It’s a name that speaks not so much of the spirit itself – though the spirit is certainly present – as it does to the soul of the place: chandeliers, dark wood, and a back room almost seemingly designed for the purpose all lend credence to it. The Gin Mill may serve its juniper-flavored namesake, but make no mistake – it’s not all about the gin.
“Back in the 1920’s, a lot of people would refer to speakeasies as gin mills, so we kind of ran with the idea,” says Cheryl Kenny, who co-owns the restaurant-bar with her husband, Peter, who adds, “It’s got that speakeasy feel to it.”
It’s not just a speakeasy feel that’s bringing people to The Gin Mill. Formerly known as Swig (with Gin Mill as the name of the separate, particularly speakeasy-feel bar area in the back), the whole restaurant has taken on the name, and it’s not just the customers looking for a drink or two who will find themselves satiated at the Kenny’s newest establishment. Taking their experience from their years at the helm of both The Dubliner and Capitol Pub, Peter and Cheryl set out to develop a bar that had many facets without compromising its singular identity – no easy task for an establishment with two decidedly different dining and drinking areas and a mission to make food, drinks, and local sensibilities a focus.
“We took over from Park [the previous establishment at the location] and they were suffering from a bit of an identity crisis just because they were a little more restaurant-based,” says Peter. “We’ve definitely changed it to have more of a pub feel, even though we really do concentrate on the food – we’ve got really great food.”
“And we definitely have the typical pub feel and the pub fare,” Cheryl adds. “But we try to use local produce, meats and dairy as much as possible.”
The menu, which does indeed include such bar-style favorites as Burgers, Onion Rings, Fried Mushrooms (‘battered’, the menu calls them), and of course Fish & Chips, it is indeed far more extensive and ambitious than an average pub’s might be. Pork Shank Osso Buco, Pork Banh Mis and ceviche only partially represent the global reach of Gin Mill’s menu, while salads and a vegetarian sandwich round it out for the less carnivorous crowd. And that’s merely a sampling.
“We try to have a diverse menu, something more than just burgers and fries,” Cheryl observes, while also mentioning their efforts to keep the menu items within an accessible price point. “But we wanted to keep it tight enough so when people come in, they didn’t just get lost in the menu.”
Menu size and scope aside, Gin Mill’s long bar and dark, wooden interior don’t hide its ambitions as a pub, and in that respect they seek to exceed expectations. There is, of course, beer. And lots of it. Beers from around the world are available at Gin Mill, but they make it a point to provide the local brews, as well. The cocktail selection is likewise well considered while still inventive – the It’s A Small World, Aperol (Stoli Oranj, aperol, orange, cranberry and Angostura) bitters is indeed a testament to a little whimsey, all while keeping the main focus on the bar as a whole.
“Everything on our menu is meant to go really well with beer or with a cocktail,” says Cheryl, also observing the Gin Mill’s modest wine menu, which includes options from Dallas’ Times Ten Cellars.
But if Gin Mill is a pub, then what of the speakeasy atmosphere? One step into the back bar area and the answer is evident.
“My feeling is that the front room is the urban-style pub, and then the back room is more like the late-night lounge with the speakeasy feel,” says Peter.
Originally, the back room alone was known as the Gin Mill (the pub area in the front got the name ‘Swig’ before some legal wrangling precluded the Kennys from using the name) and a look at the mirrors, chandeliers, floors, cushions and couches makes the name a natural.
“When we took over from Park, we didn’t change a thing,” Peter says. “We thought it was perfect.”
There are several aspects that make Gin Mill unique, among them the different spaces and the restaurant-sized menu (not to mention the actual drinks) but they all form a unique identity – one that welcomes, entertains, comforts and feeds. And what’s even better, the selection is a lot better than it would be at one of the original gin mills, and you don’t even need to know any secret knock or password.