Restaurant Review: Gilley’s (yep, Gilley’s)

I happened to be downtown the other day with my son and it was getting to be the lunchtime hour. I didn’t have a ton of time so I started mentally zig-zagging Market Square trying to determine where we could get a quick bite. Then it came to me…Gilley’s. Now I know what you’re doing, stop wincing!  Yes, Gilley’s is the dive-dujour for late night bar folk, but during the day, it’s as kid-friendly as McDonald’s. And unlike all things, this place hasn’t changed a bit.

The Vibe
What’s better than an old dining cart that looks like a train car and serves kid-friendly food? We slide open the heavy door and see about 8 counter stools that run the perimeter of this tiny dining cart. There are constantly people in and out, but most of the patrons are taking orders to-go so we have no issues snagging two seats.

On The Menu
Yep, just like I remember. Hot dogs ($1.75-$3.95), hamburgers ($2.75-$5.00), grilled cheese ($2.50), French fries ($2.00-$3.95) and an assortment of egg sandwiches ($1.85-$2.95)—all which can be served smothered in melted easy cheese, gravy, chili, beans…or all of the above. The menu is posted on the wall and actually has pictures of each offering—great for helping kids decide what’s for lunch!

There are two friendly ladies running the kitchen today and they are ready and willing to get you what you need. We order one grilled cheese and one hamburger to share, of course, because mom wants both. And this goes without saying, but this is simple food in its simplest form. The grilled cheese on store-bought white bread and absolutely delicious (if white bread and American cheese tickle you pink) and the burgers are fresh and tasty and are made-to-order (cheese, pickles, onions, relish, condiments—whatever you like). The hamburger buns must be buttered and grilled because they have this incredibly awesome crusty edge and the patties are small enough for my little guy to handle eating without incident. We also get an order of fries, because, well, it’s kind of necessary. Thirsty? Soda is the only available beverage option (no juice or even water, although they do have milk and chocolate milk), so plan ahead of Orange Crush isn’t your thing.

What’s The Damage?
$7.25. If you can throw a nutritious caution to the wind, this place is fun. The food is cheap and good, the prices are crazy affordable and the atmosphere is very cool for kids. Have fun!

The Bottom Line (based on a five-star rating):
Distraction Offering: ????½ (you’re eating inside a caboose, for goodness sakes)
Atmosphere: ???? (the train thing is cool and has lots of old photos on the walls, but it can get crowded fast)
Food: ???¾   (for greasy American grub, it tastes good!)
Affordability: ???? (this will not negatively affect your wallet)
Service: ???? (depends who’s working, but the daytimers are helpful and on top of it)

175 Fleet Street, Portsmouth NH 603-431-6343
Hours: Open every day from 11:30am

Leave a Reply