Is it crazy to drive over a half hour for a salad? Probably. I did it anyway.
The Mill in St. Petersburg has been on my list for awhile, and I know that if I don’t take full advantage of every free meal time I’ll never get through the (growing) list of restaurants. Traffic wasn’t so bad, and finding a parking garage was easy enough. The single block walk in the early September (why is it still so hot) heat and humidity wasn’t grueling, even in heels. But I was glad to get inside the restaurant and find it dim and cool. The hostess sat us at a table toward the back of the dining room, but close enough to the bar to see all of the amazing fresh ingredients they use for mixed drinks. Mixed drinks, am I allowed on a weekday lunch date?
Our waiter greeted us and did a excellent job telling us about the specials. I ordered an Old Fashioned (for research). I looked through the menu and wanted to go light. It’s one thing to be a little tipsy on a weekday, but full on a heavy lunch is a major no-no. Or whatever. The menu has a simplicity to it, but covers a lot of culinary ground. The food matches the atmosphere, sophisticated rustic (which y’all know is my favorite!). The tables are big, heavy, dark-stained wood. The matching chairs are padded with denim. The dining area/bar isn’t sprawling, but the tables are spread enough that you don’t feel like you’re sitting with your neighbor. I loved that the location is amidst the hustling bustling busy Central Ave, but it feels exceptionally removed at the same time.
For food, we both settled on salads and added a protein. I got the Roast Beet Panzenella and added chicken, and my date got the Tri-Kale and Orzo and added tuna. (Remember that the menu is somewhat seasonal and could be different for your visit.) The beet salad is NOT a greens based salad, but a mostly-beets and tomato dish with some fresh basil. The dressing is roasted horseradish vinaigrette, and I detected a hint of mustard that I wasn’t mad at. The balsamic is aged 30 years, so, like, no big deal. Those croutons? They are creme-fraiche pound cake croutons. POUND CAKE CROUTONS. Being the horrible person that I am, I had no idea what burrata was. I googled it so I didn’t have to completely embarrass myself by asking. It’s an Italian cheese made of mozzarella, and wait for it, cream. They give you a really generous amount. It’s ridiculous. I didn’t expect a lot from the added chicken I ordered on the side of the salad. It was a strictly pragmatic accompaniment to hit my (gotta) prot (bro) goal for the day. I’m always glad to be surprised in that kind of situation. The chicken was grilled to perfection, seasoned perfectly, and generously sized. Between the chicken and the burrata, the salad was pretty far from being a light little lunch. I walked out into the afternoon heat to walk the block back to the garage feeling really full, but like I had enjoyed an exceptionally great meal.