Located on the corner block of a quintessential Main Street, USA, The Mill stands as a newer addition to downtown Fuquay-Varina. Upon entrance, wafts of aromatic roasted beans tantalized my nose and the type of modern-vintage vibe that only a renovated factory could offer intrigued me.
I do love a good gut job and The Mill, with its brick-walled interior, wide open loft and exposed aluminum piping, is the stuff that restoration dreams are made of. Its inner design aesthetic was a fuse of metal, aluminum, wood and leather that, together, created a space that was unrefined yet, swank.
Inside, I observed a good smattering of people, friends and co-workers chatting over their morning drinks. A quaint coffee bar greeted me at the entrance fully stocked with coffee, tea and edible fare. I planned to make a stop there for my morning brew, but with full exploration on my agenda, I continued further into the recessed rowhouse to find the craft beer and wine bar nestled near the rear. The solid wood bar was a stately anchor. It’s aluminum backdrop highlighted an assortment of craft beers with fun, colorful tap handles ready to be pulled and poured into tall Pilsner glasses.
I picked up a wine menu from one of the high pub tables and it featured blends from Italy and Chile as well as domestic wines from Sonoma and Napa, California and Columbia Valley, Washington. Of course, at that time of the morning, I had only coffee on my mind but, certainly, the featured ales such as Thrilla in Vanilla, The Raspberry Professor and Mango En Fuego must pull in a lively evening crowd.
I returned to the coffee bar and reviewed the menu board. It offered a myriad of coffee and espresso drinks including drip, pour-over, French press and specialty blends. The Armadillo, a specialty blend which touted a blend of caramel, almond and coconut caught my eye. I ordered an iced Armadillo, as well as a hot, dark roast. I wanted to try the coffee black so that I could really experience the earthy bean flavor.
I couldn’t help but notice the tempting display of pastries and scones. The barista explained that they were brought fresh daily from Stick Boy Bread, the bakery located just across the street. The tempting menu included sticky buns, mocha chip muffins and savory treats like bacon cheddar scones. I was intrigued to try the Everything Muffin, an obvious sweet twist on the popular Everything Bagel.
I asked the affable barista where their coffee beans were grown and he shared that The Mill had a local partnership with Joe Van Gogh Coffee, a Hillsborough, NC purveyor which sourced its coffee beans from farms in Colombia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. He pointed to the nearby shelf and stated I could also purchase to-go bags of freshly ground coffee or whole beans for my at-home supply.
With my coffees and a muffin in hand, I looked around for a seat. The Mill offered plenty of comfortable seating options on the main level and above in the mezzanine. I decided to venture up the stairs and was pleased to find a snug, yet roomy open space. The seating near the front offered views of customer comings and goings below but I took a seat next to a nearly floor-to-ceiling window which brought in sunlight aplenty.
Comfortably seated, I focused on my morning treats. I blew on my cup of steaming hot coffee and took an optimistic sip, hoping it would have that just-right bean-to-water ratio, a balanced brew which always seems to evade baristas at a certain popular, commercial coffeehouse. Please don’t have a bitter aftertaste. Thankfully, The Mill got it right. Deep and bright, the coffee was the perfect perk-up to start off the day.
Not to be forgotten, the iced Armadillo quietly begged for my attention. I took my first sip, and its draw was a delicious experience. The smooth flavors of caramel, almond and coconut comingled beautifully to satisfy my morning taste buds. The cold treat would be a refreshing accompaniment in the spring days ahead.
I turned to the Everything Muffin and took a hearty bite. With its fresh mélange of apple, carrot, coconut, raisin and almond, the muffin was moist, fruity and not too sweet. I would certainly have that again. And again.
I continued enjoying my coffee and bites of muffin and glanced out of the expansive window. I noticed the large, hand-painted white letters forming, Ashworths, on the side of the brick building next door. In operation since 1937, Ashworth’s is a clothing store and family business that has withstood the test of time. Seeing it caused me to feel a sense of gratitude to The Mill for creating a quaint, friendly space for us to enjoy Fuquay-Varina’s historic downtown.
With its small-town location, stylish space, and delectable offerings, The Mill is a whole experience. I might return for a glass of vino and the live music featured on Friday nights, but more likely I will return much sooner for another morning cup of coffee.
The Mill is located at 146 South Main Street, Fuquay-Varina, NC 27526. Their hours of operation are Monday – Wednesday, 9 am to 9 pm, Thursday, 9 am to 10 pm, Friday – Saturday, 9 am to 11:30 pm and Sunday, 9 am to 6 pm.