Without a doubt, one of the defining characteristics of Virginia is agriculture. It’s a practice that goes back to the beginning of the state’s history, and it continues in various ways today. An unmistakable part of this farming culture, Virginia’s mills stand as a symbol of our pride for the land. And many people don’t realize that some of these mills continue to fuel grain and other production. So what better way to appreciate this process than sampling it from the source? Luckily, there are a handful of old mill restaurants that will provide a delicious and memorable experience. While not all the mills continue to run, they certainly remain a strong presence at the following sites.
1. Old Mill Room (Charlottesville)
Part of the Boar's Head Inn, the Old Mill Room is one of Charlottesville's finest dining establishments. While there is no mill on site, the building was actually constructed from the wood of an abandoned gristmill found near the Hardware River. It's estimated that this particular mill dated back to 1834. Inside, you'll find an impressive selection of innovative courses. Whether it's shrimp linguini or something from the carving station, you'll love dining with a view. This apple walnut bread pudding topped with vanilla ice cream is not to be missed.
2. Mabry Mill Restaurant (Meadows of Dan)
Mabry Mill is by far one of the most iconic visions of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Its history is fascinating, especially as it incorporates the picturesque mill that has been in operation since 1905. What was once land owned by the Mabry family has now been acquired by the National Parks Service, which welcomes visitors to both the site and the nearby restaurant. Many of the menu items incorporate flour milled on site, making for a tasty local treat.
3. The Waterwheel Restaurant (Warm Springs)
Of the many things to enjoy about the Inn at Gristmill Square, the Waterwheel Restaurant is a definite must-visit. The restaurant itself is located in a restored mill that dates back to the 1900s. Food is all locally sourced, and there's even an authentic wine cellar in the basement. One of the most popular menu items is the freshly caught trout. Photographed above is the scallop dish served with peaches and prosciutto.
4. Silk Mill Grille (Orange)
Virginia's Orange County has a lengthy agricultural history. The silk mill was established during the Great Depression in hopes of providing more work opportunities. It was because of American silk mills like the one in Orange that many communities were left in tact despite the hard economic towns. The mill closed in 1979, but it was reopened 10 years later and continues to function as a restaurant serving delicious and traditional American fare. While the whole menu is impressive, you really can't go wrong with an order of the chicken quesadilla.
5. Main Street Mill (Front Royal)
Established in 1997, the Main Street Mill in Front Royal is located at the site of a historic mill. Today, with its chestnut beams and murals depicting the 19th century, the restaurant embodies the charm of this small town in Virginia. The menu has plenty of selection and specializes in well-made comfort food. The homemade clam chowder is a popular and well loved menu item.
6. Tuscarora Mill Restaurant (Leesburg)
Tuscarora Mill, often referred to as Tuskie's by the locals, was originally a grain mill in the 1899. Since its restoration, the mill has run as a restaurant that serves upscale American fare. The ambiance is stunning, and the dishes are equally as appetizing. Seafood here is especially popular, whether the crab cakes or fried oysters.
7. Damascus Old Mill Inn Restaurant (Damascus)
The building where the Damascus Old Mill Inn currently resides was once the site of a historic waterwheel, an important part of the Mocks Mill community. The waterwheel has since been removed, but the restaurant currently functions as a lovely inn and restaurant in Damascus. Entrees are beautifully prepared and creative, such as the strawberry-glazed salmon dish photographed above.
Have you dined in any of these old mill restaurants? Or perhaps know of any others that may have missed the list? Be sure to share your experience!