Reader Serge A. Storms recommended a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant a while back on another blog, and I'd been meaning to try it for a while. Still, it took me a couple of months before I found myself darkening the door of the New Green Mill Cafe on Markham.
Part of it was the location -- tucked back behind a Shipley's Donuts and next to a uniform store, I'd overlooked it. Yet here it was, a little eatery less than a mile from my home, full of promise and comfort food.
I found myself searching for sustenance with my traveling companion, and we decided to try out the recommendation. We turned in and entered.
Right away I felt as if I'd walked into someone's dining room. The decor is somewhere between a small diner and your elementary school friend's dad's garage, complete with old dining room tables and chairs and trophy fish on the walls. Photos and calendars and posters huddle together under lazy ceiling fans.
We were instantly greeted by a gentleman who asked us what we were hungry for. Sensing our newness, he ran through the available choices for the day -- fried chicken breast, chicken fried steak, spaghetti with meat sauce (as a side or an entree), meatloaf, and sides of green beans, white beans, turnip greens, mashed potatoes, and white and brown gravy. A lovely woman asked us while we were being served up our meals what sort of bread we'd like -- corn, white, or wheat. We were told to sit wherever we liked -- but if we sat at the big table we'd probably have to share.
We took our plates and seats next to a refrigerator on the north wall, and our waitress brought us white bread on a plate and served us up some iced tea. Tea is your choice here -- sweet, unsweet, or water -- and soda isn't an option -- reinforcing the notion of being in someone's dining room or kitchen.
Comfort food was what I was craving -- and it's exactly what I got -- in the form of savory meatloaf and mashed potatoes with a soft brown gravy, white beans (without meat!) and the aforementioned white bread. The meatloaf was just what I expected from someone's mom -- not too spicy, not too bland, and certainly not someone's high-falootin' experiment.
My traveling companion had gone for the fried chicken, and got a good pan-fried example along with green beans and mashed potatoes with white beans. The potatoes were obviously from a box, but that was okay, too -- and with white bread seemed a really good example of dinner at a friend's house.
Our kind host brought out a plate with a couple of pickled figs on it for us to try. They reminded me of fall, or my grandmother's mincemeat, delicious and a perfect apertif.
There's a different special every day at the New Green Mill Cafe -- and we've decided we have to go back and try out the catfish and lasagna Fridays. Desserts are offered -- but without them, meals are five or six dollars, including tax. That's right -- we got a good home-cooked meal for $10 on the dot. And it was mighty fine.
You'll find the New Green Mill Cafe at 8609 West Markham. It's open for lunch -- and most of the folks you'll meet there are regulars who call each other by nicknames like "Conway" and "Hoot." If you feel you must call ahead, try (501) 225-9907. And go hungry.