The week we’ve all had circled on our calendars is finally here – it’s the Cappies Issue.
This is when we show you the results of your voting on the best Concord has to offer. Many will use this issue as the definitive guide to what’s good in the city, so it’s always a pretty big deal.
This year, we decided to see for ourselves what everybody else has apparently already seen. We set out to check out some of the winners and find out what makes them the best. We wanted to focus more on things we weren’t too familiar with but that also wouldn’t cost us a tooth or a new furnace to find out.
We ended up taking a pretty good sampling of all kinds of things you voted for, and had some interesting experiences to show for it.
Yoga is all the rage right now, and since Tim was the only one to have taken a class before – it was about time to make it happen on my end.
We dropped in to Sharing Yoga – Cappies winner for Best Yoga Studio – last week for, appropriately, a drop-in session, which anyone can try. I was to be the yogi, while Tim was there for photo-taking purposes, ready to capture my every failure.
I showed up in my best yoga attire – jeans and a T-shirt, with plain white socks. That’s what guys wear to yoga, right?
I was one of three people in the class, and the only guy, so it was a little intimidating. Surely I would be out of my league.
But as instructor Alison Murphy started calling out the positions, I found myself following along just fine.
I sat back into Child Pose, sitting on my shins and bent far forward with arms and hands outstretched toward the front of the mat, which Murphy lent me.
“Noticing the length of the spine,” she called out. “Maybe walking our hands to the right.”
Murphy said she uses language like that because it’s an invitation to do something, not a command.
“I want people to do what’s comfortable,” she said.
The rest of the class proceeded this way, and I learned positions like Tree, Cobra, High Plank, Chair and the fan-favorite Donward-Facing Dog. All of them are about stretching and breathing, and generally just being very aware of your body and its movements. It was both physically demanding at times and very relaxing.
By the end of the class, I felt pretty good – it was a refreshing experience and surprising in that I didn’t actually make a complete fool of myself out there (in my mind, anyway). That said, I’m not sure I could become a regular yogi, but the $16 individual drop-in class is always an option – schedules are posted often on sharingyoga.com.
There are also several registration classes, which require signup and are priced differently depending on the class. Sharing Yoga also offers online live-streaming classes taught by owner David Breen, yoga instructor training courses (which Murphy took), pilates and Tai Chi, and there’s plenty more information on the website.
Not that I had anything to compare it to, but after taking a class and talking to the instructor a little bit, I can see why you voted this the top yoga studio in the city.
Furniture shops aren’t usually on our daily radar, but when we noticed that Endicott Furniture won the award for Best Furniture Store yet again, we figured we’d better go check the place out.
The South Main Street entrance is modest and unassuming, tucked in between Simply Birkenstock and the former Concord Theatre, but once you walk inside it’s like a very tasteful version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Everywhere you look there’s classy, classic furniture, and it goes on forever. The main ground floor is big enough, but there’s a whole second area that extends out to Pleasant Street, plus upper and lower levels.
“We have 20 to 25,000 square feet here,” owner Eric Reingold said.
The business started when his grandfather opened up shop on the ground floor of the Endicott Hotel in 1925. In the mid-1930s the shop moved to its current location and has stayed in the family ever since.
A few relics remain from the original store, including its old-fashioned cash register that they still use every day and a big grandfather clock at the entrance, but everything else is what Reingold calls mid- to high-end furniture, and almost everything in the store is made in the United States, including plenty of New Hampshire-made products.
They order from all kinds of companies – “We have a ton of suppliers,” Reingold said – and they order any and everything.
“We try to be a full-service store,” he said. “We try to have everything you need for the house.”
That’s why you’ll find couches, sectionals, pull-outs, recliners, non-recliners, dining room sets, lamps, mattresses and everything between.
One of the main things they focus on at Endicott is customization. Every piece of furniture in the store is available in any of the fabrics they have on display on a set of racks. You could spend quite a bit of time browsing if you really want – the possibilities are mind-boggling.
“It’s all about finding what fits you,” Reingold said.
They’ll also come to your house and check the place out for free if you’re wondering what might fit or look good in any particular room.
