Our Gourmet: Summer’s calling at the Stark House

May 22. 2018 11:18PM
Calamari at Stark House Tavern is tossed in a Thai aioli sauce. 
Stark House Tavern
487 S. Stark Highway, Weare; 529-0901; www.thestarkhousetavern.com

Monday-Wednesday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Sunday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Cuisine: American.

Prices: Apps/soup/salads $3.95-$9.95; sandwiches/burgers $8.45-$10.95; dinner entrees $10.45-$17.95.

Scores for Stark House Tavern
Atmosphere: 15/20
Menu 18/20
Food: 17/20
Service: 18/20
Value: 17/20
TOTAL 85/100

Route 114 heading north through Weare isn’t exactly loaded with places to eat, but the Stark House Tavern is a good summertime stop when you are in the area.

Spread out on half an acre or so just off the west side of the highway, south of Weare proper, the Stark combines a traditional tavern and restaurant with a comfortable porch sitting area and a large patio area for dining and live music.

Also a purveyor of pizza, and with a serious chicken-wing section on the menu, the Stark offers a comprehensive menu of pub food, crafted cocktails and dinner selections that will satisfy any appetite.

Inside, the long bar area is nearly as large as the not-so-large dining room. Informal and casual is the order of the day, with country equine-themed wall decorations, and a photo of Manchester’s Gen. John Stark statue, and a pencil/ink portrait of the venerable New Hampshire military leader.

A nice selection of martinis and custom cocktails goes along with a solid collection of wine, and draft and bottled beer. We ventured to the “signature cocktail” list and enjoyed beverages that were crisp and refreshingly cold on a warm spring evening. The Farm Stand Lemonade featured lemonade mixed with two fruity vodkas in a 16-ounce glass that quenched a thirst. We also tried a can’t-miss Pink Floyd-themed martini, the Wish You Were Here — a delightful concoction of rum, pineapple and cherry flavorings, and a dark rum float.

As we settled in, the drinks were accompanied by two fine appetizers. Settling in at the Stark is important. The bar area is not separated at all from the dining room, and the eight-table indoor eating area includes a few high-topped tables that are immediately adjacent to the bar. Thus, proximity is an issue when it comes to noise, and the cement floors and metal-legged furniture adds to the noise level.

We acclimated to the atmosphere over our drinks and apps and all was well.

The BLT Wedge Salad ($6.95) was one of the best of its kind we’ve had, anywhere. A full half-head of iceberg lettuce was served cold and crisp under a layer of ranch dressing and bleu cheese crumbles, with plenty of crumbled bacon chunks, red onions and cherry tomatoes. Absolutely plenty for two people.

Along with the salad, we were impressed with the serving of Crispy Calamari ($8.95). It included calamari rings and tentacles, lightly battered and lightly deep-fried until just slightly crispy, then thoroughly tossed in a tasty Thai curry aioli sauce. The crispiness of the seafood and the sweet-spicy sauce made for an outstanding taste we would recommend anytime.

We were drawn to the dinner entrees this evening, which left out some substantial portions of the Stark’s menu. There are dozens of combinations of pizzas and toppings; more than two dozen sandwiches and burgers; and 16 different chicken wing sauces and rubs, complete with a thermometer rating scale. Wings come in batches ranging from ten ($9.95) to 50 ($44.95).

We ordered a rib dinner and a seafood dinner, with mixed results.

The Smoked St. Louis Ribs dinner ($14.95), was a half-rack of meaty, slow-cooked pork ribs, very lean and tender, rubbed and lathered with a smoky/tangy BBQ sauce. We opted for vegetables (broccoli) instead of french fries, and the small tub of cole slaw that accompanied was just right. The rib meat needed only a hint of persuasion to come off the bone. The pork was hot and juicy, and very tasty with the sauce. The homemade coleslaw was soothing and refreshing.

The Baked Haddock with Lemon Dill Sauce ($14.95) was less of a standout. The fish was served with broccoli (which was fresh and crisp and came with butter on the side) and a good-sized helping of mashed potatoes. The haddock was baked properly, and served hot, but the filet was on the small side.

The lemon dill sauce was a bit intrusive. It was an almost thick sauce, and there was no shortage of it, but the lemon-dill combination was overly sharp, obscuring some of the flavor of the fish. The topping also suffered a bit from a resemblance to the adjacent mashed potatoes, so the presentation wasn’t particularly appealing.

They were not serving meals outside the night we visited, but we checked out the patio after dinner. Live music is offered Thursday through Saturday, either inside in one corner of the restaurant, or at the spacious outdoor site. There are more tables outside than in, and there is a fine stonework, raised stage for the musicians, which we were told are usually one- or two-person performers. We easily envision a summer evening meal outside, which also offers lounge and sofa seating on the long covered porch in front of the restaurant.

The to-go pizza business is handled at the other end of the large tavern building, and has its own entrance.

We’d go back to the Stark House Tavern in a heartbeat. Almost all the food we had was very tasty and well prepared, and there are entire sections of the menu we’d like to sample. The menu is very detailed, and the offerings vary widely. When the weather warms up enough to eat outside consistently, we’d bet that weekends at this Weare establishment are most enjoyable.

Our GourmetWeare

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