I’m pleased to write today about one of Carrboro’s underappreciated gems: Milltown. Located on Carrboro’s main drag, Milltown serves a gastropub-style menu that draws inspiration from the many world-class beers they pour. The restaurant’s atmosphere is, as expected, bar-focused: no collars required, just come as you are and enjoy a hearty meal and a pint alongside regulars both young and old.
Depending on how deep you’ve fallen into the craft beer rabbit hole, ordering a drink at Milltown can either be an absolute pleasure or a series of tough decisions and enticing temptations. In plain English: the beer selection at Milltown is unparalleled. They carry more European and international imports than I’ve ever seen, often on draft (a rarity in the States), and you will absolutely find a brew that suits you as well as roughly 100 you’ve never heard of. For a rookie this is a boon, and the extremely knowledgeable staff will be happy to recommend you the perfect pour for your tastes. However, if you know your way around a taplist, you may shuffle through the pages upon pages of rare and exclusive European bottles you could crack and be struck with indecisiveness and panic (how can I choose just one once-in-a-lifetime beer?!). It’s times like these that you can always turn to the smartly curated draft list, which tends to feature local favorites alongside international icons (a Trophy IPA alongside Saison Dupont, for example), and breathe easy knowing you’ve saved your wallet some trauma. And that you’ve temporarily halted your head-first descent into beer geek madness.
Eating at Milltown, fortunately, is a much simpler proposition. They offer straightforward pub food with a few welcome twists, most notably some classic German dishes like schnitzel and bratwurst. For dinner I chose the sauerbraten, German for “pot roast”, and was not disappointed. The meat was practically falling apart without being over-braised and dry, and the gravy was rich but balanced by the addition of some acid – perhaps vinegar, or maybe beer? I wouldn’t put it past the kitchen staff here to slip some beer in wherever they can. On the side were some nice, fluffy mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts. I personally prefer my Brussels more deeply browned than these, but they were still cooked through and deliciously caramelized in some places.
My cohorts decided to split the Milltown burger with cheddar, a side salad, and an order of Belgian frites with aioli. While not groundbreaking, this was a solid burger, and the brioche bun was outstanding. The side salad featured frisee and baby lettuce topped with sunflower seeds and dried cranberries, bound with a citrusy vinaigrette. By incorporating Lambic, a complex variety of sour wheat beer from Belgium, the dressing elevated this salad beyond mere rabbit food. The standout of the entire meal was probably the fries – crispy on the outside, meaty on the inside, topped with big flakes of salt and a garlic aioli that made us all want to lick the plate. Milltown offers these exemplary frites with a variety of toppings; the “Carolina” variant with pulled pork sounded particularly tempting, but our simple preparation allowed the humble potato to be the star.
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, Milltown offers a brunch menu that’s perfect for fighting off your existing hangover – and starting a new one if you’re into that. Their croque madame ($10), a grilled ham and Gruyere sandwich topped with over-easy eggs and Mornay sauce, saved my life one morning after overdoing it the night before. The whole-grain mustard spread on each slice of bread cut through the rich Mornay and finished every bite with a nice tang. My cohorts ordered the chicken and biscuits ($12): a fried chicken breast with plenty of crunchy breading and no toughness, over tender biscuits with rosemary gravy to bind everything together. I thought the rosemary added a ton to the dish but wasn’t too exaggerated, considering herb usage can quickly take over a plate. For the table, we also couldn’t pass up the breakfast poutine ($10), a whirlwind of a plate featuring those stellar frites, the aforementioned tasteful rosemary gravy, two runny eggs, and cheese curds. While the component parts were all proven to be delicious, this dish didn’t come together like we had hoped and it got cold rather quickly. Our waitress explained that the cheese curds were the culprit – in order to preserve their squeaky texture, they avoid heating them at all. I also couldn’t help but notice that our brunch plates were a little lacking in color, mostly because they were covered in tasty yet very beige sauces. I seriously doubt anyone is looking to Milltown for chic and modern plating, but as they say, you eat with your eyes first.
I feel that Milltown delivers on its concept at every front: an international beer bar paired effortlessly with a global food program. The dishes taste good, and become even better when washed down with a cold one. No frills are needed, no punches are pulled; you come to Milltown knowing pretty much what you’re going to receive, and it turns out that it absolutely works.
Nathan Griesedieck is a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate and Raleigh native who works in the transfusion service at Duke University Medical Center in Durham – a true-blue Triangle foodie in every sense of the word(s). He spends most of his downtime either learning and thinking about food, or in his (tiny) kitchen making it for his girlfriend and best friend, Sarah. You can find him on Instagram (@n8greasy).