The Bridge at Mill Creek: Highlands NC
Allow yourself to be seduced by the kitchen creations, the fruits of the bar, and a warmly welcoming service team at The Bridge at Mill Creek. It’s an enticing choice that remedies the random stresses of the season – call (828) 526-5500.
With the days leading up to the holidays wound tighter than a mainspring, Tricia and another couple and I found a sweet oasis from the unending spin cycle that was 2020 in the casual elegance that’s The Bridge at Mill Creek.
Though great care had been taken to ensure that everyone in the place was safely distanced, the measured meters between the tables couldn’t diminish the undeniable electricity that was coursing through the place. Somehow, somehow, they’d managed to preserve that glorious sensation of being in a trendy place where you had to lean in to converse against a soundtrack of laughter and impassioned voices.
Part of this experience was maintained by the deeply indulgent service provided by a dizzying array of sunny and safely-masked servers (I never did figure out who was assigned to our table). They ensured that we wanted for nothing and their gentle assurance led us to menu choices that we might have missed.
And there were the two guys manning the bar. Theirs was a constantly spinning show of pouring perfection, delivered with bravado and an undertone of high spirits.
In fact, I usually give short shrift to bar selections, but there were two that deserve special attention.
The exquisitely named Frenemies was a bracing blend of Cathead Vodka, berries, ginger with a bite, and a splash of sparkling Cava. All of this was carefully composed and bubbly, but the kicker was the lemon peel spiral rakishly slanted into the concoction, like something served at the end of the day at René Magritte’s studio.
El Zombi, a marvelous mixture of Sombra Mezcal, gold rum, grapefruit, pineapple-sage syrup, and Tiki bitters, played the palate like a pachinko machine and, as you’d guess, seems capable of waking the dead.
These set the pace for an evening of culinary startlements.
Our appetizers were a mix of deep comfort foods done up with 21st century embellishments – Steak Tartare, Bread Service paired with a wondrous Blood Orange Butter, Crispy Brussels Sprouts, and Better French Fries.
That last choice may have caught your attention. You’re probably thinking, “But Luke, French Fries have been around since the French Revolution, how can any place claim to offer “Better French Fries?”
Well, consider the pomme frites that arrived at our table – fresh cut and blanched with beef fat, rolled in aged parmesan and garlic, and splashed with house-made Green Goddess.
See? I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming!
And anyway, let’s get back to our meal before I break the word count.
After our empty plates were hauled away, our servers brought us servings of North Carolina Trout (enrobed in bacon-pecan crust accompanied by pickled onions and grits); a Wedge of Iceberg Lettuce surrounded by grape tomatoes, chives, and a seductive Point Reyes Bleu Cheese Dressing (which turned out to be a perfect complement to those Crispy Brussels Sprouts, for those of you who like to carefully compose your meals); and The Bridge Burger.
Remember how I was talking about building Better French Fries? Well, the same commitment to innovation and quality brought us this creation. It’s a blending of hand-cut, kitchen-ground grass-fed beef, Tillamook Cheese (my son lives in Oregon and says that Tillamook’s cheeses are the product of grass-fed cows raised by hippies. Perfection.), Beeler’s Bacon (testament to the kitchen’s obeisance to quality, locally-sourced meats and vegetables), and house pickles.
Well, I’ve made a big deal about how The Bridge at Mill Creek ensorcells you into lively, sometimes raucous conversation, but our table grew nearly silent as we plowed into our meals with an intensity pushing the boundaries or decorum. We still chatted, but our exchanges were herky-jerky as we spoke around mouthfuls.
I suppose in the realm of restaurant reviews, this should be taken as high praise.
And I’ve broken through the word count without a nod to dessert – just let me mention Salted Caramel Ice Cream, Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart, and Pistachio Gelato, Please remember to save room for these creations, and please be willing to share a bite with your (trusted) tablemates. And please, please don’t be one of those people who says they’re just going to share a dessert with a dining companion. None of us should put our friendships to that sort of test.
The Bridge at Mill Creek’s owners have brought us comfortable space to settle in with friends and loved ones, and an inventive kitchen (and bar) with an almost compulsive urge to please. It makes a bold assertion to be placed upon the upper tier of Plateau Dining, and if you’re in a place where your ruffled feathers need smoothing and you want to celebrate the sweet indulgence of dining with cherished friends, well, here’s your spot.
The Bridge at Mill Creek is open for lunch and dinner at 445 North Fourth Street in Highlands. Dinner reservations are a must – (828) 526-5500.