On our return trip from Vermont this past weekend we decided to take a route that would bring us to Freeport, Maine so we could finish up some schools shopping for my oldest who’s heading to Kindergarten. My wife suggested we make a detour to stop at Hayseed in Hampton, New Hampshire for lunch, sounded like a plan to me so we adjusted the GPS.
The GPS brought us to the end of the driveway with no problem, turning in there is a large boulder off to the left with a Smuttynose banner on it so you know you’ve arrived. At the top of the driveway I got confused, I didn’t see any signage directing traffic to park, we ended up going right and parking between the brewery and restaurant. The signage here is confusing as well, there are posts with signs that can’t be read from the parking lot I had to park and walk around them to see that they were designating spots for compact and fuel efficient cars, the signs were facing away from the parking area towards the brewery, this made no sense. The restaurant had a small wooden sign outside the door that said “Hayseed” but it could be easy to miss. We watched groups walking to the brewery to find that they were not at the front door, then walk around front and then walk right back across to get to the restaurant. It’s like the guy who was supposed to order the signage for the driveway and both building was on vacation and it just never happened.
Once inside Hayseed, there are restrooms to the left, server station, bar and dining area to the right. We were lead to the far end of the bar where there is a set of stairs to go up to another floor of seating. I like the neutral colors, off white and green with wood floors and wood tables and chairs, specials and draft list were on chalkboard on the wall. I didn’t like that everything was a hard surface, music and voices echo through the room, it wasn’t very busy but I can imagine how loud it must get in there on a busy night. There is a lack of decorations on the walls as well which would probably help deaden the sound a bit.
Our waitress was friendly and took our drink orders, they serve Smuttynose regular lineup, big beers and Smuttlabs as well as a handful of guest taps. Beer is served in full or half pours which is a nice option and they also do sampler fights of four. I ordered a sampler flight with Smuttynose Bouncy house and three Smuttlabs beers, Schmutzig, Rogue de ‘Shire and Biere de ‘Shire. My wife ordered a half pour of Cherry Short Weisse.
The menu at Hayseed is what I would expect to find in an upscale gastropub, not in a restaurant called Hayseed that’s associated with a brand like Smuttynose. I think of Smutty and I immediately think of the two guys from the Finest Kind IPA bottle, sitting in lawn chairs in front of a camper wearing flannel shirts, hell they just started selling Smuttynose Flannel Woolrich shirts in their gift shop, that’s the image I expected for Hayseed. Even the name has a ring of country life, down home cooking, comfort food or at least something closer to pub fare like you’d find at their sister establishment the Portsmouth Brewery.
We ordered an appetizer and two entrees to split with the boys, this was the best option for us since there was no kids menu. When we were seated we were not offered a booster seat or highchair for my youngest, I didn’t get the impression that Hayseed was a family friendly place.
The food was just ok, and that’s me being generous. I liked the beer cheese spread but the “Crackers” it was served with were these hard little biscuits that closer resembled dog treats than crackers, this also came with pickled onions and bread and butter pickles. I ordered the “Sturdy Burger” which came with fresh lettuce, onion and tomato on a delicious bun but the burger itself – which I ordered medium-well came overcooked to the point that it was burnt which detracted from the flavor of those fresh toppings. I split the burger with my son and he was not impressed either, we both enjoyed the fries though. My wife ordered the Brat which is actually a sandwich made up of a bratwurst sausage Pattie, pickles, pickle cabbage and brown mustard with fries on the side, this was phenomenal and I’m glad she shared some with me, the rest of their menu should have been more like this dish.
We paid up and walked next door to visit the gift shop, we knew the closest entrance was the wrong one after watching groups try and try again, the front door is on the opposite side, away from the parking lot, which is counterintuitive, one would think you’d want to make the entrance to the building as close to the parking area as possible. My wife who attended college for architecture loved the design of the building but said it looked like someone had mirrored the building, you shouldn’t have to search for the entrance. The shop is nice, standard smuttynose clothing and gear you’d expect to see in a space that looks like the smuttynose brand, unfortunately if you bought a shirt in the gift shop, put it on, then walked next door for dinner you’d feel under dressed and that’s just wrong.
I wish I could have stayed for a tour, we didn’t have time. If I ever go back to Smuttynose it’ll be to take the brewery tour I would not go out of my way to eat at Hayseed, not unless they make some changes and align their brands, Hayseed has an identity crisis.