Millie's - Dishin' It Out
For those of you who are not familiar with Millie’s let me give you a bit of background. This restaurant originally was called the Westender. It was in a slightly different location, slightly different size and a very different menu. I remember the Westender in the late 80’s and most of the long term islanders can tell you a story or two about the good ol’ days of that famous restaurant. There’s a lot of history there.
I don’t remember the day they rebuilt it and named it Millie’s. Ah, "Millie’s". Now that name has some history, too. Millie’s is named after Mildred Carpenter Jewett, affectionately known as "Madaket Millie," who was a Coast Guardsman over parts of eight decades.
Millie’s restaurant is in a category all of its own when you think of Nantucket restaurants. First of all, it’s on the far west end of the island with no other restaurant within five miles. Its serves Mexican food. Who would have thought, Mexican food on Nantucket? The architectural design of the building is more modern than your typical shingled building. The first floor has a bar, and two outdoor seating areas with picnic tables and blue umbrellas. There's a 270-degree view of the ocean from the dining area of the second floor, and another bar up there too.
The outside hostess stand had three eager young girls to greet us. They asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside and then pointed to the door if we wanted to sit inside. Not one of them escorted us upstairs to the second hostess stand. In my line of business, this would be a call to the principal’s office. We guide people to their location, add the personal touch, never point and say “that way”. If I wasn’t with my sister I would have said something to them or the manager. When we reached the second hostess stand, again there were three more girls who asked if we wanted to sit in the dining room or the bar. “The bar we said.” Again, they pointed and said, “It’s first come, first serve.” Not even a “would you prefer to sit at the bar or a table?” Just a glance to the bar is what we received.
Within 15 minutes of us being at Millie’s the rooms started to fill up quickly with women in beach cover ups, children looking for early dinner and the bar with thirsty customers. We were thankful to arrive at 5:30pm. The walls of this busy buzzing place were painted celery green and had black and white pictures of Madaket Millie on the first floor, but limited artwork on the second floor. The good things: the second floor makes me feel like I’m in a tree house. You can see everything, the windows have no muntins, no curtains or shutters to obstruct the view. There was a wonderful summer ocean breeze coming through the open windows on this warm July night. But the décor could use some help, as the walls in the bar were damaged and needed attention as well as the wait station which was in clear view of the public and dirty, although I’m sure I’m the only one that notices these details.
I have only been to Millie’s twice before. The first was about six years ago and I had a quesadilla which was $12 and it came with a great salad. Four years ago I went again and had a quesadilla and it was $14 with no salad. So tonight I thought, let’s see what’s on the menu in 2016. We sat at a communal high top table with three guys who were in deep in a business discussion. The plastic covered menus were already on the table so we looked over them quickly as we were hungry. Millie’s offers a wide variety of appetizers, salads, tacos, quesadillas, and Po’ Boys.
I went up to the bar and asked the very nice bartender a few menu questions. I think he was unhappy the minute I said I needed two waters with lemon. I realize that bartenders survive on the amount of alcohol they serve and tips, but how was he to know that I may plop my bottom on that bar stool and stay for a few hours after dinner and order drinks? From that point on he wasn’t interested in my dinner order or my questions. Knowing what the answer would be, I forged forward with my questions. “What comes with the quesadilla?” Answer: “Sour cream and salsa. “I questioned the side salad which I enjoyed years ago. I asked if there were any available vegetables, Answer: No. How about a small side salad? Answer: No. I proceeded and ordered two quesadillas, one for each of us.
The server brought over our dinner and I have to say there was definitely plenty of food on this colorful plate, but the presentation could have been better. I am big on presentation. A small green salad or just greens would have been a nice touch to balance this heavy full looking quesadilla or the rice and beans which typically accompany Mexican food. There were two little plastic cups, one half filled with what looked like sour cream, but seemed a bit watered down and the other half filled with salsa. I immediately asked for two more of each of the condiments. I ordered the Rhode Island Avenue quesadila, which was grilled marinated steak, sautéed mushrooms, roasted pablano peppers & red onion, jack & cheddar cheese. Price: $20. My sister had the 40th Pole which was grilled marinated chicken, goat cheese, caramelized onions, jack & cheddar cheese. $18.
I took one bite of this perfectly melted and grilled quesadilla and said, “Yum!” It had a great crispness to it and smelled fantastic. I kept thinking that there’s no way I’ll eat all this and will have to take it home. We asked for more water as I needed to wash it all down and then it happened, the waitress took away my sister’s plate before I was done. This is another one of my pet peeves. I didn’t know if I should stop eating or rush through my meal. Wait staff should be taught not to remove a plate unless everyone is finished at the table or the guest offers the plate to the waiter. I don’t know why they can’t see what’s wrong with this picture. Anyway, I chose to continue eating and I devoured one quarter after another of this four triangular quesadilla. I was stuffed, truly stuffed and happy with my choice.
When we asked the server if we could get a check, she said, “Ask the bartender.” I thought, “wow, where is their customer service etiquette?” Maybe I could just walk out the door since they are not interested in bringng us the check. Or if she had told the bartender, maybe he would have come over to tell us about dessert or a special drink he was working on. But no……he lost out on an opportunity to make more money for the owners.
I have been in customer service for 30 years and your job is never done. No interaction with a guest means no return guest. A few brownie points were gained quickly when the waitress did tell the bartender that we wanted our check and he brought it over asking how dinner was. His smile won me over and we paid the bill with me feeling a little better about my first impression of Millie’s. I know it's a popuar family place and infomality is the rule, but the service could be upgraded a bit without loosing the family touch and someone could remind the bartender that every customer counts.
However, here's what I want to tell you. Go to the west end and experience Millie’s. The food is good, the view is spectacular, the place is packed with happy, smiling sun-kissed visitors enjoying all that life has to offer, including a perfect quesadilla.
Ratings: Atmosphere - 2 dishes, Service – 2 dishes, Food – 3 dishes!
Dishin’ It Out has a passion for food on Nantucket.
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