Located in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, the Portsmouth Gas Light Co. has become a popular go-to for locals and tourists alike. It is the type of place that truly has something for everyone, from casual family-friendly dining to vibrant nightlife. It is for this reason that The Gas Light has deemed itself, rather appropriately, “Portsmouth’s top gathering spot”.
The importance of The Gas Light in the hearts of the community was plainly evident in the weeks following December 9th, 2015, when the historic building (built in 1837) caught fire. With so many employees out of work just a few weeks prior to Christmas, the Portsmouth community worked with Gas Light leadership to help employees stay on their feet during the months of closing. In just 10 days following the fire, an outpouring of community support raised $37,000 for non-salaried employees, and department heads worked with local businesses to swiftly place 90% of staff into new jobs.
After what can be described as nothing short of a challenging year for Portsmouth Gas Light Co., walking through the doors almost feels as though it never missed a beat. With more than 50% of front-of-house staff and an astounding 19 of 23 kitchen staff returning, there is a comfortable familiarity in the friendly faces, dining room décor, and menu favorites.
Behind the scenes, though, were several upgrades that were the result of what the staff now sees as a silver lining to the catastrophe. “After every business gets going, there are things that in retrospect you’d love to be able to change,” Travis Glazier, Director of Marketing and Design told The Port’s Mouth. “We were given the opportunity to do just that. After 27 years of business, we had the chance redesign for total efficiency and improve our customer experience.” Among the upgrades are two new state of the art kitchens, and a night club with a premium sound system that could put Nicki Minaj’s super bass to shame.
Just as it's been for years, customers can choose between dining in The Grill or the Pizza Pub (as well as The Deck during summer months). It's important to note that the menu served in The Grill, located on street level, is different from the menu served in the Pizza Pub, located below street level. The Grill features bistro-style dishes prepared on the wood-fired grill and rotisserie. The Pizza Pub, as the name might suggest, serves award-winning brick oven pizza, calzones, burgers, and wings in a pub-style atmosphere.
For this visit, we decided to see what Executive Chef Shane Lefebvre has been cookin’ up in The Grill since it reopened just before Thanksgiving. He started us off with a heaping bowl of Mussels & Frites, served in a garlic butter and white wine sauce and topped with matchstick potatoes. The chipotle aioli drizzled over the top and hint of chili flakes in the broth gave the otherwise delicate plate a subtle kick of heat. Fun fact: the kitchen makes over 30 sauces from scratch...saucy.
We were then treated to another Gas Light classic, the Lobster Stuffed Haddock. Fresh haddock, rolled around a decadent lobster stuffing, baked in white wine, finished with a citrus tarragon beurre blanc…need we say more?
Next, we returned to land and tasted the flavors of the wood-fired grill and rotisserie...and let’s just say we weren’t disappointed. First was a nightly special: a juicy rotisserie-cooked half chicken topped with lemon pepper gravy, and served with a rich gorgonzola and swiss cheese potato dauphinoise.
For our last dish, Chef Shane grilled up a flavorful, tender, 10oz grass-fed New York Strip Steak topped with an herb butter and beer-battered onion rings. We recommend pairing this with one of the 16 carefully-selected beers on tap to leave yourself in a blissful food coma for the rest of the night.
As always, we enjoyed our time at the Gas Light and are thrilled to have them up and running again. Be sure to visit their website to learn more about upcoming entertainment and events. Definitely don't miss this year's Seacoast Winter Brew Fest on February 25, 2017, where you'll be able to taste over 100 regional and local craft beers. (PSA: tickets for the event are limited to 100 people per session, so they sell out pretty quickly. In other words, this is not a time for procrastination. Buy 'em now.)
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Photography by Shane Buzzell of Crafty Beard.