For the Most Important Meal of the Day, Breakfast Free or Die.
Heads up: This post was last updated January 2019.
If you’re an enthusiast of the most important meal of the day, the amazing city of Portsmouth, NH, has tons of killer breakfast joints. The following is a list of top spots, as well as a bonus breakfast tidbit. Enjoy!
Best Breakfast Spots in Portsmouth, NH
A recent addition to the cafés in Portsmouth, Cup of Joe beautifully renovated the former t-shirt shop “I Like That” to bring us a warm, rustic environment with a variety of organic, fair trade coffee blends. Between their fresh pastries and savory breakfast menu it’ll be hard to order just a cup of joe. It’s a great place to cozy up and read book or open up your laptop to bang out some work.
Bring your appetite to Bennett’s for some ridiculously good breakfast sammies. Serving up 12-inch sandwiches – yeah, wow is right! — you’ll love any of their breakfast sandwiches. But we certainly have our favorites! A big favorite at Vital is the steak, egg and cheese with peppers, onions and mushrooms, topped off with sriracha mayo on their deliciously soft rolls. Yum! I’m drooling just thinking of it. Should you decide to stray from my suggestion, Bennett’s super friendly staff encourages you to get creative. Choose from the most fresh and high-quality produce and meats to put on an English muffin, whole wheat or white wrap, or on an 8-inch or 12-inch sub roll.
Located on Congress Street right in the center of it all, it’s hard to resist stopping in for these legendary subs. And don’t forget about coffee! They have their own line of beverages and offer some smoooooth nitro hot and cold brew coffee.
The Goods market and café is owned by Portsmouth locals looking to do more to bring the community together with local foods, farmers, artists and craftsmen. Their fair-trade coffee and espresso will definitely kick start your morning. If you’re not a fan of coffee (that just sounds crazy), the smoothies and tea selections are a great substitute. The Goods has a satisfying list of egg sandwiches and wraps but as basic (and millennial) as it may sound, you have got to try the avocado toast with roasted tomatoes, red onion, sprouts and balsamic reduction – now add an egg to that and you’ve got yourself a great morning!
La Maison Navarre “Pâtisserie Française and Bar à Vin” (French pastry and wine bar) offers the full French experience and will transport you into feeling as if you’re at a cafe in the cobblestone streets of Paris. Treating yourself to a something sweet early in the day isn’t something we disagree with and you’ll definitely be tempted to do so after setting your eyes on MN’s unbelievably delicious looking pastries.
But you’ll want to leave room for their breakfast! The traditional French croissants are light, rich and a great travel-friendly food when you’re in a hurry. Although, we do recommend that you take in the ambiance and stay to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee or experience their fresh French crêpes. Their crêpe menu doesn’t stop with just sweet options but offers the most light and flavorful savory crêpes with a selection of batters including a gluten free!
In addition to being the #portsbkfstclub HQ, The Works is a spot that team Vital probably frequents the most. These folks get up before sunrise (which actually means something in the summer) and fire up the boilers and ovens to make fresh bagels every single day. With 12¬–16 varieties of bagels, 5–7 cream cheese options including tofutti, and an impressive lineup of egg/meat/cheese/veggie breakfast sandwich options that you can order on a bagel, in a wrap, or bread-less, this is the go-to breakfast spot of many Portsmouthians. The Works uses free-range and hormone-free meats, so their bacon and sausage are totally legit. They also proudly use NH’s own Stonyfield Organic yogurt in all their smoothies and have various parfaits, pastries and fruits ready for you to grab as well.
This is a true local favorite breakfast joint. Owner Jeremy Colby took over the former Karen’s diner spot over a decade ago, and it’s gained and retained a loyal local following for a reason. Every day, in addition to their regular menu of all you would expect to find at a breakfast spot, including combo meals and a robust lineup of pancake and French toast options, they have 3–4 specials like: asparagus, goat cheese and scallion omelets; banana, blueberry and chocolate pancakes; and smoked salmon, baby spinach and tomato benedict. They also feature awesome local art on their walls. While there’s always a line at peak brunch time (10am – noon) on the weekends, on weekdays there’s usually an open table. Plus, takeout is pretty quick and they have coffee outside on the patio while you wait your turn in the summer.
Plan ahead if you want to get in on a Saturday or Sunday morning, since there’s always a pretty large weekend brunch crowd. But one of the great things about the Toast is that they are open very long hours and serve breakfast ALL DAY, every day. Another great thing about the Toast is the atmosphere. It has become very popular among visitors to Portsmouth because of its iconic throwback décor, which gives your eyes something to feast on as well—a meal for all the senses.
Mmmm, Roundabout! Conveniently located off the Portsmouth Traffic Circle, the Roundabout is where you’ll want to meet someone for breakfast if you’re worried about parking downtown. But even if you’re already downtown, the Roundabout’s extensive breakfast menu is worth hopping in your vehicle of choice for a serious breakfast. They’ve got the shiny booths and bottomless (locally roasted!) coffee, complete with a super friendly waitstaff. Their menu encourages adding vodka to your juice, and you should definitely check out their build-your-own Bloody Mary bar on Sundays. Their French toast is also to die for, and they offer a huge variety of all-American diner breakfast fare. If you are catching up with an old friend, getting your kids out of the house or just want to settle in with a good book and a big plate of great breakfast food, this is your jam.
