Every city has a few of those institutional restaurants that keep the locals coming back while still attracting tourists from all over. Millie's Diner is one of those places. You come for the reputation, get hooked on the mimosas and stay for the delicious and creative brunch.
Located at the far end of Main Street in downtown Richmond and nearly overlooking the James River, Millie's Diner offers an eclectic menu for brunch, lunch and dinner with gourmet flavors and a down-home vibe. The chefs at Millie's exemplify a passion for their trade and a genuine enjoyment of their craft. Rumor has it they even turned down a feature on the Food Network's hit show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."
Millie's may not look like much from the outside, but on the inside, the decor and friendly staff complement the lively atmosphere. The walls are peppered with framed vintage posters and painted a deep red to match the bottles of Siracha hot sauce that sit on every table as staples of the restaurant's condiment selection. On the right side of the restaurant, a tiny open kitchen exposes hardworking chefs creating the large, savory brunch options. Also in the first room is a full service bar and a colorful chalkboard menu. No menus are given out to the customers at brunch time, so you better make sure to bring your glasses.
Unless you arrive immediately at 9 a.m., odds are you are going to have to wait. The hostess may not tell you exactly what the wait is, but she will ask you for your name and offer you a drink. The mimosas and Bloody Marys make the time seem to fly by and the food is well worth the wait.
After several trips to Millie's, it is clear that its brunch menu really stands out. The off-beat diner specializes in savory breakfast items, many of which include cheese, eggs and an element of spice. The huevos rancheros are a rich breakfast item with two fried eggs over tortillas and black beans in a tomato salsa with melted white cheddar cheese and sour cream. I enjoyed the Eggs Ben Gurion, which was essentially a supersized play on Eggs Benedict with two poached eggs and smoked salmon on a toasted bagel with creamy hollandaise sauce. Salty, but super satisfying.
Other delicious options include a grilled Angus beef loin with two poached eggs, grilled asparagus and hollandaise or a grilled eggplant, tomato and brie cheese sandwich. They also have three signature brunch items: Castro's Mess, Devil's Mess and Veggie Mess, large open-faced omelets with a variety of toppings.
My recommendation would certainly be to venture downtown to Millie's for breakfast or brunch. I've had a less thrilling experience with some of their more "lunchy" items like the BLT. However, service is fast and friendly, and the brunch is spectacular. Rarely will you see the words "gourmet" and "diner" in the same paragraph describing one restaurant, but at Millie's that's exactly what you'll find: inventive and tasty food in a unique dining experience.
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