just tell. We are all big kids and can handle the truth. Also, when you completely space on a glass of wine ordered, please don't be snooty. I was a waitress for years and have forgotten many items, bread baskets, wines..you name it, but when I was kindly reminded by my diners of this forgetfulness I did not offer hard glances in return. Kind smiles only. Kind smiles get you tips. Hard glances get you this blog review. 20 minutes after I ordered it, a glass of 2007 Sauvignon Blanc - Ceres Street Wine - Mendocino County, CA finally graced my presence.

For my entree I ordered the Oar House Delight with the lobster sauce on the side. I love lobster sauce, but I don't love anything smothering my food so it cannot breathe and I cannot taste any flavor beyond the sauce. This entree was such a great decision. See where a little extra thought will get you? Each bite was different and true to it's name, delightful. The shrimp was large and tender. The broiled scallops were rich but decadent and a wonderful contrast to the light and flaky haddock. The seasoned crumbs were perfectly buttered and gave each bite another layer of flavor. The pieces that received a dip into the creamy lobster sauce were very pleasing. All entrees were served with asparagus and roasted red potatoes. Can you spot the lone french fry that jumped ship onto my plate? What a daredevil.

Shrimp, scallops, and haddock lightly broiled, finished with lobster sauce and seasoned crumbs. 26~

My mom's Broiled Haddock: Haddock fillet, topped with seasoned crumbs, broiled in white wine and lemon. 21~

The dessert tray teased our tummies for a brief moment but our wiser selves remembered walking off dinner is always a good way to get ready for dessert. If you are a dessert person, I strongly encourage you to go for the gem resembling chocolate lava cake. Seemed like the Oar House knew exactly what they were doing when playing with lava and chocolate in the kitchen.

By dining outside we were clearly able to enjoy the fresh air, sea breeze and views but the real maritime heritage that the Oar House Restaurant so proudly wishes to exude was lost in translation. If just a few ounces of nautical mementos or prominent seaport history overlapped onto the deck, I'd believe these two establishments were connected. But the common denominator was the name and price of fare. Our effort to walk off dinner failed as soon as we spotted Annabelle's ice cream a mere 15 feet away. Also spotted, the menu outside Black Trumpet Bistro (X marks the spot of the most memorable meal of my life in Portsmouth). Interestingly enough, Black Trumpet's prices compared to The Oar House deck. You mean to tell me that the plastic chairs and lackluster sangria are equal to the Black Trumpet Martini and exposed brick walls? You must be joking.

Black Trumpet on a beautiful summer day. Photo taken by my mom

The view and our delicious entrees stand out as I think back to last Thursday's meal and I would definitely recommend the Oar House deck to anyone looking for a nice meal by the water. That being said, in order to feel comfortable with my recommendation I would encourage the main Oar House dining location over the deck and make a strong note of the cons: service, price, bread lies, and libations.

Next up, Friday's beach excursions and home cooked Moosewood Chili Burgers!


  1. I always take forever to figure out what I want- eating out is a real event for me and I like to treat it as such! No worries about that!

    Looks like you had a great day out- the weather looks gorgeous...

  2. Somebody hire the Oar House a real bartender!and then hire them a decorator. They'd be good to go. And somebody take me to Black Trumpet ASAP.

  3. Happy Birthday to you!!! Hope you are having a blast!