New destination for contemporary Southern dining in Roswell, Georgia.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Printed across the top of the menus at the new The Mill Kitchen & Bar is the line, “the quintessential southern neighborhood restaurant.” A bold claim, especially here in the South where Southern food is, well, just food.
And yet gosh darn if it isn’t true.
Chef Marc Taft serves as executive chef and general manager of the new restaurant in historic Roswell which opened on Tuesday, February 19, 2013, and is owned by Scott and Randy McCray.
Taft is also chef and owner of the excellent Chicken & The Egg in Marietta, Georgia.
Both restaurants share a cooking philosophy: Classic Southern dishes get a modern spin. Seasonal ingredients from local farms and purveyors are showcased. Meats are sustainable. Cocktails hand-crafted.
The outdoorsy vibe at The Mill Kitchen & Bar begins on its large patio and is carried indoors with large windows, grained woods and a large stone fireplace. In the dining room, black chalkboards tout the names of the farms who’ve contributed to the menu. In the bar, black chairs are tucked under tables made of thick tree slices. The McCray brothers’ design is inspired by traditional farmhouse décor, with reclaimed wooden tables and walls plus classic lighting. The result is homey with a masculine slant.
The menu is approachable, which is to say you won’t need to haul out a dictionary or the Food Lover’s Companion to figure out what’s what. But while dishes sound like familiar recipes, the results here are more refined.
Reading through the “share” (starter), “greens” (salad), “plates” (entrée), sides and “sweets” (dessert) options, the commitment to seasonal Southern fare is clear. From any area garden, the things you see listed are what’s being harvested now.
All of the hand-crafted cocktails are made with seasonal, local ingredients (and priced at $10). The restaurant also offers 16 craft beers on tap and a wine list featuring small winemakers and producers. Can’t decide? The staff is happy to recommend selections and pairings.
An early favorite on the cocktail menu is “The Tipsy Pig” (top photo), a sly blend of bourbon, sweet vermouth, bacon and brown sugar syrup and black walnut bitters, garnished with a cherry and strip of candied bacon. The bacon flavors roll in subtly on the finish; it’s not heavy-handed bacon-flavored liquid. My husband, who claims not to have eaten candied bacon previously—whether because he wasn’t dining with me when it was served or because I gobbled it up first is a debated issue—is now a fan of the stuff and seemed genuinely disappointed not to find it at the grocery store.
Balanced flavors and textures that make a distinct impression also characterize the food. Tender roasted beets are paired with crisp toasted pistachios. Each bite of the wild boar meatballs is a juicy burst of spicy sweet notes. This version of Georgia shrimp and grits marches right up to the borderline of spicy without crossing into the “too spicy” zone and it delivers sweet notes with shrimp, caramelized sweet onions and tomatoes. The grits are firm yet creamy, the meats from land and sea are cooked to perfection, and there’s not too little, not too much but just the right amount of gravy. The braised boneless short rib is arguably the leanest yet most tender piece of beef ever to carry the name “rib.” It’s served with smoked gouda au gratin—and though from a caloric point of view we didn’t need them, oh how we wished for more of the potatoes!—and a colorful bundle of heirloom carrots drizzled with Tupelo honey. The cinnamon bread pudding is as warm a good-bye as a grandma’s hug.
This is true Southern cooking, done exceptionally well. Enjoy it for brunch, lunch and dinner. And be sure to bring any out-of-town guests looking for a taste of genuine Southern food.
Odds of Encountering Children: Possible. The restaurant offers a substantial children’s menu that features healthy dishes made with organic ingredients.
The Mill Kitchen & Bar
590 Mimosa Boulevard
Roswell, GA 30075
-Photos © HSP Media LLC