Thanks to the culinary handiwork of chef Mary Dumont, The Dunaway (66 Marcy St., 603/373-6112, www.dunawayrestaurant.com , 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5:30–9:30 p.m. Tue.–Sat., $22–30) has become one of the state’s premiere dining destinations. Tucked in on the banks of the Piscataqua River, within the Strawbery Banke  historical district, the dining room full of exposed beams and candlelight is a showcase for Dumont’s superb regionally sourced cuisine. You’ll be torn between specialties like grilled rib eye and tartare with orange and tarragon, stunningly rich plates of artisanal cheeses, and foie gras with pistachio and grapes.
If you’ve got Italian on the brain, look no further than Ristorante Massimo (59 Penhallow St., 603/436-4000, www.ristorantemassimo.com , 5 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5:30–9:30 p.m. Tue.–Sat., $21–33). There, authentic, rich dishes (such as the tagliatelle pasta with crispy prosciutto, peas, and shaved black truffles) are marched out to tables in the elegant stone-walled dining room.
All March through November, dine on the decks of BG’s Boat House (191 Wentworth Rd., 603/431-1074, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Mar.–Nov.; closed Tues.–Wed. Mar.–mid-May and early Sept.–Nov., $13–23), a laid-back marina eatery on Portsmouth’s  Sagamore Creek. The kitchen cooks up simple but first-rate seafood: boiled lobster, fried clams and scallops, stuffed haddock, and broiled shrimp.
The Paris-born chef and owner of Café Mirabelle (64 Bridge St., 603/430-9301, www.cafemirabelle.com , 5:15–10 p.m. Wed.–Sun., $19–28) takes the stuffiness out of French fare with a relaxed but creative menu of specials like salmon in shallot-champagne sauce or duck with mushrooms and sun- dried tomatoes—all served in an unpretentious bistro.