Pub Food, Elevated | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Pub Food, Elevated

At the newly renamed Mill Works Pub, craveable Korean chicken and specials you'll beg to have on the regular menu

The first time I walked into Mill Works Pub, I knew it was gonna be something different. Normally when you walk into a place with "Pub" in the title, the TVs scattered throughout the place will have some type of sports ball playing on them (or multiple). But here the TV near the bar was playing "The Goonies," which instantly made me want to spend my money at this spot.

click to enlarge Pub Food, Elevated
Robert Marquez
Pastrami

Mill Works isn't just differentiating itself based on what's on TV. The former Boxwood Kitchen closed in late January and reopened March 4, under the same owners, with a complete rebrand, redecoration and a new menu focused on elevated pub food. As someone who is in the Old Mill weekly to watch movies, I found it a great idea for the rebrand, as there are plenty of upscale restaurants to choose from, but for those of us wanting that pub vibe, Mill Works fits in a very specific niche the Old Mill needed to fill.

With a solid lineup of craft brews and cocktails, Mill Works has become my go-to for pre-gaming before a show at the amphitheater or catching a movie at Regal. The pub's taps usually offer something from Pfriem and the great Pallet Jack from Barley Brown's, as well as selections from the always-welcome Van Henion and a cider or two.

click to enlarge Pub Food, Elevated
Robert Marquez
Brisket Burger

Care has also been taken in crafting the cocktails. One thing that really impressed me out of the gate: the well gin is Crater Lake. I found it very refreshing that they were using a fantastic local spirit instead of some bottom-shelf swill in order to save a buck. The gin and tonic was delicious and refreshing, finding a really nice balance between floral and dry. I was the most impressed with their Rosey Paloma with tequila and grapefruit cocktail — not only nice and stiff, but not sacrificing the bitter citrus notes for an overt sweetness that some local bars think is a Paloma. It's also nice to have a cocktail in the Old Mill that is comparable in price to everywhere else ($14), but then stands out from the pack with complex flavors and generous pours.

Over the last month or so, I've tried quite a few different dishes on the menu. One thing that never changes: I have a full-blown addiction to the Korean Fried Chicken ($16) with KFC sauce, pickled daikon, sesame and scallion. It's listed as a small plate, but it's an absolutely massive bowl of chicken that could easily make a full meal for someone. And of course, it definitely works as a mouth-watering snack for the entire table. The KFC sauce is so good that just writing this article has started making me hungry. With its spicy miso Gochujang-forward heat and its sugary/teriyaki sweetness, prepare for a new staple of your trips to the Old Mill.

click to enlarge Pub Food, Elevated
Robert Marquez
Korean Fried Chicken

I honestly haven't been disappointed in anything I've had from the kitchen at Mill Works. From the gorgeous and delicious Tuna Bowl with perfectly seared albacore, black rice, mixed greens, avocado, pickles and a tangy and earthy miso dressing ($21), to the open-faced pastrami sandwich with delectable house made pastrami, a sweet-mustard influenced Carolina Gold BBQ sauce, kraut and pickles ($18), it's becoming harder for me to choose what to get at Mill Works.

click to enlarge Pub Food, Elevated
Robert Marquez
Tuna Bowl

During my most recent visit they had two specials: fish and chips and a BBQ Chipotle Brisket Burger coated in coleslaw on a brioche bun. I tried both. The brisket was thinly sliced, smoky and so tender it melted like butter in the mouth; the chipotle sauce leaned into Southern BBQ without the earthiness and the slaw added a great texture and sweetness to the burger.

The fish and chips were also impressive. For one, (along with all the fried foods on their menu) they are gluten free, with a light breading genuinely unlike any I've had before. My buddy, who I consider to be a local fish-and-chip aficionado, said they were up there as some of the best he has had in Bend. The giant, flaking pieces of fish were so sweet, fresh and delicious that I'm not sure I can argue with that. When the chef came over to our table to ask us how the meal was, we both pleaded for the Fish and Chips and Brisket Burger to become new additions to the menu.

click to enlarge Pub Food, Elevated
Robert Marquez
Fish and Chips

I really like Mill Works Pub. In all the years I've been going to movies in the Old Mill I've never found the homey spot that made me feel comfortable enough to just hang out and relax. As good as the food and drinks are, the staff at Mill Works also really impresses. They're all just kind and enjoyable people — good to talk to and attentive without being overbearing. I didn't realize the Old Mill was missing a place like Mill Works, but now that it's there, I'm stoked. KFC 4 Lyfe.

Mill Works Pub
330 Powerhouse Dr., Bend
Daily 11am-9pm
541-797-0182

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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