How Does A Restaurant Who Gets It So Right Get It So Wrong?
On the way home from a delightful weekend away in Maine, we stopped off in Portsmouth, NH for lunch. We passed many restaurants, but the sweet smell of smoke from a wood fired grill drew us into Portsmouth Gas Light Co. We were greeted and asked what kind of fare we were interested in, upscale or pizza? Both! We were bewildered when we were told we had to pick one or the other. Upscale fare was upstairs, pizza downstairs. We started off upstairs with beer on tap and crabcakes, paid our bill, then continued the meal downstairs on a separate tab with more beer and pizza. I certainly needed the exercise, but I'm still baffled as to why the waitstaff are banned from carrying a tray of pizza up one set of stairs to satisfy a patron. However, the pizza was well worth the trip to Portsmouth, paying two separate tabs, and a jaunt down the stairs. Let me give you my take on The Gas Light.
Atmosphere. Upstairs was comfortable and slightly upscale pubish. Downstairs was a bar atmosphere. Dark with several large screen TV's showing several different sports games. The kind of place where you stop in for a drink on a Sunday afternoon, then stay for a few more and walk out into the sun like Punxsutawney Phil on groundhog day. The beer on tap was the same on both floors. Mike had one of his favorites, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. While I enjoyed a Long Trail Ale Hefeweizen with a lemon. Which brings me to my next subject.
Garnish. Upstairs the lemons were sliced, while downstairs they were cut into wedges. I find this a simple concept, you cannot squeeze a slice of lemon into your drink. Only the wedge can be grabbed just so as to get all the lovely juice into your drink.
Waitstaff. Upstairs the bartender was sweet, talkative, informative, and attentive. Downstairs the bartender was more interested in his Blackberry and hanging on his girlfriend than serving us.
Food. Upstairs we ordered crabcakes. They were sweet and tasty with pungent red peppers. The cakes were nice and firm with a perfect panko crust. They could have used a bit more crab and a little less filler. Downstairs we tried the wood fired pizza with ricotta, mozzarella, sausage, and pepperoni. This was one of the best pizza's I've ever had. The crust was thin with the perfect mix of crisp on the outside, warm soft dough on the inside, and a hint of sourdough flavor. The pepperoni was sweet and the sausage was caramelized on the outside and had just a slight kick of spice. The sauce was mild with a fresh tomato taste and just a hint of oregano. And the creamy ricotta topped it off with perfection. We ordered fries which are only served upstairs and I was just too full and tired for yet another trip.
All and all this place gets the thumbs up (stairs), but the concept gets the thumbs down (stairs).