Local ingredients elevate comfort food at the Flying Goose in New Hampshire

The scene: Brew pubs and craft breweries are trendy and ubiquitous, but the Flying Goose in central New Hampshire was way ahead of the curve. They first started brewing more than 20 years ago, and have become a much-beloved institution, with regulars coming from as far away as Boston – well over an hour away – for the great food and impressive beer selection.

New London is in the greater Lake Sunapee region, a very popular spot for warm-weather escapes, summer camps and in the winter, skiing – nearby Mount Sunapee is the closest major alpine resort to Boston. The restaurant sits two minutes off of Interstate 89, which connects Boston with Montreal, Burlington and the ski resorts of Vermont. As a result, the large restaurant is pretty much jammed all summer long, on most winter weekends, and right now it is going into prime fall foliage season, so if you drop in on a Friday or Saturday night, expect to wait as long as an hour. Have a beer while you do.

The Flying Goose is split into two halves, and you enter between them, where you are greeted by a host stand and souvenir shop, and many folks grab some cold beer to go. To the left is the main dining room, a contemporary take on a New England tavern. The space itself is modern and outfitted with sleek wooden tables and chairs, but the rustic décor is a throwback, with an antique bicycle, old wooden sleds, skis, snowshoes, farm implements, jugs, even a moose head hanging on the walls and the thick exposed wooden beams holding up the roof. A recent expansion of the brewery added an extension onto the building beyond the dining room, and some small windows on either side of the large stone fireplace look directly into the modern brewery with its stainless-steel tanks.

The other half of the building is the pub, with high-top tables clustered around a bar where the many house beers are all proudly displayed on draught, with lots of taps, and sports is on TV. There is an enclosed porch dining room off the pub that combines the feel of the two sides, a restaurant-style experience with a view into the livelier bar area. The food and drink is the same throughout; you can’t miss wherever you choose to sit – if it’s not so busy that you have a choice.

Reason to visit: Chicken tenders, meatloaf, sweet potato fries, burnt ends, beer

The food: At first glance the menu at the Flying Goose looks like lots of other bar and grill spots, with burgers, nachos, barbecue, wraps and comfort food specialties like meatloaf and fish and chips. But there are a lot of tasty surprises hidden on these pages. First, there are creative oddities including a number of intriguing vegetarian entrees – few other craft breweries offer a take on fish tacos made with roasted cauliflower marinated in lime juice and beer instead of seafood, but it tastes so meaty you might be fooled. Lots of places have Buffalo chicken wraps, but here they offer a Buffalo wrap featuring crushed chick peas instead of meat, and it’s quite good.

This funky menu offers something for everyone, but overall it skews heavily carnivore, and even that is elevated several notches. About five years ago the owner/founder and longtime chef, JoJo, decided to reinvent the restaurant as a true local-vore spot, and now they source everything they can nearby. That includes just about all the meats, and the menu reads like a Who’s Who of great northern New England farms. All the burgers are made with grass-fed, naturally raised, drug-free meat from Miles Smith farm, just down the road. The chicken and turkey is from Vermont’s highly regard Misty Knoll farm, while even the lamb burger is sourced nearby. Other cuts of non-ground beef, from short ribs to steaks, come from either the Maine Family Farms cooperative or Vermont’s Robie Farm, which also supplies the pork shoulders for barbecue, while the pork belly used for the latest and greatest menu addition, the burnt ends, comes from nearby Battle Farm. Cheese, many veggies and more are also local, and the restaurant has gone so far as to grow their own hops for a couple of hyper-local beers, and they collaborate with local artisans to make beer-infused mustard and a special-edition India Pale Ale (IPA)-infused cheddar cheese from award-winning Vermont Farmstead dairy (both are sold in the gift shop and used in many dishes – the cheese is featured alongside local grass-fed beef in the shredded short rib mac and cheese).

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