The Second Brook Bar & Grill ‘returns to its roots’

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Susan Stys, customer and friend, looks over the menu at Second Brook Grille, with general manager Kim Vaillancourt, center, and owner Jeannie Foote. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – When walking into the Second Brook Bar and Grill in Hooksett, a sign hangs to the direct left of the entrance.

The sign is a replica ticket used by the members of Central High School’s (CHS) Class of 1984 for the “Day After” graduation party at the Second Brook, a somewhat covert gathering spot for teens to sow their rebellious urges and gather as a community.

“If you grew up in this area, you knew the Second Brook,” said Jeanne Foote, the co-owner of the Second Brook Bar and Grill and a graduate of Central High School’s Class of ‘84.

A replica of “The Day After” ticket for a graduation celebration at the actual Second Brook back in 1984. Photo/Carol Robidoux

The Second Brook was a notorious spot on the North End of Manchester for CHS students to party, seeing local cops would have to leave their cruisers and traverse the woods to find the restive teens.

Yet the restaurant’s moniker is not a taunt at law enforcement, rather a nostalgic recognition of a community the CHS classmates shared, which Foote—and her husband and co-owner, Tom Foote, as well as general manager Kim Vaillancourt and a CHS grad of the Class of ’88—are recreating at their establishment on Hooksett Road.

The structure itself was at one time The Jerry Lewis Twins Cinemas, where Foote first saw a viewing of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic “Jaws.”

It’s your neighborhood hangout,” said Second Brook Bar & Grill owner Jeanne Foote. Photo/Carol Robidoux

Renovated largely by Tom Foote, a military veteran and engineer, and other friends from the Manchester community, The Second Brook Bar and Grill is an airy and welcome space—replete with artfully rendered photos of the Second Brook itself—where old friends can create “new memories,” according to the restaurant’s website.

“It’s your neighborhood hangout,” said Jeanne Foote, who worked for multiple Manchester restaurants, including Billy’s Sports Bar and The Puritan Backroom before opening her own place, Bella’s, in Durham.

Foote still lives in Durham and commutes 35-minutes, back and forth, each day. But for her, it’s worth the drive.

“Our saving grace is that we grew up in this community,” Foote said. “Most people who walk in this door know everybody else. This is family.”

A “family get-together” last week at Second Brook Bar & Grill included members of the Cote-Seeger-Lachance-Abbott, Ayotte and Lepicier families. Photo/Carol Robidoux

Despite the COVID-19 conditions, the Second Brook Bar and Grill opened its doors on Sept. 9, 2020, where staffing and training proved a daunting challenge.

But the restaurant has persevered, while still not immune from the staffing struggles that many establishments currently face.

Foote said that she—like many restaurant owners—has experienced difficulties finding cooks to man the kitchen and has had to work on the line and cook herself, as well as having to spontaneously close down the restaurant on occasions.

Kayla Osborne prepares for the dinner crowd at Second Brook Bar & Grill. Photo/Carol Robidoux

“I would rather close for a day or two and save [her workers’] sanity,” she said. “They’re humans, not machines. We work together.”

Meanwhile, the Second Brook Bar and Grill offers an eclectic and diverse menu, developed by Foote and former head chef Jackson Paulson. It includes innovative entrees and appetizers along with customer favorites—such as the Sheppard Rolls, which are mashed potatoes, ground beef and gouda cheese deep fried in a wonton wrap and served with an au jus and demi-glaze sauce.

“Food is a huge draw here,” Foote said. “The majority of it is homemade, and we try to include ingredients from local places. We try to promote the local small businesses.”

Joelle Ryan left and Dawna Spain tending bar last week at Second Street Bar & Grille. Photo/Carol Robidoux

As far as the drafts, Vaillancourt tries to represent many of New Hampshire’s microbreweries, including drafts from Pipe Dream Brewery and the 603 Brewery in Londonderry, and Tuckerman’s in Conway, among others.

Vaillancourt added that this local connection and sense of real community “adds to the attitude of [the staff’s] smiles.”

“I see the community come inside here, and that creates a smile,” she said. “They’re actual family.”

The writing on the wall sums it all up for Second Brook Bar & Grille owner Jeanne Foote.

Some decades ago, Jeanne and Tom Foote, Kim Vaillancourt and their friends from the Second Brook Bar and Grill may have actualized some of the names of their specialty drinks—The Swimhole Fashioned, the Train Wreck Margarita, the Running from the Popo Punch.

Or maybe not.

Now they’ve returned to their roots and found a path back home, where everyone is welcome and everyone is appreciated – and no special ticket necessary.

“I’ve made such good friends here, and I include them as my family,” said Foote.