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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

NH Seacoast Green Bean Restaurants Bring California Vibe to East Coast


The groovy San Francisco area vibe regarding every aspect of the The Green Bean cafes (Bean) reflect the tenure of Exeter, New Hampshire native Lori Whitney in the Silicon Valley city of Mount View. She opened the first Bean there and (to the great benefit of NH seacoast residents) transplanted the Bean when she returned to Exeter in the ‘90s. In this case, Thomas Wolfe was incredibly wrong regarding being able to successfully come home again.
Whitney states that the origin of the Bean name is a genuine inspiration from above. She shared that “I said out loud ‘I need a name;’ it [The Green Bean] trickled out the sky into my head.”
The New Hampshire locations have the bonus of Whitney’s California transplant husband Jeff Turner, who is a prior tenant advocate regarding housing-based discrimination, joining the business. Turner jokes that “we went into business together and then went into therapy together.”
Turner seriously describes the roles of  him and Whitney as “she’s vision, I’m execution.” He adds that he handles contract negotiations and similar business-related aspects of their company.
The first NH location (which is getting a baby sibling in September 2017) is celebrating a china (i.e., 20th) anniversary in Exeter.  Opening a second location at the former Pease Air Force base took 8 years; a (Green Dean?) location at a Portsmouth community college a few years later is "cool, cool, cool, cool."
A highlight of an early August 2017 stay at the fantabulous (Unreal TV reveiwed) Wentworth by the Sea Hotel was taking the five-minute walk to the seasonal Bean location in its sixth season at the New Castle, NH marina. 
The dog-friendly nature of this restaurant deserves mention before discussing this great meal. Whitney states that dogs are very welcome at the Wentworth location and that many people bring their dogs when they eat in the courtyard of her current Exeter location. 
Every Bean serves breakfast and lunch; the Pease and Community Campus restaurants are open Monday through Friday, and the Exeter and the Wentworth locations are open seven days a week. The Wentworth location additionally serves the lunch menu, which includes what Whitney accurately described as “fabulous” burgers, in the evening on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
The Wentworth location is further distinguishable as the Turner and Hooch location because it sells Red Hook and Pete’s Organic beers. Whitney shares that she has Red Hook because that company “donates a lot to charity events.”
My only beef (pun intended) is that Whitney, ala Trader Joe’s, removed an absolutely favorite item from the menu. Her roast beef with Boursin is last-meal worthy tasty, but Whitney stated that there is not enough demand for roast beef to justify keeping it on the menu.
The August (pun intended) feast began with nachos with the "works" that include generous amounts of everything for which one could hope and barbecue pork sliders that a love of southern food puts slightly ahead of the nachos in terms of favorites. The lean meat, tasty sauce with just enough zest, and the whole thing being perfectly proportioned and staying together make it as good anything eaten in several states south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The below "flashback" provides context for getting a bacon cheddar burger with barbecue sauce for my entree. The five-star restaurant quality ingredients, getting all three ingredients in every bite, and the perfect cooking transformed this chain-restaurant staple into an incredible treat. Not being able to finish it due to the aforementioned appetizers and wanting to save room for the chipwich (which I refused to share) with ginormous homemade chocolate chip cookies was distressing because no valid excuse exists for wasting food this good. 
The promised context for selecting a burger from the menu that required a choice much tougher than any decision that Sop[hie ever faced was that Whitney immediately picked up during the visit that featured the (now sadistically discontinued) roast beef sandwich that I would not accept her statement that her burgers were “fabulous” without trying one. 
The quality of the other food, Whitney sharing that getting ground chuck that a Kittery Maine meat shop ground fresh each day, and Whitney adding that the burgers contained a “secret ingredient” created optimism regarding her claim of awesomeness. Whitney just smiled when I referred to Sweeney Todd in response to her "secret ingredient" comment.
The "doggy bag" cheddar and (homemade) chipotle mayo burger was incredible. Despite being refrigerated for a few hours before being nuked for dinner, the burger lacked an iota of congealed fat. It also was one of the best burgers that I have ever had despite the punishment of being cooled and zapped.
The chipotle mayo was an ideal blend of those tastes, and I allowed the coincidence of John Belushi’s disgusting cafeteria scene in “Animal House” coming on while eating to justify using my hamburger bun to mop up the little bit of the mayo that dripped out. I had enough willpower to resist licking my plate clean.
The Bean’s desserts are just as good (but even more addictive) than the sandwiches and burgers. The chocolate chip cookies, which I believe also include a “secret ingredient,” are truly the best ever. Whitney was kind enough to send me home with a beyond generous stash of these cookies during the recent visit. 
Turner perfectly sums all of the above in describing the Bean’s philosophy as “we try to make everything fresh and wonderful.” In my humble opinion, they far exceed that goal.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding the Bean (or who want to join a campaign to reintroduce the roast beef sandwich) is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. If you visit, tell them that Matt sent you.