Dining Out: Popovers at Brickyard Square great before or after a flick
Popovers at Brickyard Square offers great food, drinks to go with your movie
John Tinios, owner of The Galley Hatch, Popovers on the Square in Portsmouth, and Grille 28 at the Golf Course at Pease, knows more than a few things about the restaurant business, including the importance of "location, location, location!"
Posted Jan. 30, 2014 at 2:00 AM
John Tinios, owner of The Galley Hatch, Popovers on the Square in Portsmouth, and Grille 28 at the Golf Course at Pease, knows more than a few things about the restaurant business, including the importance of "location, location, location!"People strolling downtown — give them a place to sit outside and have an eclair with some coffee.Golfing a few holes? A beer or cocktail afterward is nice.And before and after a movie, breakfast, lunch or dinner. A beer or a cocktail would be nice. And an eclair.Versatility is key when you place your cafe entrance right next to a shiny new movie theater, and that's what Tinios' new Popovers at Brickyard Square is all about. Inexpensive, quality food and drink no matter what time of day so you can do what you want — shop, catch a flick — and not have to worry about the when and where of getting a nosh. Or a cream puff.Also at Brickyard Square are Kume, serving fun Japanese, and 900 Degrees serving Neapolitan pizza and Italian fare, so there's a lot going on for food that's both convenient and quality. Popovers is a good fit for the mix because you can enjoy just a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and combine that with just dessert, a sandwich, or even more substantial comfort food in a very casual setting.The set-up is a bit confusing — one side is for those just going up to the counter and ordering, then bringing food to a table, and the other is full table service. Usually there is someone to guide you and the staff here is extremely friendly and helpful. They also all help each other and I was never without something I needed — everyone checks.After 12 years of reviewing restaurants, by now many of you have picked up on the fact that I'm not a big "sweets person." I'd rather save my appetite for savory food. But there are some stellar pastry chefs out there and under pastry chef Steve James, those making the desserts at Popovers are exceptional. From cream puffs to cakes, mousses, tarts, eclairs and carrot cakes, the sweets are very difficult to resist, so it's best to just give in to your cravings and try a few.Now I'm going to concentrate on the savory fare.Get anything with a warm, fluffy popover, like the popover with maple butter, or the one filled with scrambled eggs. I tried the popover with eggs, ham, onion and Swiss cheese with a sparky hit of sriracha on top. Dishes with smoked salmon are good, too, such as the salad with thinly sliced smoked salmon.Popover's is heavy on the panini at lunch. The one with fresh mozzarella, an excellent, freshly made pesto, tomato, onion and a balsamic glaze is very good. The flavors are bright and fresh, pressed between crisp rosemary foccacia bread. I also liked the special patty melt with cheddar cheese and onion.I especially liked the dinner aspect of Popovers. Not that you can't have a beer at lunch, but they have a very good local brew selection including Smuttynose, White Birch and Resonation. They also name the cocktails after movies for a little punny fun: "Argo have a lemon drop" or "Clockwork Orange cosmo," anyone?Dinners are smaller version of big comfort food dishes with really as much food as you need. Their shortribs are braised perfectly and served with simple vegetables — just sliced roasted potatoes and green beans. It's very well prepared, simple food.Crisp outside and sweet inside with fresh crab meat are the crab cakes, which are great with a spicy aioli and a little salad with a lemon vinaigrette. The turkey pot pie is topped with an extra light puff pastry and plenty of tender turkey meat all in an individual crock. A salad with sliced barbecue chicken or buffalo-style chicken is a good dinner salad, especially if you want to take a little stroll to the dessert case and have a cupcake before going off to see an Oscar-nominated film or just a scream flick. Looks like "I, Frankenstein" is out now.Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner who lives in Exeter (and Austin). Her column appears Thursdays in Go&Do. Her restaurant review column, Dining Out, appears Thursdays in Spotlight magazine. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org