Click the links above for our new website.
Silk Mill story more compelling than food
Date published: 10/9/2003
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
The best part of dining at the Silk Mill Grille in the town of Orange is the interesting setting.
The large restaurant occupies the better part of a building where women and a few men once processed raw imported silk into fine, high-style fabric.
From 1929 until its abrupt closing in 1988, the American Silk Mills Inc. offered steady, respectable employment for nearby residents.
At the height of its production, when it supplied the government with parachute silk during World War II, the factory employed as many as 1,000 people. In later years, the factory also produced the synthetic fabric Qiana.
I didn't know much about the building's industrial history when I first visited, but character showed in the restaurant's details. The wood floors are buffed to a golden shine, but use-worn dents and dark patches are reminders that here people worked hard and productively. Old silk spindles and antique agricultural tools serve as wall sculptures, and the feel of the place is industrial-agricultural with clean modern touches.
These days, the Silk Mill Grille is an appealing place to stop in for lunch if business or pleasure take you to the Orange County seat. The Grille also serves dinner, then stays open late some nights for live entertainment in the back room, where visitors find a bar, a stage area, and TVs for sports-watching.
Friends and I had some good food at the Silk Mill Grille on two visits, but we also encountered problems.
Service both times was friendly but casual, as if the servers were distracted. Maybe they were. On a lunch visit, the center dining room was full and the bar nearly so, and at dinner one night things were just beginning to pick up with karaoke in the back room.
At any rate, a cheeseburger ordered without fries came with a heaping mound of them, salad dressing requested on the side arrived all over the lettuce, and a cup of coffee ordered first thing arrived after the appetizers. Still, those were minor inconveniences and seemed to be the result of busy-ness rather than institutionalized neglect.
The cheeseburger is a house specialty called a Silk Mill Grille burger ($7), and it was big and juicy. The 8-ounce burger came with melted cheddar, to which can be added bacon, sauteed onions or mushrooms at 50 cents per topping. The tasty bacon served with this one was very lean and cooked to a surprising crunch.
A shrimp cocktail appetizer ($7) was another fortunate choice, with big, tender shrimp classically presented hooked over the edge of a cocktail glass. It came with a mild cocktail sauce the menu said was homemade.
A shrimp scampi dinner entree ($14) started with those same big shrimp, though these were on the tough side. Still, they were flavorful in a rich garlic-butter sauce, served piping hot.
Filet mignon ($17), another dinner offering, was bacon-wrapped and nearly fork-cuttable, just as it is supposed to be. But instead of enhancing the beef flavor, the bacon overwhelmed it.
A grilled chicken Caesar salad ($6)--the one ordered with dressing on the side--came bathed in the tangy dressing. The Romaine lettuce looked a bit wilted, and the grilled chicken breast was bland.
The menu described the pork barbecue sandwich ($6) as "slow roasted here" with homemade sauce. The pork itself was tenderly cooked and juicy, and served on a fresh kaiser roll. But it was ruined by the bright red sauce, which was was candy sweet without the balance of tanginess or a pepper bite.
A cup of French onion soup ($4) also was surprisingly sweet, with almost a honeylike flavor to the beefy onion broth. Still, it was hot and loaded with cooked onions and gooey cheese, and we happily ate most of it.
When we asked our server about the flavor, though, she checked in the kitchen and came back apologetic. Apparently, it's not supposed to be sweet at all, and she insisted on taking it off our bill.
Desserts, on the other hand, are rightly sweet, and a chocolate turtle cake ($4) was rich and loaded, with a crumbly crust, moist cake center and a toffee crisp topping.
Those who live in Orange seem to appreciate having the Silk Mill Grille for workday lunches and dinners out. And out-of-towners visiting nearby Montpelier or browsing the antiques shops can soak up a bit of town history with their meals.
To reach LAURA MOYER: 540/374-5417 email@example.com
Date published: 10/9/2003