By Tami Jackson
Highball it to Milton because there’s a super swank new restaurant and sports bar there where an old favorite once sat. The old bar closed down and the building remained empty for seven years, creating a community memory, and a bit of a log jam for The Mill that opened at 900 Meridian E. just a few months ago.
“The only negative feedback we’ve received came from people who remembered the old place and expected the same experience: lower quality food, cheaper prices, with pool tables and dart boards,” said Dustin Lowry, co-owner of The Mill restaurant and sports bar, which has been completely remodeled to an upscale lumberjack theme. “Fortunately, most people come in here and say, ‘Wow.’ They absolutely adore us.”
Merely a Paul Bunyan’s bedroll away from his home in Edgewood, Lowry kept his eye on the 6,000 square feet building that was vacant. He knew that long before it had been a bar, the location had supported a historic lumber mill, and since his grandfather had been in the logging industry, perhaps he could capitalize on that logger theme for decorating the establishment that would serve organic foods whenever possible, cooked from scratch to deliver the freshest of local ingredients. So together with his sister Kate Lowry, who has owned Ricky J’s, a bar and grill on 176th Street at 68th Avenue in the Frederickson neighborhood of Puyallup these past nine years, the two siblings opened their Milton destination together.
Here, folks have already come from far and wide to experience signature drinks, great music, and to watch any of a plethora of high definition televisions in the sports bar on any given game night or listen to bands that play on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and other nights on a special occasion. Chris Anderson, who sings crooner songs, such as Mack The Knife, was enjoyed by customers there recently. Yet the music acts at The Mill and the genres of music vary by event.
The ambiance inside the remodeled business is somewhat rustic with smooth finishes and modern lighting. Behind the front reception desk there’s a monstrous circular, rusty saw-blade called “The Bolt Thrower.”
“At the lumber mill, they’d have stumps that would come through and they didn’t want to ruin their good blades on a big, chunky stump but would still need to demolish the stump. So they’d send this blade down from a big pendulum. As the stump would come down the conveyor belt, the saw would just swing like this,” Dustin Lowry said, making the swinging arm gesture. Lowry then said he found the saw blade on Craigslist and said he bought it for only a couple hundred bucks. Yet now that it’s all rusted with a backlight against a nicely trimmed wall, it looks like it might have cost more than a few grand.
The Mill’s decor includes lots of roughly hewn wood and many large black and white pictures of logging camps and historical scenes from Milton and Edgewood. They’re photos from the 1910s through 1940s; all restored images that Dustin Lowry acquired from the Washington Historical Society.
“That’s my grandfather,” Dustin Lowry said while pointing to a physical display in the hallway at the back of both the bar and restaurant. “He worked in the logging industry, and that was his hat and his axes.”
Much of The Mill’s decor is from repurposed accessories like the painted metal lights and tall tables that were cut from the old bar. The overhead spaces feature huge two-man crosscut saws. The lower segment of the exterior walls is made with authentic river rock and the sports bar features a wooden shuffleboard. “The dining room tables were made for us out in Port Orchard and then we had a friend stain them for us to follow that mill-type feel,” Dustin Lowry said then pointed to some rusty metal paneling. “The big old mills had corrugated metal like that which they used as really cheap siding, so we bought a bunch of corrugated metal pieces and our contractor, S&S Renovations, figured out how to rust the inside grooves and then he coated it so our customers would not get tetanus with their dinner.”
The rigging crew that handled all the complicated planning for launching The Mill began with a chef whom the Lowrys recruited from the Pacific Grill. Alex Anton had grown up in the restaurant industry, thanks to his dad who also owned many successful restaurants, and Anton’s first job was to guide the Lowrys on how to make the healthy, scratch-made restaurant kitchen that sources locally to come to fruition, where a full staff of chefs and prep-cooks could work together in unison like well-maintained bunchers, delimbers and skidders in a lumber mill.
In fact, Anton is currently planning the brunch menu, which The Mill will be serving soon. “The brunch menu will be really exciting. We’re going to make our own Andouille sausage, which is a Southern-Louisiana-style sausage, and will be making an Andouille sausage gravy with big handmade biscuits that are fresh every day to serve biscuits and gravy,” Anton said. “We’re going to have shrimp and grits but our shrimp are going to be U.S. cut, nice Gulf shrimp. We’re going to have Anson Mills Grits (organic milled) and we’ll use an heirloom corn, a breed of corn that was almost extinct but was just brought back called Jimmy Red Corn. We’ll also have a crab benedict to die for!”
“If you order a salad, don’t expect the iceberg lettuce crunch. You’ll be getting a fresh green salad, harvested not 20 miles away, with an earthy taste full of nutrients. It’s really as farm to table as we can get and the taste is undeniable. Chef Alex has the ability to be a great chef and his food is just absolutely incredible,” Dustin Lowry said.
Because the Lowrys believe in utilizing products that are rooted in this American culture and from the local scene, and source all their food from within a couple hundred miles, The Mill serves beef and Kurobuta pork that come from Snake River Farms and their freshest lettuce is grown from a family owned farm called Lettuce Bee Friends out of Yelm. “You can taste the difference in the food we serve and that’s where the basis of our inspiration comes from,” said Anton.
Even the booze is influenced by the Lowry’s focus on serving locally sourced healthy food and Northwest brews. The 20 taps offer local craft beer and there are local wines on the menu. Corey Feldon is the bartender who has been working at The Mill for two months now. He loves selling the sports bar’s top-to-bottom drinks and said the signature cocktails are so well thought out.
“We use all fresh ingredients. Our sparkling strawberry rhubarb (cocktail) has Sparkle Donkey Tequila, fresh muddled lemon and lime. Then it has rhubarb simple syrup that is made here at the back of house and we use fresh strawberry puree. It’s a shaken cocktail and really a refreshing drink and is honestly such an easy sell,” Feldon said. “The wild elderflower cosmo is another popular signature drink. It has a dash of Giffard Wild Elderflower liqueur in it with local 206 Vodka. Then it’s just a simple drink with a splash of cranberry juice and triple sec, shaken up, and it’s just really refreshing.”
Then Feldon said: “We also carry Nightside Distillery, Half Lion Brewery, Puyallup Brewery, and other great local products that are literally created miles from here. It’s a great feeling to be supporting each other and the community!” According to Feldon, his sports bar customers have been clamoring for this kind of sit down restaurant and bar. “Customers love the atmosphere and many have scheduled birthday parties here,” he said.
As The Mill is new, and many more features like trivia nights are coming very soon, the kitchen is hiring with the goal of being properly staffed and ready to serve the new brunch. The venue’s website (themillofmilton.com) shows pictures of the restaurant, sports bar and food. There are also tabs for the current menu and for upcoming events. Yet The Mill also has thousands of “likes” and reviews at Facebook.com/themillofmilton.
Check this venue out! You will be really happy you did!