FROM ITS NO-NONSENSE exterior — Chapel + Main is in a 1950s-era shopping center in downtown Dover — to its gray/black walls and polished concrete floors, this restaurant/brewery seems focused on getting the job done.
For the most part, it succeeds.
Our party of three arrived around 4:15 p.m., a little early for dinner, but we were hungry.
Dining Companion 1 (DC1) launched into the 7-Layer Dip with chips ($7) so fast that Dining Companion 2 (DC2) barely had time to get a photo.
The appetizers are labeled “Snacks + Potted Things” and the dip arrived in what appeared to be a Mason jar. While the contents were satisfying, it was hard to get to all seven layers at once because of the container.
The Duck Rillette ($7) also arrived in a small glass container, with crackers on the side. Think pate, but richer and creamier. The thin layer of duck fat on top was a decadent pleasure, especially when paired with the whole-grain mustard and pickled onions served alongside.
The star of the appetizer show was the Sloppy Fries with cheese curd, chorizo and pickled jalapeno ($10). The chorizo was in a tomato sauce that gave a defining edge to the salty cheese and heat of the jalapeno. “Six thumbs up,” DC2 said.
DC1 and DC2 washed down this delicious treat with a North Country Original Press cider ($7), made in nearby Rollinsford, and a German-inspired Yodeler Weisse ($7). Next time we might try A Dragon in the Seas (IPA), or the Wild Ingenue, a wild rice harvest ale. Both are $7 and made in Dover. Four-ounce samples of beers are available for $2.
There is a good selection of white, red, rose and sparkling wines. Cocktails (all $9) cover the gin, rum and bourbon fronts.
For entrees, DC1 chose the Chicken Pot Pie ($14), a generous portion of deconstructed crust, locally raised chicken (Vernon Family Farm in Newfields) and fresh vegetables.
“It was an interesting choice to put the pot pie over mashed potatoes, and one I was on board with, but the potatoes suffered from the same issue the gravy and crust did — they needed more butter,” DC1 said.
The dish seemed bland, but she conceded it might have been because of the very strong and bright flavors of the sloppy fries we had just eaten.
DC2 ordered a Beet Salad ($9) and Macaroni and Cheese ($8). The salad — arugula with roasted beets, dill and buttermilk goat cheese dressing — was fresh, but needed more dressing, DC2 thought. She had expected more of a pickled beet than roasted beet flavor, but said the salad “did the trick.”
The mac and cheese was also good, but DC2 would have preferred the sauce be thicker and a more eclectic mix of cheeses.
Our Gourmet ordered the Fried Pork Cutlet ($16). The large, crisp cutlet was served under a bed of kale dressed in lemon honey dressing with kale pipian (a pureed seed sauce) on the side. The dish was garnished with delicately flavored Hakurei turnip slices.
The heat of the cutlet slightly wilted the kale, and a fork loaded with the pork, kale, turnip and the zingy pipian — a blend of herbs and lemon — created the perfect bite.
The food was delivered to us by three different people, including an ebullient bartender and someone from the kitchen. Our primary server seemed a bit distracted, and wasn’t sure of the seven ingredients in the 7 Layer Dip.
“Servers should be able to enthusiastically discuss every dish on the menu and say what their favorite is, or what other people like, even if they’re blowing smoke,” DC1 said of our primary server.
There were three desserts to choose from and we went for all three ($7 each). Totally worth it.
The best was the brownie, which DC2 described as “like flourless chocolate cake.” The brownie’s dark cocoa notes were offset by its velvety lightness, and the whipped cream on top was perfect.
The salted-caramel cheesecake was served in a jelly jar. The caramel packed a sugary punch, which by the second bite had settled in to a more subtle sweetness. It would have been better on a small plate.
For the finale, two chocolate waffles embraced a good-sized scoop of homemade berry ice cream. The raspberry-blueberry base was smoothed by clear notes of vanilla.
DC1 ordered coffee, which was freshly made. The tab for three apps, three entrees, three desserts and two beers came to $122.08.
By the time we left at 5:30 p.m., the place was filling up, but it never got noisy.
Chapel + Main was founded last summer by the owners of The Black Birch in Kittery, Maine, a wildly popular restaurant in a town billed “the Brooklyn of Portsmouth” by Seacoast residents.
The two eateries share a dedication to locally sourced fresh ingredients and a relaxed, shambling ambiance that invite you to sit back and enjoy the ride.