By Terry Badman

Good food and drink stimulate the mind and conversation. Sharing each other’s company and a plate of nachos or wings is one of the most human things you can do. It’s why we look forward to the weekend, and the reason we spend 40 hours a week working for The Man. Your time is precious. So why spend it at a sub-par restaurant with lackluster food and bad booze? You deserve better: BETTER, my friend. Those looking for great food, top-shelf beer, and a fantastic time should start here. Here are my picks for some of the best local spots to nosh and get your drink on. Because you earned it.

Tremonte Pizzeria
44 Palmer St., Lowell
This criminally underrated beer spot not only has my favorite bar pie in the city – the insanely epic sausage and broccoli rabe – it’s consistently equipped with one of the best rotating tap lists in town. Featuring an airy space that overlooks the throwback cobblestones of Palmer and Middle streets, it’s a chill spot to sit back with a slice and a glass of Captain’s Daughter double IPA.
(978) 453-1110 | tremontepizzeria.com

Nashua Garden
121 Main St., Nashua, N.H.
A boss sandwich shop that also pours killer pints? YES! Featuring top-shelf sandwiches named for New England sports legends including “The Esposito” – a tasty assortment of Italian meats and provolone cheese – and the cheeky “Buckner” – two slices of white bread with nothing in the middle – this is a must stop for sandwich, sport, and brew enthusiasts. Fresh Grapefruit Sculpin ale and a sub? Aw yeah.
(603) 886-7363 | www.facebook.com/thenashuagarden603

Red Raven
3 Nagog Park, Acton
I’m a sucker for rye ales. And this gastropub with deck seating near scenic Nagog Pond is the only place you can find the Red Raven Rye IPA, made by the good folks at Cochituate Brewing Company. Pair great beer with their Raven Artisan Cheese Board, and the former Vermonter in me gets all kinds of dairy high and nostalgic for cows and farmland.
(978) 274-2231 | www.redravenacton.com

The Ale House
33 Main St., Amesbury
This mill town staple is one of the best beer destinations in Massachusetts. You may stumble on the more limited releases from Massachusetts locals like Brewmaster Jack, or snag a pint of von Trapp Vienna Lager, hailing from the green hills of Stowe, Vt. And hey: they also serve poutine. That’s hand-cut gravy fries and cheese curds for all you non-believers. It’s a pint’s perfect partner.
(978) 388-1950 | www.amesburyalehouse.com

Dudley’s
19 Merrimack St., Lowell
THE place to go for brunch downtown. Their take on the classic Lowell Boott Mill sandwich – fried egg, cheese, meats, and home fries on a fresh Portuguese bun – is worth an early rise on Sundays (Pro tip: get it with kielbasa). Dud’s also boasts the freshest brews around, including beers from Lowell’s own Navigation Brewing. And I challenge you to find a bartender who makes better bloody marys than Spanky. (No. Stop, you’re wrong. Spanky is best.)
(617) 615-7492 | www.dudleysoflowell.com

Barley House
132 N Main St., Concord, N.H.
Perfection is their Dublin Burger. Charred black peppercorns, whiskey gravy, blue cheese, and fried onion strings make for one of the best burgers you’ll find anywhere. Paired with the Barley House’s own pale ale or a pint of Able Ebenezer out of Merrimack, NH, you are down for one of the best burger experiences you’ll have in this lifetime.
(603) 228-6363 | www.thebarleyhouse.com

Grill 110
116 Chelmsford St., Chelmsford
I’m not a fancy guy. But sometimes, you need a little fancy. As the slightly more upscale entry on our list, with eclectic offerings like lobster risotto, chimichurri steak, and raw oyster happy hours, Grill 110 serves up quality plates of food. And with Jack’s Abby tap takeovers and pints of Rhode Island’s Foolproof Brewing on hand, you’re sure to leave well-fed and happily lubricated.(978) 256-2777 | www.110grill.com

Grill Next Door
653 Broadway, Haverhill
This hidden gem is located on the outskirts of town, but features one of the largest rotating tap lists around. With roughly 36 different beers available– including offerings from Founders, Stone, Dark Horse, and Brouwerij Huyghe (makers of the Belgian ale Delirium Tremens)—you simply must make this a regular stop in Haverhill. Oh, and buffalo chicken mac ‘n cheese. Because obviously.
(978) 241-7337 | www.thegrillnextdoor.net

Thirsty First
280 Central St., Lowell
Formally Ward Eight, this spot continues the tradition of serving high-end brews and food at good prices. Enjoy a patio pint of Slumbrew Happy Sol on a blamy fall day, or a Left Hand milk stout on a cool evening. Be sure to try a “Funky Apple” gourmet grilled cheese sandwich, complete with gorgonzola, green apple, caramelized onion, and a balsamic reduction. It’ll bring you to your happy place.
(978) 454-7600 | http://facebook.com/ThirstyFirstLowell

Strange Brew Tavern
88 Market St., Manchester, N.H.
There are lots of great things about Manchester. This is one of the best. Offering more than 100 beers, this is the casual, homey place for no-frills pub grub and brewskies. Featuring New Hampshire breweries like 603, Henniker, Moat Mountain, and Tuckerman’s, there is zero chance you’ll leave thirsty. Grab a basket of fried pickle chips, some beer cheese, and “hawgwings” to complete this excellent noshing experience.
(603) 666-4292| www.strangebrewtavern.net

Got something new on tap? Email Terry Badman: terry@howlmag.com

About The Author

Terry Badman
Arts & Culture Editor

Terry Badman grew up in Vermont, where he developed a semi-unhealthy obsession with craft beer, pond hockey, and Cheddar cheese. A graduate of Castleton University, he has worked for newspapers and magazines in the Green Mountain State, and publishing and software companies in and around the Boston area. He enjoys cooking too much food for himself, pestering his two cats, and playing guitar poorly. Now happily residing in Lowell, Terry can usually be found prowling the local restaurants, pubs, and UML hockey games, seeking out good people and great stories.