Sitting on the hallowed ground of the former Eagle Photo building (R.I.P.) is Popover’s on the Square. This café is named after a breakfast food, their famous popovers, so you know they’ve got good grub. The oatmeal tastes as though the chef had journeyed out to a dew-covered field at dawn and had hand-selected the three most perfect strawberries and three most perfect blueberries and arranged them lovingly on top of my handmade steel cut oatmeal. That’s a damn good bowl of oatmeal. It’s a great place to meet a colleague or client for a light breakfast and coffee. And then get a big piece of carrot cake because it’s SO GOOD.
This is a legendary breakfast spot for true “old timers.” Just over the Sagamore Bridge, the Golden Egg is a breakfast and brunch institution for Portsmouth locals. This is the breakfast spot where you’re most likely to bump into a stumping presidential candidate during primary season. The tables are crowded in next to each other to create a very bustling atmosphere, and the waitstaff are pros at navigating around them. Nothing fancy about the menu, this is pure traditional New England breakfast fare, served fast, hot, and with a wink if you’re lucky. It’s a good place to grab a quick breakfast with a friend — but take it from my personal experience and don’t make big gestures with your hands while you’re talking, or you’ll spend the rest of your meal feeling terrible for making that nice server spill hot coffee on herself.
We’ve mentioned their lunch specials before, but of course a bakery of their caliber has great breakfasts as well. Scones and muffins and pastries, oh my! Honestly, it would be pretty easy to just eat their cookies for lunch every day. But that’s not necessary with the array of brioche, breakfast sandwiches and coffee cake — sweet heaven, the coffee cake! — to satisfy the morning palate. The hot cross buns are a special served only between Lent and Easter, but are worth the year-long wait.
Surely the best view you can have with your breakfast, The Salt is located at the Wentworth by the Sea. This restaurant has a modern style and awesome food. Though it’s located at the Wentworth, it doesn’t feel like you’re eating in a hotel — except that it’s a great price and breakfast is served buffet-style. Kids eat for just $6. The Make-Your-Own Bloody Mary and Mimosa bars are incredibly popular — you can mix your own drink right at the bar. Brunch is served every day, but Sunday is extra-special; you can either do the regular brunch at the Salt or the fancier (read: raw bar included) brunch in the Wentworth Grand Dining room (that one is from 10am–2pm, and reservations are suggested).
No Portsmouth breakfast list could be complete without this one! Like the Golden Egg, Hebert’s is an under-the-radar local fave. You can order bacon and egg combos in any quantity from one to six (“Yes, I’ll have half a dozen each of eggs and bacon strips with toast and jelly,” is a perfectly acceptable thing to say there), eggs-actly how you like them (get it?! EGGS-actly! Hahaha, worth the trip alone to read that off the menu). You can also get New England standards like corned beef hash or just a plain cup of joe.
Just outside downtown, this is another place with plenty of parking when you don’t want to try your luck with downtown parking spots. The food is fresh, the service is great and everything is homemade. Bonus: they also host the HOOT, a monthly poetry reading, every first Wednesday at 7pm (usually, they close at 4pm).
Submitted by a reader on Twitter, the Huevos Rancheros wrap from White Heron is a must-have. He says, “It’s existential, yet so accessible.” We now have the assignment to check out this breakfast and report back. We won’t let you down. We already have partaken in the wonder that is their breakfast sandwich, so this will be a welcome experiment.
The latkes… oh, the latkes. Get several with anything you order here. The bagels meet the expectations you’d have of a NY-style deli, and they even have egg bagels. Yum. Sure, you’ll pay a little more here than other spots, but for my money, they’re worth every penny. Go for Bubby’s Basic Breakfast if you want to ease in. If you’re ready for the full NY-style Jewish delicatessen experience, go for the Borscht. And if you’re new to Jewish delis, there’s a whole Yiddish glossary right in the menu — which, by the way, is adorned with a Dan Blakeslee illustration.
BONUS Breakfast Intel
Okay, this is totally breaking the rules because Lil’s isn’t in Portsmouth at all — it’s across the bridge in Kittery, Maine. An entirely different state! But. You can walk there in 10 minutes from downtown Portsmouth, and walk there you will as soon as you remember their crullers. While it used to be a delightful secret, Lil’s is becoming super famous for their crazy-awesome crullers. When you’re not ordering a dozen to go when you’re up for a review at work, you can sit and enjoy the wonderfully unique and cozy atmosphere of this delightful café. The baristas make a mean latte, and are also packing some mad latte art skills! They’ve got lots of other pastries and breakfast sandwiches that are awesome, too, as a side to your plateful of light, flaky, perfect crullers.
There you have it. Not a comprehensive list of breakfast spots in Portsmouth, but certainly a great starting lineup. There’s enough tasty breakfast food in the City of the Open Door to keep you eating breakfast all day long if you like—and all year ‘round! Remember, eating a healthy balanced breakfast sets the foundation for your day.
Did I miss your favorite Portsmouth, NH breakfast spot? Let us know what your favorite is in the comments below!
If you’re looking for a quick bite for lunch downtown, we’ve got you covered there too. Happy dining!