main street eats: cafe nostimo

PORTSMOUTH - Cafe Nostimo holds to the claim that some of Portsmouth’s best restaurants are located in strip malls. With plenty of tables, and a large area for live music nights, the restaurant offers a wide selection of Greek and comfort foods. The décor is minimal, but this does not detract from the atmosphere.

I stopped by on a Friday. The restaurant was bustling with retirees, students and others who wanted to try the cafe. Cafe Nostimo is a casual, counter-service eatery, so knowing what you want before you get there helps. Making those decisions can be difficult, though, as the menu is varied and fairly large.

Greek dishes like gyros and keftethes (meatballs) are on offer along with burgers and chicken tenders. There are also numerous options for non meat-eaters including soups, salads and pizzas.

Despite the crowds, it was easy to find an empty table. For appetizers, I ordered the pastichio (baked macaroni and ground beef topped with béchamel sauce) and the pita bread with tzatziki sauce (a dip of yogurt, garlic and cucumber). For the main course, I opted for the chicken souvlaki lunch plate, which included a chicken kabob, roasted potatoes and Greek salad. Baklava completed the meal.

The food was brought to the table in a reasonable amount of time, and everything was cooked well. The pita bread was so delicious that I was almost too full to eat anything else. The tzatziki was heavily flavored with garlic, and complimented the pita bread nicely. The chicken kabob was cooked perfectly and seasoned well. The sides of salad and potatoes had enough herbs and spices to complement the savory chicken. While the bread and the souvlaki plate were standout offerings, I found the pastichio had a strong cinnamon taste, which was overpowering. The nutty flavor came through the phyllo layers of the baklava, but it was much sweeter than I expected. Though not every dish was something I preferred, I enjoyed trying Cafe Nostimo’s take on these Greek foods.

I would try Cafe Nostimo again, but consider getting different dishes to switch things up, like the spanakopita (spinach pie), a wrap and a different dessert. The menu is so extensive that this would not be hard to do. Portions tend to be large, enough for about 2 to 3 people. Prices range from about 6 to 17 dollars, and given the amount of food served for that price, are reasonable. The location might not be in downtown Portsmouth, but it is worth a visit to try some Greek cuisine on the Seacoast —even if you accidentally drive past the mall multiple times to get there.


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