For starters, there’s an expansive 60-seat patio anchored by a wood-burning fireplace for romantic outdoor drinking and dining. Live music is planned for later in the spring.
Inside, the casually elegant granite-topped elliptical bar is stocked with premium liquors of all kinds, a huge beer list boasting 27 in bottles and 16 on draught and a comprehensive wine selection with several available by the glass.
The Mill’s mixologist, Kevin McKinney, has a knack for craft cocktails. Already his Tipsy Pig, a marriage of bacon and bourbon, is becoming a Mill signature. A gin-based mix of raspberries, cranberry juice and fresh rosemary is his tribute to his grandma’s garden, where berries and rosemary grew in abundance.
But even with these obvious amenities, I predict it’s the food that will be the consistent draw. Billed as “modernized Southern comfort food,” chef Marc Taft’s dishes are homey enough to appeal to all comers, yet elevated enough in concept and execution to satisfy the most persnickety foodie.
Let’s stop here a moment and ask if the metro area really needs another upscale Southern-style eatery. The answer, in my opinion, is a resounding “yes.” And the reason is simple. Taft’s take on Southern food is distinctly his own.
“We’re reinventing what we loved growing up,” Taft said. “I cook based on memories. If you grew up in the South, you remember church potlucks where people brought five different macaroni and cheeses and three different versions of fried chicken.”
That’s what happens at the best Southern restaurants, Taft said. You get one-of-a-kind versions of iconic dishes that are personal to that chef.
Taft is not a Johnny-come-lately to the restaurant business, with 26 years in at places like the now-defunct Pacci in Midtown and at his own restaurant, Chicken and the Egg in west Cobb, a farm-to-table concept that also has a Southern flair.
One of the hallmarks of both the Mill and Chicken and the Egg is Taft’s dedication to using local growers and purveyors and sustainably grown, farmed or fished ingredients. Diners who are interested in where their food is coming from can refer to the chalkboard listing each and every vendor and their websites.
“I’m finding people here in Roswell do care about that, quite a lot,” Taft said.
His scrupulously sourced ingredients include chicken from Ashely Farms in North Carolina, and I can personally attest to the superiority of this fowl. Taft’s fried chicken immediately took me to my happy place. With a delightfully crunchy exterior, with no noticeable grease, the meat was moist, tender and had a pronounced yet delicate “chickeny” flavor.
Accompanying the chicken at dinner were well-seasoned and supple turnip greens and a mound of some of the best mac and cheese it has ever been my pleasure to eat. Taft uses six different cheeses, including both white and yellow sharp Cheddars and a small dollop of Point Reyes, the queen of bleu cheeses.
I made the mistake of flippantly mentioning to Taft that I was surprised to see shrimp and grits on his menu because “everybody does it.”
“But they don’t all do it as well as I do,” he retorted.
After the first mouthful of Taft’s version of this quintessentially Southern dish, I knew the truth of that statement. The Red Mule grits, from a small farm in Athens, have just the right amount of Gouda cheese to stand up to the rich, dark low country gravy. Shrimp from coastal Georgia are fat and succulent, cooked al dente and imbued with the flavors in the gravy.
Other entrees we love include a hefty hunk of braised boneless short rib of grass-fed beef from Riverview Farms in northwest Georgia paired with smoked Gouda au gratin potatoes and heirloom carrots.
Taft cannily uses the same lean meat in a wonderful stroganoff-style lunch dish with perfectly cooked cavatappi pasta and enough intensely flavored creamy sauce to meld the elements but not overpower them.
Force yourself to order dessert, as no one should pass up the hummingbird cake with bourbon pineapple sauce or the marvelous banana bread pudding with bourbon pecan caramel ice cream from Atlanta’s High Road Craft Ice Creamery.
It would be easy to go on and on about the food, but time and space prohibit it. Suffice to say you really should try The Mill out for yourself. Open just a month, Taft and company are already exhibiting the chops to make this place a fixture on any food lover’s dining rotation.
The Mill Kitchen and Bar
590 Mimosa Blvd., Roswell