Saturday, February 20, 2010

Restaurant Review- The Old Mill

When a logger becomes a restauranteur it is interesting.  But in the Northwest, not surprising in the least.  

The Old Mill is an enigma.  It seems to be an artificial theme restaurant.  In fact, it is what theme restaurants attempt to replicate.  Larry, the owner is the real deal, retired logger.  With a pretty good design ethic.  In the Great Northwest we like our loggers.  They live large, and eat large. So eating where the loggers eat is usually a good idea, you know, the truck stop phenomena.  But the food you expect is excessive in quantity and average in quality.  Proprietors have more to fear from loggers who don't get enough to eat than from those who don't agree with the culinary ethic of the head cook!

More on that design ethic.  The Old Mill is like a vintage Friday's, but everything is related to harvesting timber.    Including an accurate diorama set in a table under a glass top showing an accurate depiction of the mill where the restaurant is situated, back before this land was turned into rich dairy prairie.  The items on display all have a story, and Larry is proud to tell you about each acquisition.  In fact, if you let him, this is as good as any lumbering museum.  Altogether, the atmosphere is interesting and warm, a bit unpolished and unbalanced.  It gets put together as the owner finds new reasons to add something.  What is interesting, for anyone squeamish about cutting trees, is that all of the lumber used from the wall studs out is "repurposed".  If there is an old barn or old shingle roof in the area getting torn down, Larry will swoop in to collect it. 

Service at the Old Mill is spotty, the only measure of professionalism is whatever the servers bring with them.  The owner does his best, busing, pouring coffee, setting tables, seating guests, but it is not enough to really help manage service.  They try, but chronic understaffing is a barrier to great to overcome.  Don't get me started on the business impact of Olympia's work on our behalf! 

The fact that I have spent so much effort writing about the atmosphere and service before I get to the food is intended to make a statement.  The Old Mill Burger is the usual 1/3 pound of prime organic Angus beef.  It is served with the usual, it tastes the usual.  It costs the usual- $9.95.  It is nice to have a real choice of accompaniments.  Today I took soup.  Truly house made pork roast soup that tastes like a pork roast meal in a bowl.   It really reminded me of what my mother made for us.  To me this is a real surprise.  Would I go back?  Yes.  Just not for the burger.  

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