Moxy is a recently new addition to the Portsmouth restaurant scene. Located in the downtown area near many other popular hang out spots such as Portsmouth Gas Light, Cava Tapas (which I do not recommend, after my visit I became extremely ill), and Portsmouth Brewery, to name a few. Moxy’s presence is much more vibrant than many of it’s dining competitors and brings a bright new facade to the traditional brick style of Downtown Portsmouth.
The restaurant owners define Moxy’s attitude as, “The capacity to stand alone in favor of an unpopular opinion or course of action with a casual demeanor.” It combines many different styles to create its unique atmosphere. It takes the concept of Spanish tapas and twists its traditional qualities into, “Modern American Tapas”, as the restaurant calls itself. The design and aesthetics resemble that of a family town diner with a pop of Andy Warhol inspired decor and bright orange walls. Carnival-like lights line the perimeter of the ceiling and quotes from famous chef’s such as, Julia Child, display on the walls. As a designer and lover of interior design, I was happily surprised to have been seated in their upstairs loft section, with warm brick walls and a few windows with views down to the street. Moxy has balanced the element of cozy, with bright design accents and fun unusual restaurant decorations.
Now for the important part, how is their food and does it stand strong against the booming downtown needs of local Portsmouthers. So if you didn’t catch it before, Moxy is a tapas restaurant, meaning small plates and lots of ordering. Each plate comes with a small portion or two sliders of what is on the menu. It has pros and cons of course, it’s great to be able to try many versatile flavors and plates, but often times it adds up in price. Especially when you add alcohol into the equation. Our overall experience was pleasant, with attentive and friendly staff who always made sure our table had a colorful glass bottle full of water. The different dishes varied in quality however. Some were mouthwateringly delicious and I wanted to order maybe 10 more plates of it, while a couple were lackluster at most.
Here is the list of what we ordered and a short description:
fried pickle chips, raye’s honey mustard, spicy ranch
moxy mini hot dogs, bacon-fresno marmalade, cheddar, grain mustard
mini beef burgers a la’ Meat, “moxy-q” sauce, cheddar, bibb lettuce, tomatoes
crispy rhode island calamari, radishes, scallion, pepper relish
lacquered pork belly bites, pears, roasted pearl onions
croquettes of pork deliciousness, star island special sauce
portsmouth rarebit, anadama bread, finest kind cheese sauce, caramelized onions, apple, pickled beets
mystery pasta dish, honestly can’t remember the ingredients, just that it was flawless
whoopie pie sliders, chocolate dipping sauce
(All dishes ranged between $5.00 and scaled up to $12.00 for specialty meat dishes)
We ordered in two different waves. First, a handful of plates to share and then after those were finished we took a second look at the menu and ordered some more. The dishes were brought out gradually and not all at once. It was very different than the customary way to serve food, but it gave us time to talk about each dish and whether or not we liked it.
I took some risks when trying their menu. Some dishes in which I thought I would hate, I adored, and the one that I was most excited about was the most disappointing. The pickle chips were a good starter, given with a generous serving of two dips. But we did run out of pickles before we made a dent on the sauces. The mini hot dogs were one of my favorites, and I don’t even like hotdogs. I was forced to try it, and thought it was excellent but I still won’t touch a regular hot dog – don’t try to convince me. The burgers were yummy, but lacked the wow of the hot dogs. We questioned why they were one of the most expensive dishes on the menu. The crispy calamari was flavorful and savory, one of my favorites, in addition to the pork belly bites which basically was a mouth full of bacon with an onion and a pop of sweet, so yea that was amazing.
Now, being Cuban and having had croquettes in the past, I was pretty pumped to see these grace Moxy’s menu. And I’m not just saying this because I am an experienced croquette eater, but they were awful. The outer coat of fried breadcrumbs was bone try and the filling had no taste. I was embarrassed to have ordered them for the table, after raving about croquettes in general. This was the most disappointing of small plates. Next was the rarebit, which was understated and simple. And then finally the mystery pasta. Can’t remember the name or what was in it, but jeez it was good. A shame, I would have loved to try and make it at home myself if I could remember. The hot dogs and the pasta tied for my favorite dishes.
However, the dish that took the cake, literally, was the whoopie pies. Oh. My. God. Sometimes whoopie pies don’t have the right ratio of cake to creme, but these were the perfect balance, with the right amount of moisture and richness. And to top it off, you could pour warm chocolate sauce on your whoopie pie. If Moxy suddenly became strictly a whoopie pie joint, I would be their biggest customer. These were so good. I couldn’t stop talking about them for the rest of the night and I’m not really sure why I didn’t get some to go.
Overall, Moxy was a fine experience and I would definitely give it another chance to wow my tastebuds again. There were some real gems on their menu, but then again there were also some areas in need of improvement. The whoopie pies do make me forget about the croquette catastrophe but then again how could they do that to such a delicious thing?!
Moxy, 106 Penhallow St., Portsmouth, NH 03801
Website: www.moxyrestaurant.com Phone: (603) 319-8178
TripAdvisor Rating: ★★★★☆ #14/ 170 of Restaurants in Portsmouth. $$