Restaurant Reviews

The Mill NE

Paying homage, taking risks.

Dishes at Minneapolis' Mill NE
Photos by Katherine Harris

The Mill City Café was a warm and cozy corner spot in the historic California Building. Well known for great breakfasts and particularly delicious cinnamon wild rice pancakes, Mill City had a loyal, albeit small following. It closed a few years ago, vacating the space and vowing to return again, which it has in the form of The Mill NE.

The former Porky’s space on Central seems the antithesis to the original Mill City, as it is gleaming white and modern with grand windows and a giant red neon “NE” glowing on one wall. But maybe that’s a purposeful evolution, along with the name, because this version is so much more than a sleepy hole in the wall.

There are two chefs on the line— Tommy Begnaud and Matt Kempf—and both have batted about good kitchens in the metro. They’ve brought fresh insight and an updated vision to the casual menu, which is exciting and enticing overall. There’s a lot I want to order.

Pay homage to the pancakes, which are still on the menu, but don’t pass up the Ecuadorian baked eggs on spicy black beans and potatoes or the dense buttery parmesan and chive “biscones” with eggs and a rich gravy. All can be had, along with a pitcher of bloodies, during the daily brunch. The “mid menu,” which runs before dinner and during late night, is full of $5 snacks. Crunchy, stellar batter encases both cheese curds and cod pops. Dinner is where the risks are taken. They pay off with some playful, complex dishes such as the delicate and nutty octopus confit touched with Indian spices over taro root mash, or the irreverent jumble of seafood that includes scallops and crisp squid with blistered shishito peppers and squid ink crème fraîche. The payoff isn’t so great with other plates that just reach too far, such as the duck and lobster potstickers; skip those. Some dishes wisely play a safer game, like the smoked pork crepes with a tart tomatillo salsa; these are the solid bets on the menu.

It seems evident that The Mill NE isn’t afraid of new definitions and expanding boundaries. It should be exciting to see where it goes from here. 1851 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-315-2340,