Hampton  is home to more than its fair share of chain restaurants; if it’s greasy and fast, odds are good you’ll find it on the strip. But there are exceptions: For starters, there’s the comfy street-level patio dining area at Grille 139 at The Boardwalk Cafe (139 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach, 603/929-7400, www.grille139.com , lunch and dinner daily, year-round, $10–19). The pub-restaurant cooks up basics like chicken fingers, ribs, and broiled scallops.
You don’t go to Happy Clam Bar & Grille (20 L St., Hampton Beach, 603/929-1536, lunch and dinner daily, year-round, $6–20) for fine dining; you go for fun. And that’s what you’ll get in this Caribbean-bar knockoff— well, that and big orders of fried clams, fish, and steak tips, and (go figure) excellent breakfast wraps full of eggs, bacon, and lots of cheese. Thursday night is Ladies Night.
A bit more sedate, Sea Ketch (127 Ocean Blvd., Hampton, 603/926-0324, www.seaketch.com , breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, late June–mid-Sept., limited hours spring and fall, closed mid-Oct.–mid-Apr., $11–25) serves classic surf ’n’ turf dinners and straight-from-the-market seafood. There’s nothing fancy about the place, but in good weather, the outdoor deck opens up with live music and remarkable water views.
It’s the handmade, fresh pastas that draw the crowds from all over Rye to Carriage House Restaurant (2263 Ocean Blvd., Rye, 603/964-8251, www.carriagehouserye.com , dinner nightly, year-round, $18–28), where they come with divergent influences from Italian (linguine with scampi) to Thai (spicy beef and shrimp) and French (chicken with Dijon). For meat-lovers, there’s also a separate menu of all-natural, hormone-free beef cuts.