Sunday, April 28, 2013


I have fond memories of hanging out at what used to be Rock-Ola Café Winston-Salem in high school. Cast parties, first dates, birthdays – it crushed my heart when the restaurant closed its doors. Milner’s now occupies the space, with a swankier atmosphere, gorgeous hardwood floors and a spacious bar. John Milner, a personal friend, and his brother are challenging Southern cuisine meccas like Charleston and Savannah, with outstanding quality food and reasonable prices.

Though we dined on one of the warmest days we’ve had this year, the restaurant seemed a bit air conditioner-happy. A request to turn down the air volume was thankfully met. Mojitos are refreshing, a delicious combination of mint, simple syrup, rum and lime. I feel a true test to a restaurant is how well they prepare a mojito. Flavorful potato bread is presented with whipped butter, and replenished as often as you like, which was pretty often. This is an excellent alternative to white bread.

As a self-proclaimed Pimento Cheese aficionado, I was eager to try the Dip Trio, consisting of three Pimento Cheese varieties: Traditional Baked, Sausage and Goat Cheese, and Roasted Garlic Blue Cheese, served with house made tortilla chips. I would have eaten the Baked Pimento Cheese with a spoon – cheesy, salty, rich – this is everything you could possibly want in a pimento cheese. The Sausage and Goat Cheese and Roasted Garlic Blue Cheese are tied for second place – you can’t go wrong with any of these. Especially when you run out of crackers and use the potato bread as a dipper. Yowza.

North Carolina Mountain Trout is served skin-on with Cinnamon Apples and Salted Candy Pecans, doused in a Parsley Brown Butter Sauce, accented with lemon zest. This is one of the best sauces I’ve ever consumed. The richness of the brown butter paired with the acidity of the apples produces a pleasantly bitter vinegar-like flavor, yet remains light and sweet due to the notes of cinnamon and lemon. A Parmesan Grit Cake and Haricot Verts are fine as sides, but the fish and sauce are the reason to order this dish.

Grilled Mahi Mahi is cut thick, with gorgeous grill marks and char flavor, topped with a tangy Roasted Tomato-Herb Relish, and drizzled with Beurre Blanc, served alongside a Boursin-Chive Potato Cake and Sautéed Spinach. The Potato Cake takes the “cake,” if you will, when up against the Parmesan Grit Cake. Sauces are Milner’s thing – the combination of flavors is spot-on.

Angus Filet Mignon and Crab Cake “Benedict” is a delicious play on breakfast, served with that delicious Potato Cake and Asparagus, topped with a Poached Egg with Demi-Glace and Béarnaise. The tender filet is covered with the beautiful yolk, making for an indulgent dish. Butt and Belly features Eastern Carolina-Style Pulled Pork and Pork Butt, Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Collard Greens, with a Smoked Jalapeño Peach Chutney and Green Tomato Chow Chow. I could have used a bit more vinegar in the pulled pork, but I tend to prefer more vinegar than most people. This is quintessential Southern cuisine.

Dining at Milner’s makes for a fabulous evening. It rivals your grandmother’s kitchen. No doubt the Milners' new joint, Brothers Restaurant, will do wonders when it opens in Clemmons. I don’t miss Rock-Ola too much anymore.

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