Endicott also wants to make sure the buying experience is as customer-friendly as possible. There are special financing options (a $600 purchase gets you six-month financing and a $1,200 purchase gets you 12 months) – “and we’re always happy to negotiate,” Reingold said. One of the benefits to running your own family business, unlike working for a national retail chain, is that you can work with people on prices a little bit.
They also understand that most people can’t fit a whole sectional couch in the back of their car – or carry it down Main Street – so they’ll deliver any product anywhere in New Hampshire. Whatever makes it easier for you to take home some nice new furniture.
All that said, this isn’t one of those places where the salespeople are on you like fleas the second you walk in. The Endicott team strives for a relaxed, stress-free atmosphere.
“I stress not to be pushy salesmen,” Reingold said.
The only thing bigger than Endicott’s focus on the customer is the store itself – it really is massive. And that’s a major factor in the business’s success.
“The important thing is to come in and take a look at the place,” Reingold said. “It’s a cool store.”
Next time you’re walking around Main Street, pop in and poke around for awhile.
Concord Beef & Seafood
If you know anything about us at all, you know we’re pretty big fans of meat. Doesn’t matter if it’s red, white – or blue, for that matter – if it ever walked the earth or swam the seas, we’ll eat it.
That’s why we weren’t going to do this issue without indulging in some fine cuts – the best, in fact, according to you.
We stopped by the winner of Best Butcher Shop – Concord Beef & Seafood – to see what they had for us, and we were certainly not disappointed.
“Steak tips are kinda the main thing,” co-owner Rob Darling said.
“This is basically our summer lineup,” he said, looking over several bins of steak tips.
At Concord Beef & Seafood, they marinate and tenderize everything right there in the store, and you can usually see one of the owners doing one of those things. The marinating is done with a vacuum chamber that allows the meat to absorb the marinade much faster than the old-fashioned way, and the tenderizing is done by hand – no powders, machines or chemicals.
There are four basic steak tip options to choose from – Steakhouse, Southwestern Spicy, Kentucky Bourbon and Teriyaki. Darling said the Steakhouse variety, which is a slight alteration of an Italian dressing marinade, is really popular, but I had already tried that (many a time) before, so I bought a pound of the Kentucky Bourbon kind.
These had the darkest hue of them all – the color reminded me of Jack Daniel’s a little bit, which was pretty enticing and, to be honest, the main reason I opted for them. I also wanted to grab a side while I was there – there are lots of gourmet sides and condiments opposite the meat counter – and Darling recommended the Idaho potato salad, which features bacon and cheese, among some other good stuff.
I couldn’t wait to fire up the grill and throw these tips on there – I got two good-sized tips, which came out to exactly a pound. I set the grill to medium-low and munched on some of the potato salad while I waited.
The potato salad was pretty great, though I could have used a bit more mayonnaise. I personally like sort of a mayo-heavy potato salad, but the bacon bits, cheese and little green onion slices were all nice touches.
So after a few minutes of cooking, I flipped the tips over. I discovered that the only challenge involved with these particular tips is that they look like they’re already cooked as soon as you buy them. The marinade is really soaked into these tips, and that marinade just so happens to be basically the exact color of cooked steak (what would you call that color, anyway?), so you have to be familiar with your grill and cooking meat in general to know when they’re done to your liking.
In my case, it was about 18-20 minutes total until I had them done to about medium-well – a little bit longer than I prefer but that’s just because I got distracted by the Red Sox game while I was cooking.
These things were incredibly tender. I was obviously using a knife, but it felt like I could have almost pulled these apart with my fingers. The marinade was nice and balanced, too – not too sweet or overpowering, letting the beef be the star. I had the audacity to grab a bottle of A1 before I sat down to eat, but after the first bite I knew that would be completely unnecessary.
In the end, the two steak tips and the loaded potato salad made for an excellent dinner, even if it isn’t summer yet. Anyone looking for a good supper tonight should stop by.
O Steaks & Seafood
Speaking of steak and seafood, we checked out another place that specializes in those things – O Steaks & Seafood, or just O’s to the cool kids.
