Grown locally? HomeGrown has it

Date: April 26, 2015 By: Joe Elder Category: Blog

Restaurant Review | Grown locally? HomeGrown has it | |

PORTSMOUTH | As our foursome walked toward the restaurant, a man emerged with a pizza box in his hands and proclaimed, “There’s a lot of good stuff in there.”

By the time we were finished with our meal at HomeGrown, we thought so, too.

Warm greetings, from the chef on down, and mostly friendly service made us feel right at home at the restaurant, which opened late last year in Olde Towne.

It’s run by a young couple, Nic Hagen and Hope Dennis. Hagen, a Johnson & Wales University culinary graduate, has created a reasonably priced menu that centers on fresh vegetables from local farms and changes seasonally.

There’s also a small, but well-curated beer, wine and cocktail list. homegrown

The HomeGrown House Made Treats ($10) appetizer platter was a whimsical way to start our evening. A selection of cured meats, such as prosciutto and salami, plus cheese and house-made pickled vegetables appeared on a large, livestock-shaped cutting board. The very vinegary vegetables included cucumber, naturally, but also carrots, squashes and purple turnips.

Pot stickers (four for $8) also made good use of local vegetables as a filling for the wonton wrappers and were served with a sweet Asian barbecue sauce as well as a spicy pepper sauce that had me choking back tears for several minutes.

Continuing the local-vegetables theme, the handmade pasta of the day ($14) was ravioli stuffed with collard greens, which imparted a mild, but not off-putting, bitterness. Brussels sprouts on the side made this dish seem perfect for a colder evening. (HomeGrown will soon switch to a spring menu, so the vegetable selections are likely to change.)

The Fry Baked Chicken ($13) was so crisp you’d swear it was deep-fried, but the breaded breasts actually were dredged in herbs, baked in the oven and served smothered in a creamy, peppery gravy. A hearty helping of mashed potatoes and well-cooked farmer beans (a mix that appeared to include green peas and lima beans) rounded out the dish.

Just Meatloaf ($13) was more than just meatloaf. Served with hearty mashed potatoes full of bits of red potato skins, plus sauteed spinach, it was a solid comfort-food dish that did not quite live up to the menu’s claim of being Hagen’s “yummy meatballs spiced up a little.” A little salt helped.

Of the 13 kinds of pizza on HomeGrown’s menu, Island Pizza ($16 for a large, 16-inch pie) topped with fresh pineapple and ham would have been my last choice, given my long-held, admittedly irrational, dislike of the stringy texture of pineapple. But when one of my dining companions let me taste a sample, I was pleasantly surprised. While the actual fruit was barely detectable, the acid of the pineapple juice balanced the fattiness of the ham and added a nice tropical touch to the dish. I found myself reaching for more.

To finish on a sweet note, we shared the cinnamon-bourbon white chocolate bread pudding ($3) and the fresh farmers cheesecake ($3). The pudding was a bit dry and needed more than the miserly dollops of sauce that accompanied it. The cheesecake, made from farmers eggs and ricotta custard and drizzled with local honey, was more of a tartlet that could have fit in the palm of my hand – surprisingly tiny given the generous portions of our appetizers and entrees. The oat-filled, house-made granola crust was a nice change from the usual graham cracker crust.

HomeGrown focuses on lunch and dinner, but on the fourth Sunday of the month, it also offers a brunch featuring what’s in stock at the farmers market across the street. I’ll be planning a return trip to Olde Towne to give that a try.

Just not in May, when Hagen and Dennis will have to skip the brunch because they will be getting married.

Sonja Barisic,

If you go

Hours: Closed Monday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, noon-10 p.m. Saturday, 4-8 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Dinner: Starters and salads $5 to $10; entrees $13 to $14, to market price; pizza, stromboli and calzones $7 to $17; desserts $3.

Child friendly? Yes

More info: (757) 399-1490,

*Republished by permission from the Virginian Pilot.

Photo: Nic Hagen and Hope Dennis, owners of HomeGrown in Olde Towne Portsmouth, focus on local, seasonal offerings. (Steve Earley | The Virginian-Pilot)