Our Gourmet: How's Your Onion? This one's very good
How's Your Onion?, a diner-style family restaurant in Derry that opened in 2010, is a breakfast/lunch place during the week but transforms into a 24-hour food stop on the weekends. It's the kind of place you may never have heard of, but your friends who live in town would insist on taking you there when they found out you haven't been.
First impressions: 18/20
We were warmly welcomed by our server as soon as we walked into the cozy spot, named for a saying of the owner's grandfather. We were immediately made to feel at home, which you should when you are at a family-owned restaurant. The décor, comprised of original art and solid wood booths, also gave us a warm feeling on a cold night.
Make sure you take the time to get through the five pages of the menu and spot all the hidden gems. You'd expect a variety of items at a place that serves everything from breakfast to dessert, but there are several unique dishes like Spiked Potatoes (a combination of mashed potato, bacon, cheese and peppers rolled in beer batter, smothered in BBQ chips, fried and served with a bacon-ranch dressing), the Salmon and Avocado Sandwich, Shirred Baked Egg Nest and Fritz Liver and Onions (named for Fritz Wetherbee, one of several items on the menu named for New Hampshire personalities).
The Main Course: 24/30
Our Gourmet: One of the reasons I wanted to go to How's Your Onion is because they serve breakfast all day. Sometimes you just want breakfast for dinner. I decided on the Irish Egg ($6.19), a toasted English muffin topped with corned beef hash, two poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce, served with home fries. This dish is tricky because if you don't cook all of the elements just right, it's going to be a disaster. But the eggs were perfectly poached (and if you've done this at home you know how tough that is to accomplish) and the homemade corned beef did not taste like a salt lick: You could actually taste the tender beef. I do wish that the Hollandaise sauce had that acidic, lemony bite it needed to cut through the fattiness of the dish, and that there had been more of it. The home fries were well seasoned but it was tough to enjoy them as they weren't hot when they made it to the table. (7/10)
The Dining Companion: I had the HYO (How's Your Onion) Haddock ($8.99). Entrees come with a side salad and another side of your choice. I ordered onion rings, but instead of the salad I wanted corned beef hash. Without prompting our waiter said he would substitute my additional side for the salad. I was surprised and impressed by the variety of food I was able to mix into one entree for one price. The haddock was served with light breading, spices, and Parmesan cheese. It is baked in a cream sauce, which helps keep it moist and flavorful.
The answer to "how's your onion?" is very good. When I bit into the homemade onion rings, served with chipotle sauce, I found them to be in that perfect middle ground of being not too soft and not too crispy. I ordered the corned beef because of a section on the menu explaining that their corned beef is not the traditional red color because they don't add the nitrates which give it that familiar red hue. You can't beat the taste when it's homemade because, for one, you can actually taste the beef. Don't get me wrong, I like and grew up with the red stuff in a can, but it really doesn't compare. (8/10 haddock; 9/10 for the sides.)
OG: The server sold me on a piece of homemade caramel pecan pie (billed as butterscotch on the menu; $4.99). It paid to listen to the server's suggestion, as the pie was a melt-in-your-mouth slice of heaven. The pairing of the caramel and pecans was perfect and surprisingly not too sweet. The healthy dollop of whipped cream topped off one of the best desserts I've had in the past year. (10/10)
TDC: For dessert I had Tom Rush's Hot Fudge Sundae ($4.19). The sundae was served in a traditional glass cup that I seldom see outside of ice cream shops. The cup was filled with two scoops of French vanilla ice cream topped by whipped cream with hot fudge surrounding its sides. Nothing fancy here, just the tried and true taste to put an exclamation on a great home-cooked meal. (8/10)
Final thoughts: 25/30
Our server was attentive and informative and made us feel like we were the most important people in the place. When we got the check, we did a double take. Even with a few beers, the final total was surprisingly low. You can't beat getting a great meal, with great service, for a more than reasonable price. It's not a large spot and parking is at a premium, so if you plan on heading out on a Sunday morning for breakfast, you are going to want to get there early - but it's worth setting the alarm clock for.