• Joe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #2: Szechuan Taste, Exeter

Pu Pu Platter for four

Of the restaurants that will appear on this list of favorite new Hampshire places, there's only one that should come first. My favorite Chinese joint, heck, my favorite restaurant - Szechuan Taste on Water Street in Exeter. My earliest memories of going there stretch back to junior high, but it was when I settled in Exeter after a brief post-UNH detour to Dover that my real relationship with the place began. The food is great, the scorpion bowls are sneaky strong, but what really cements my affection is the people. During my years on the Board and with the Bank, the Taste was my frequent eat-in office and go-to venue for business meetings of all kinds (Red Auerbach would have been proud, if not Don Corleone) as well as a preferred destination for family and social outings. Charlie, the industrious and English-challenged owner, became a fast friend and eager host. When Sarah and I held our wedding rehearsal dinner there, Charlie and his staff couldn't have been more generous.

As management of the restaurant moved on to Ping, things only grew more fraternal. We've brought the boys there so often (for birthday parties and family dinners large and small) that they call him Uncle, and trips there were an essential part of any pilgrimage back east during our exile. They've been good to me and to my family there - I know my father and brother and nephew have forged their own relationships with the Taste over the years. We've rarely found a decent Chinese place during our travels these last years, and even when we've found one worth visiting more than once, I've always felt vaguely unfaithful to Charlie and Ping. Now that we're home, there are few things I cherish more than my familiar weekly schedule at The Szech.

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