Our Gourmet: The end of the day is great at Everyday

November 01. 2017 2:43AM
The House Pad Thai at Contoocook’s Everyday Cafe and Pub is an explosion of spicy and pickled flavors. 
Everyday Cafe & Pub
14 Maple St., Contoocook; 746-6041; theeverydaycafenh.com

Hours: Seven days, 6:03 a.m.-9:06 p.m.

Cuisine: Eclectic.

Dinner pricing: Appetizers $5-$12; tacos $3.75; quesadillas $7; salads $7-$10; burgers $9-$13; entrees $12-$16.

Scores for Everyday Cafe:
Atmosphere: 17/20
Menu: 19/20
Food: 18/20
Service: 17/20
Value: 18/20
TOTAL: 89/100

We’re never sure exactly what to expect when we go to dinner at a place that’s open from morning to night. Can it be good at all three meals? Is one the specialty, with the other two just along for the ride? Is it more diner or lunch counter than restaurant?

We’ve dined at several all-day spots for this column, and the results have been mixed, ranging from adequate to pretty good. The Everyday Cafe & Pub in Contoocook is one such place, and it may the best we’ve visited yet.

The Everyday, a free-standing place that looks like a coffee shop from the outside, opens at 6:03 every morning (get it?) and offers breakfast all day. But that’s the extent of the diner trappings.

As you enter, there’s an immediate change in atmosphere. The neat, manicured exterior gives way to the vibe of an old but hip country store inside. A coffee bar with four or five giant urns is to the left, along with a big bakery case filled with some great-looking muffins and pastries. A counter/bar is straight ahead, extending to the right, with beer taps and bottle shelves behind the counter that make it clear this isn’t just a breakfast joint.

The small dining room, to the far right, is a bright, high-ceiling space with fun and funky decorations ranging from a “public ukulele” (yes, you can play it) to an old silent-movie projector from Contoocook’s Columbia Hall to a dining booth made from two retired ski lift double chairs. Total seating is probably two dozen or so.

We arrived around 6 p.m. on Saturday night to see several people standing in the parking lot. We assumed that would mean a wait, but we found several seats available when we got inside.

The menu was what drew us to the Everyday. One glance makes it clear that lunch and dinner do not get short shrift here.

Eclectic is an understatement. On the Pub (read “dinner”) menu, available daily after 4 p.m., there’s a section of tacos, a section of burgers. There are dishes with Asian roots and others with Southern accents. There are a few vegetarian options, and there are smoked meats, barbecue and seafood.

With such variety, we needed a few minutes to reconnoiter (the menu online is slightly different from the printed version) so when our waitress arrived to take drink orders, I asked for an order of spicy deep-fried pickles, which were on the daily specials list. We’ve become fans of this Southern treat, and these were as good as any we’ve had. They were thick sliced and quite sour, fried to a golden brown with a coating that was, as advertised, quite spicy. For me, the pickles were a taste of things to come.

When our server came back to take our meal orders, I expected Mrs. Gourmet was going to order another appetizer, since it was I who ordered the pickles. Instead, she launched directly into her entree order, so we ended up with only one app instead of the two that we usually sample as our duty to our loyal readers.

For that entree, she ordered one of the Southern-themed entrees from the House Specialties list: Wild Shrimp & Grits ($16). Now, I’m usually the one to order grits, since there’s some Alabama blood in my veins. But she developed a taste for grits on a road trip through the Carolinas last year, and she’s now a big fan of this classic Southern seafood concoction.

Four large shrimp were spiced before cooking, then tossed in a combination of wilted greens, roasted tomatoes and jalapeno butter and served atop a bowlful of smooth, creamy cheese grits with roasted corn and cheddar. It was a great combination of textures and flavors, and further cemented Mrs. G’s status as a grits convert. (We’ll test that some weekend soon when I cook up a batch for breakfast.)

I decided to go Asian with my entree, choosing the House Pad Thai ($14) and adding smoked chicken ($2). I received a beautifully arranged bowl of rice noodles tossed in peanut sauce, along with stir-fried veggies, pickled veggies, chiles and toasted peanuts, topped with a bright green bunch of sprouts. Not only was this dish a blaze of color, it was an explosion of flavors. Spicy hot was in constant competition with pickled sour, with the more traditional peanut flavor well in the background. I couldn’t decide whether I liked the pickled vegetables (which ultimately dominated the dish) or not, but I couldn’t stop eating until the bowl was empty.

Both entrees came with a choice of house or caesar salads or soup. We both chose the caesar. These were easily the most lightly dressed salads we’ve ever encountered; in fact, Mrs. G’s was almost dry. Over-dressed caesar salads tend to be the rule, so underdressed is better, but we definitely could have used a bit more dressing and should have asked for it.

Desserts at the Everyday consist mainly of the contents of the big bakery case, and though we could have ordered some ice cream, such as a maple syrup sundae, we decided to pick out a few pastries to go. And they went very, very well.

Dinner at the Everyday is a bargain. Our tab, with one app, two entrees, a beer and four pastries, came to just over $50. Service was informal, friendly and helpful, and the whole experience was light and fun.

Next time we find ourselves on Interstate 89 and get hungry, we won’t hesitate to pull off at Exit 6 and head back to the Everyday Cafe — no matter what time of day it is.

Our GourmetContoocook

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