MANCHESTER, NH – For your food/drink-loving, leaf-peeping, all around adventure-seeking types, head for the Hill! The Hill Bar & Grille at McIntyre Ski Area, that is.You’ve heard of après ski? This is THE PLACE avant ski. Before ski. Before flakes fly at Manchester’s very own ski area. The outdoor restaurant with the best view in town – nature’s quiet and calming beauty spread out endlessly before you – is open five days a week through October.
And what a fabulous, freestyle menu!
Me and my non-skiing posse opted to share the Yellowfin Tuna Tacos (3 for $9) to start – with a wide selection of beer, wine, and a full bar for your favorite cocktail or their signature collection. BAM! The fish was fresh and fab as was the sesame Napa cabbage salad with ginger wasabi mayo. Definitely not your typical appetizer menu but one your tastebuds will get excited about. Who else offers thick-sliced, crispy bacon ($7) or Venetian mussels with Fra Diavolo sauce ($12) or giant tavern pretzels with sinful dips ($9) amongst chicken wings ($10) and nachos $12)?
Eating up the food, the friendly conversation, the sense that I’m in a remote – and scenic – destination far from home, and warmed in the glow emitted by gas heaters placed among the many well-spaced tables all occupied at the foot of McIntyre’s ski lift, you think, “life feels good again.”
Kids were horsing around on the grass without a care in the world. (Management encourages families to partake.) A mother and son, Karen and Sawyer Brown, were just returning from a short hike up the ski hill while waiting for their main course to arrive when Sawyer spots some boulders to explore. (I had to introduce myself.)
“I love it here!” he boasts. “It’s so cool to see what it looks like in summer because it’s covered in snow in the winter when I come here to ski.”
Mom Karen tells me that her hubby is from the U.K. and a self-proclaimed fish-and-chips snob. He is eagerly awaiting his order back at their table.
“He says the Hill’s fish and chips remind him of home and I think that means a lot,” she says, “The batter is light and crispy. He says they’re the best this side of the Atlantic.”
Sounds like the Browns have escaped to The Hill Bar & Grille more than once since it opened July 1.
Ross Boisvert, president and general manager of McIntyre Ski Area, told me the outdoor restaurant concept at the property had been four years in the planning with a proposed 2021 opening.
“Let’s just say that with the COVID-19 pandemic and the City of Manchester giving restaurants the opportunity to offer outdoor dining, we were fundamentally prepared a year early,” says Boisvert.
Aside from the understandable issues of launching into action in the off-season to rehire former in-season McIntyre staff as servers and kitchen staff, the pieces starting falling into place organically but needed to be flexible in the coronavirus environment.
“We had built and planned for a number of family-fun customer experiences like a fire-pit with Adirondack chairs, horseshoe pits, and corn hole,” said Boisvert, “but with social distancing protocol in place by the health department, those activities will have to wait until the future.”
In the meantime, The Hill Bar & Grille offers light live music on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. The perfect compliment to our dinners: Korean BBQ Steak Tips ($17), Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Pulled Pork ($11), and the Fried Chicken Sandwich ($9).
First off? Mountain-sized portions! If you’re like me, you can take some home for a second or third meal.
Another observation? While there’s an obvious eclecticism in the menu, what with fried chicken, a Mediterranean-inspired fish, and a Korean-inspired beef to name a few, the more unifying theme is comfort food. That’s what the menu is all about. That’s what the restaurant is all about. A comfortable, inviting place to go when you need it most.
The Hill Bar & Grille just might be the most appreciated view of New Hampshire’s quintessential fall-foliage I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing between friends – outside – with a good a meal and a glass of wine. Cheers to avant ski times through October at The Hill!
Wed. – Fri.: 4 – 9 p.m.
Sat.: 12-9 p.m.
Sun.: 12-8 p.m.
The Hill Bar & Grill is located at 50 Chalet Way in Manchester, on-site at McIntyre Ski Area. Click here for more info and to view the menu.