The Chef's Kitchen > Hart’s Turkey Farm Gets Citified

Hart’s Turkey Farm restaurant is a well-established icon in Meredith. But fifty plus years of experience didn’t help ease fears when it came to opening a second location in Manchester. In fact, the Hart family debated the idea for almost twenty years. However, when the right space opened up near the Amoskeag Bridge, the family took advantage of the opportunity.

Sim Willey–who co-owns the Hart’s restaurants with his uncle Russell Hart, aunt Dale Hart and mother Lynn Hart–notes that a lot of customers wanted the family establishment to move south. “Now we are an easy shot for anyone north of Boston, instead of them only seeing us on their vacation,” Willey says.

Modernizing an Institution

The Manchester Hart’s is located in the newly renovated Clarion Hotel. Because the restaurant space was formerly a Hooters, major changes were needed in the décor.

The Hart family turned to Tricia Tobey of Tobey Design Group in Portsmouth and her years of hotel and restaurant design experience.

“The Meredith restaurant is located in more of a rural area and has a rural feel,” Tobey says. “For Manchester, I wanted an updated, hip vibe more in keeping with a city. Hart’s already had an established look, but the family was open to going with a more modern appearance. It’s continuing the family tradition into the next century.”

Tobey decided on the theme of an urban farmers’ market, which she feels complements the turkeys and fresh produce used in the restaurant. Natural colors—pepper green, tomato red and creamy tan—give warmth to the wideopen dining area. Running the length of the space, a large stone wall with a fi replace adds warmth, as do the wood floors. The long banquette in the dining room is upholstered with a contemporary floral fabric and is covered with a canopy that mimics those used at produce stalls.

Tobey needed to give the bar area a feel very different from that of the previous establishment, with its wood paneling and orange ceiling. “We kept the location of the bar because of the plumbing, but we took out everything else,” she says. “We did everything in earth tones with beige, tan and black speckled granite bar and tabletops.”

When Tobey began her work, she softened the metal beams and ductwork on the orange ceiling by painting them a creamy tan color. The window frames were what she calls “aluminum store front,” so she had them painted black to minimize the visual impact and covered them with a sheer cream window treatment. “I like the simplicity of the new space,” Willey says, “and think it will attract new people.”

After the restaurant opened in June, customers began commenting on the absence of the Harts’ famous turkey platter collection, thought to be the world’s largest, which dominates the walls in the Meredith restaurant. Now, a limited number of the plates are on the Manchester walls. Willey says, “Sometimes you take for granted how important some things are to the customers.”

A Rich Family History

Hart’s Turkey Farm in Meredith was established in the late 1940s. Willey’s grandparents, Russ and Helen, and his great-aunt and great-uncle, Larry and Gerda Hart, raised turkeys, chickens, apples and vegetables. The family also sold eggs, chickens and turkeys from a delivery truck, or shipped them to large cities. The focus changed entirely to turkeys in 1953. A year later, the family opened a twelve-seat restaurant. (Today it seats approximately five hundred.) The family stopped farming in 1965.

Willey grew up in the family business. “My first job was sweeping the parking lot when I was seven years old,” he remembers. “I think my grandfather paid me 90 cents an hour. Every year I did a different job until I learned them all.”

However, Willey wasn’t sure the family business was the life he wanted. “In my late teens, I didn’t think I wanted to do the restaurant thing,” he says. “I started college at Plymouth State, but that didn’t last long. When I realized this was what I wanted to do, I moved into management. I always wanted to open another location.”

Some Things Stay the Same

While the Manchester look may be metropolitan, there is the same downhome food as found in Meredith. In fact, the menu follows many of the same recipes that Willey’s grandfather used when the restaurant started. The new menu is slightly smaller than the one in Meredith (there aren’t any pasta dishes or prime rib) but includes all the turkey items, like the Traditional Turkey Dinner, complete with stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, squash and choice of potato.

Also on the menu are the well known seafood specialties, such as crab cakes, salmon and whole-belly fried clams. There’s also haddock, scallops and shrimp that are fried, broiled or bake-stuffed. Beef options include tips, sirloin and filet mignon. Homemade baked goods—rolls, cornbread, pies and cakes—are available as well.

Willey says that, so far, the response from the public has been great, and he’s happy his grandfather’s legacy will continue in the new location. “We kept hints of what got us here and kept the food the same,” he says, “but made this restaurant new, up-to-date and modern.”

Recipes from Hart’s Turkey Farm

Crab Cakes with Remoulade Sauce

Crab Cakes

-1 pound rock crab meat
-½ cup mayonnaise
-1 large egg
-1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley
-1/8 cup chopped fresh chives
-1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
-1 pinch black pepper
-1 cup bread crumbs
-1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Combine all ingredients and mix well by hand.
2. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, form each portion into flat cakes about 1-inch thick. Coat a large skillet with nonstick spray, and sauté cakes over medium heat until the bottoms are golden brown. Flip the cakes and again sauté until golden brown.

Remoulade Sauce

-1 cup mayonnaise
-1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
-1 tablespoon ketchup
-1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
-1 tablespoon capers
-1 teaspoon horseradish
-1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Refrigerate until needed.
2. Spoon some remoulade sauce on each plate, then place the crab cake on top. Serve.