Our Gourmet: A countryside drive yields a tasty find

July 04. 2017 11:20PM
9 Lions' Tavern in Deefield (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
The 9 Lions' Tavern
4 North Road, Deerfield; 463-7374; www.ninelionstavern.com

Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Cuisine: Eclectic Pub.

Pricing: Appetizers, $8-$10; salads, $5-11 (protein extra); sandwiches, $8 to $10; burgers, $12; entrees, $15-$19.

Scores for 9 Lions' Tavern
Atmosphere: 16/20
Menu: 18/20
Food: 18/20
Service: 18/20
Value: 18/20
TOTAL: 88/100

Every once in a while, the Dining Companion likes to give her little sports car a good airing out. And Our Gourmet likes a good ride in the countryside and loves tooling past New Hampshire’s old Colonial-era farms and farmhouses when he gets the chance.

And so not long ago, that’s how we found ourselves over in Deerfield and hungry, and came upon The 9 Lions’ Tavern.

Located just past the jumbled intersection of routes 107/43, Church Street and Candia Road in what amounts to the center of town, The 9 Lions’ Tavern describes itself on its website as being “centrally located between Manchester and Portsmouth.” Geographically, that’s fairly true. On man-made roads, though, a more apt description might be that it’s centrally located between Candia and Northwood, which is nice if you happen to be traveling from Candia to Northwood. Otherwise, it’s a little bit off any main highway.

Given its location, the restaurant — housed in the building that served as Deerfield’s grocery store in the 1800s — has a decidedly cozy, neighborhood feel, although strangers like us were warmly welcomed. Entering from the side of the building, we saw a room to the left with a pool table and bar at the back that was unused the early evening we visited. To the right is the pub/dining room, decorated in soft brownish hues and plenty of old exposed wood and beams, with a smattering of tables and hightops and a bar with about eight stools. A large counter, perhaps a relic from the grocery store, supports several stuffed lions on a shelf above and separates the cooking from the eating and drinking.

About half the tables were filled the weeknight we visited. A few people hung out at the bar, chatting and joking with the bartender/waitress, making it evident they were all friends or family. Like we said, the place has a neighborhood feel. It was a tad loud, though.

The 9 Lions offers an eclectic pub menu. Appetizers range from traditional wings and nachos to pot stickers and a spinach dip. We started with drinks, the Dining Companion opting for a spiked raspberry lemonade, which was a special this day at $7.95. She found it refreshing. Despite 12 beers on tap, Our Gourmet and FussBudget ordered Cokes, the OG because somebody had to drive home and the FB because he is 7.

The DC ordered a side garden salad ($5), which was huge and featured crispy romaine, grape tomatoes, cucumbers and thin slices of red onion, with blue cheese dressing on the side. The salad was shared with the FB, who enjoyed his portion until a dollop of creamy dressing was added to a piece of lettuce, which ruined his dining experience.

A handful of burger options tout some interesting toppings (one features sliced avocado and Sriracha; another features grilled pineapple… there’s even a veggie burger), and there are sandwiches and paninis served all day.

The 9 Lions offers an entrée menu that is diverse, given the restaurant’s small size. There are steak tips, several pasta dishes, even duck. If the kitchen handles all of these options as well as it handled those we ordered, it’s one talented kitchen.

OG ordered Momma’s Meatloaf ($15). Done right, a good meatloaf can be exceptional. Done wrong it can be a dry, horrid mess. The 9 Lions’ cooks do it right. Two thick slabs of meatloaf, well mixed and lightly seasoned, were topped with an interesting gravy, as dark and thick as molasses but tasting lighter (though a bit salty).

OG wished there’d been more gravy, as it also was good on his garlic mashed potatoes, where he would have put the extra to use. The potatoes were a creamy, buttery mound, served alongside the meat. Stealing the show, though, was the day’s side vegetable — fresh green beans, sautéed in just enough oil to keep them crisp and to allow some finely minced garlic to cling to each bean. These were stunningly well cooked.

The DC, still trying to eat vegan, opted for Ravioli ($17), a hefty plate of the puffy pasta, each filled with either wild mushrooms or butternut squash, all slathered with a cream sauce (yeah, we know that’s not vegan… she’s trying). The DC preferred the mushroom ravioli, in which the mushroom pieces still had some bite and kept their earthy flavor.

The FussBudget went the safe route, ordering a hotdog from the kids’ menu. He declared it “good,” and finished it. That’s his highest praise.

Despite its small size and slightly remote location, we were impressed with the 9 Lions’ Tavern. If we lived in town, it would be a regular stop for dinner or lunch. Being from away, we might not visit as often, but it’s good to know there’s a solid option whenever we’re out that way.

Our GourmetDeerfield

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