The Mill Tavern Atmosphere and Menu Made with Customer In Mind
Some restaurants, even so-called “burger” joints, have their patties shipped to them. Premade, preformed, prefabricated discs of beef are unloaded off a delivery truck once a week. Are they edible? Sure, they’re palatable. But is palatable really the standard you’re looking for when you spend your hard earned dollars to go out to eat? If you’re looking for a place that aims a little higher, then a trip to The Mill Tavern needs to be in your near future.
Located on Chillicothe Street in Portsmouth, Ohio, The Mill Tavern is a new name on the city’s roster of restaurants. While the name may be new, the folks behind the scenes certainly are not. Matt Miller and his wife Jennifer, along with their business partners John and Sonny Mullins, formerly operated Dakota’s Roadhouse. Although Dakota’s is a successful and well thought of franchise in Southern Ohio, the owners of the Portsmouth location decided it was time for a change. During the summer of 2014, they met with the corporate office and notified them of their intent to call it quits. The Millers and their associates had decided it was time to strike out on their own.
You might wonder why anyone would leave a good thing, especially in the cutthroat, hyper-competitive world of running a restaurant where 60% fail in the first three years. According to Miller, the answer is adaptability.
Miller wanted independence to be able to adapt to what his customers were telling him. “We got a lot of feedback from our customers about what they wanted to see in a restaurant and we listened,” Miller explained. “We wanted to be able to cater to Portsmouth, to the people who make this town what it is. We want to be Portsmouth’s tavern, a place where everyone here feels at home, where they can go after work, after a game or whenever they feel like going out and still feel like they’re among friends,” Miller added. He is sure to make it clear that it is nothing against Dakota’s, and he and the other owners genuinely appreciated their time as stewards of the franchise. Dakota’s, because of the corporate structure, wasn’t in a position to be flexible. “We understood that, and we have nothing but respect for them,” Miller emphasized. “We simply had a different vision and wanted to be able to pursue it.”
Miller noticed a troubling trend of locals traveling outside Portsmouth for food and entertainment and wanted to find a way to give them what they wanted without having to leave town. Customers most often indicated they were looking for a place to watch their favorite college and pro teams, so the tavern now has large flat screen televisions in almost every sight line. People also wanted a place that showcased local musicians thus prompting live music spotlighting homegrown talent on Saturday nights. The addition of Keno has been wildly popular as well.
The changes were not strictly limited to the activities and atmosphere. Along with a brand new look, The Tavern Mill is also offering a brand new menu. At the heart of the menu, as you might have guessed from the opening paragraph, is the burger. It’s what they want to be known for, doing it better than everyone else.
At The Mill Tavern, burgers are one thing they do extremely well. Patties are made by hand daily and have been nowhere near the freezer, like those in some other well-known establishments. They’re grilled, not steamed, and serve as the perfect building block for some delicious and unique carnivorous creations such as the tavern’s namesake “Mill Burger,” which is piled high with homemade onion rings covered in BBQ sauce, smoked bacon and cheddar cheese. For the slightly more adventurous burger connoisseur, they offer the “Detroit Steel Burger,” sporting candied smoked bacon, an over-easy fried egg and American cheese. If you find the idea of an egg on your burger offensive, well, one, you’re offended too easily and should try to work some meditation into your daily routine; and secondly, you should give it a try, at least once. There is nothing quite as tasty as a yolk saturated mound of beef and cheese stacked between two toasted buns.
The menu goes well beyond burgers with an array of appetizers, salads and entrees we simply do not have room to go into in this limited amount of space. And, I would be remiss if I did not at least mention the desserts. They are brought in fresh from Portsmouth’s Union Mill Confectionary and are themselves worth stopping by for. You’ll also want to check out the nightly food and drink specials that change throughout the week. Which reminds me, I’ve mentioned nothing about the bar and the impressive beer list featuring local brews as well as a formidable selection of handcrafted microbrews.
The Mill Tavern is eclectic enough to offer something for everyone in the family. They certainly boast a level of quality and uniqueness to justify a trip for those not from Portsmouth. But, for those of you who are from Portsmouth or live nearby, there is simply no excuse not to stop in. After all, this tavern is specifically designed for you.
The Mill Tavern
1609 Chillicothe Street, Portsmouth, Ohio
(740) 355- 8500
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday
open until midnight Friday-Sunday
$6 Cheeseburger and Fries
$6 Fish Sandwich
Union Night – all union workers 10% discount with ID
Wing Wednesday – $6 per pound
Ladies’ Night drink specials
Free appetizer with purchase of two steak dinners
Shawnee State University Night, 10% discount with student ID
Karaoke Night, 9 p.m.- midnight
Live music, spotlight on local artists
10% discount with church bulletin
10% discount with military ID
Photos Ashley Gallaher Quinn