MANCHESTER — Killing time at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport before their Southwest flight Tuesday, Steve and Brenda Wood found themselves as an unintended backdrop to the grand-opening ceremony for The Local @ MHT, a new full-service restaurant across from Gate 14.
The Maryland couple enjoyed free garlic parmesan tots after ordering Bavarian pretzels with cheese.
“It was very good,” Brenda Wood said. The location also is “convenient to where all the gates are and you can watch for your plane,” she said.
Mayor Ted Gatsas joined airport director Mark Brewer and executives from HMSHost, which is operating the restaurant and a nearby food kiosk.
“I know the folks here are going to enjoy it,” Gatsas said, “and certainly I think it’s important we have it here for travelers that are coming through Manchester because I know the growth pattern is going to be on an upward swing, and that’s a good thing.”
The 87-seat restaurant — using space previously occupied by the Milltowne Grille for 20 years — and the kiosk employ 34 full-time workers. (The “MHT” in the restaurant name represents the airport’s official three-letter airport code.)
The restaurant, which opened in March, is performing at least 10 percent ahead of revenue projections, according to Bryan Loden, senior director of business development for HMSHost.
Tyler Pitman, director of restaurant development for HMSHost, said the company wants to “cater to local and regional cuisine of New England, playing off local and healthy ingredients, something that you don’t see in a lot of in the airport environment nowadays. Really trying to change the culture and change the way people eat in the airports.”
HMSHost operates concessions in more than 100 airports around the globe. At the Manchester airport, it operates all the food concessions, even the national chains, except for the two Dunkin’ Donuts outlets, Loden said.
Pitman said the restaurant will use ingredients from local farms. He said that list includes Brookford Farm in Canterbury, Benedikt Dairy in Goffstown, Tomapo Farm in Lebanon and Sunday Mountain Maple Farm in Orford. It also carries Smuttynose and Redhook beer from the two Portsmouth brewers.
Through May 20, the restaurant will be open from 10 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. It will serve breakfast at 5 a.m. starting May 21. The nearby kiosk, mainly a takeaway place, is open from 4:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Among the most popular restaurant items are the fish and chips ($16.49), the turkey and cranberry sandwich ($10.99) and dirty chips ($8.79), which are kettle chips, brisket trimmings, garlic aioli and scallions, Pitman said.