While Concord Beef & Seafood is a place where you can buy raw stuff to cook at home, O’s is a fancy restaurant – but you knew that already.
What you might not have known is that apart from fine filets and choice catches, O’s makes some pretty mean cocktails, too. That’s why they won the award for Best Cocktail.
We’re no strangers to drinking on the job when a story calls for it, but we typically just stick to beer. This time, we wanted to try something with a little more punch – and to sample a Cappies-winning concoction.
The cocktail menu is quite extensive, with lots of exotic names featuring lots of high-end liquors. For someone who’s not a huge cocktail guy, I felt a tiny bit out of my element browsing all of these drinks I’d never heard of before.
Soon enough I found something that appealed to me: the Kentucky Mule, composed of Jim Beam Black, ginger beer and a fresh squeeze of lime – Simple, classic, recognizable.
Like most mule drinks, it was served in a classic copper-coated metal mug and packed with ice, which created a nice layer of frost on the outside. It really looked delicious in that mug.
The first few sips were very bourbony. The taste was almost all Jim Beam, which was fine by me. The ginger beer, which I expected to provide a lot of bite, was actually pretty mellow and blended into the background.
At the bottom of the mug was the lime wedge, which gradually let pulp make its way through the drink. That pulp added some texture and flavor that helped sort of break up the whiskey flavor a little.
The more I drank, the sweeter it got. Maybe that had something to do with the water-to-booze ratio or the ice melting or something like that. Either way, it was a pleasant drinking experience.
By the end, I was wishing I’d gotten another one – it didn’t take too long to polish that bad boy off.
Many cocktail drinkers would probably consider that mule I got to be kinda boring or too plain – it’s really just whiskey and ginger beer – but I still thought it was a tasty concoction, and I can’t be the only one.
“Mules go like crazy,” bartender Kage Harrigan said.
But if you’re interested in some of the more “advanced” cocktails, you could try the new house barrel-aged Manhattan, created by Harrigan. “The new Manhattan has been a great seller, too,” he said.
There are dozens of spirits, including many top-shelf ones, to choose from at O’s, so the best advice we can give is to go down there, take a good look and order something. Whether you’re a real cocktail connoisseur or a relative newcomer to the mixed-drink scene, you’re bound to find something to whet your whistle at O’s.
Shockingly, there are still plenty of eateries in Concord that we haven’t tried. Until last week, the Sandwich Depot on Hall Street was one of those places, but since they won two Cappies – one for Best Lunch and one for Best Takeout – we felt it was time to cross it off our list.
Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to hit them up for lunch. Luckily, they open at 7 a.m. on weekdays (8 on Saturdays and they’re closed on Sundays) and serve breakfast until 11, so we stopped in to grab a bite to go before work.
I have always been a fan of breakfast burritos, and since they had one on the menu, that’s what I ordered. The breakfast burritos at Sandwich Depot come with two scrambled eggs, home fries, refried pinto beans, cheese, homemade fresh salsa, sour cream and jalapenos (by request), all wrapped up in a steamed white or wheat flour tortilla.
My first impression was that it was big – the thing must have weighed over a pound. It was also a little softer on the outside than I was expecting.
My first bite was pretty spicy – I think I got two or three jalapenos in there all in the first bite, so it definitely woke me up, which I needed at that moment.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the refried beans (I’ve never liked those) and I would have preferred a crispier tortilla, but the burrito did the job of filling me up in the morning. It would have been nice to have some bacon or something in there, but it’s still a good meal without it.
Some businesses we didn’t have time to check out but are worth mentioning:
The Barley House took home a whopping five Cappies – four first-place finishes and one runner-up – making it the year’s most decorated winner.
Arnie’s Place won Best Ice Cream and Best Dessert, meaning they’ve got Concord’s sweet tooth covered.
Carlson’s must know a thing or two about vehicles, as it won Best Used Car Dealership and Best Car Repair.
The Red Blazer won Best Brunch and Best Buffet – we never knew they had either.
Thank you all for voting – now turn the page and see all the winners!