Ellie’s of Yellow Springs: a breath of southern charm

Sweet Tea Salmon Brûlée from Ellie’s Restaurant

By Paula Johnson

If this were summer, I could see sitting in a white rocking chair and fanning myself against the humidity on the wide gracious veranda of The Mills Park Hotel. Sipping some sweet tea, I can almost hear the slow melodic cadence of someone asking, “Y’all ready for another glass?” OK—so it wasn’t summer when I visited Ellie’s at The Mills Park Hotel, but I can tell you that the place fairly oozes Southern charm and hospitality, bless its heart. Despite being decked out for the holidays and the thermometer registering barely 30, I swear I was a little flushed.

South For Your Mouth

Take the menu for instance, which is chock full of Southern favorites like Hoppin’ John, Southern Style Pulled Pork, Shellfish and Grits, and Southern Pimento Dip. Then there’s the Sweet Tea Salmon Brûlée. Croutons on the Caesar are made from cornbread, and collard greens and Carolina Gold rice are side dishes, so it’s certain you’ll feel some Dixie in this dining room. The 28-room hotel itself is new, built in 2015, but looks mid to late 1800’s. It was modeled after the 19th-century home of William Mills, a local settler who is also the namesake of Mills Lawn Elementary School. Ellie’s serves breakfast, lunch, brunch, and dinner Wednesday through Saturday. There’s a coffee bar with baked goods as well, with everything baked in house.

I began my dinner meeting some DCP friends with a wonderful signature cocktail, the Blushing Sarah ($7.00), made with pomegranate liquor, triple sec, champagne, and orange juice. Festive and perfect with a holiday feel, I hope this one stays around for warmer weather. We quickly honed in on a pair of appetizers and soups to start. The Mini Crab Cakes ($16.00) on a bed of micro kale and drizzled with homemade remoulade and Fried Green Tomatoes ($8.00) served with buttermilk green goddess sauce were well executed with good quality ingredients. I was impressed with this opening, and with the menu’s claim that most everything, including dressing and sauce, is prepared   in Ellie’s kitchen. The soups were equally as good, a French Onion, and the soup of the evening, a rich Lobster Bisque. I added a Wedge Salad ($5.00), their version made with local hydroponic butter crunch lettuce, a nice step up from run of the mill iceburg. 

Ellie’s dozen entree offerings are seasonal and largely regional. The most unusual entree was most definitely the Roasted White Pheasant ($28.00), seared crisp and served with garlic confit pan sauce with garlic Yukon gold mashed potatoes and green beans. Savory and flavorful, it’s a perfect cold weather comfort stick-to-your ribs dish. I was hesitant on the Sweet Tea Salmon Brûlée ($25.00), Norwegian salmon glazed with a sweet tea reduction, fearing it would be cloying and overwhelming. Instead, the tea imparted only a hint of flavor and sweetness, and didn’t choke the natural sweetness of the perfectly cooked fish. We also tried Southern Style Pulled Pork ($15.00), nicely presented over cornbread with collard greens and really delicious fresh coleslaw. We sampled both house made BBQ sauce choices, a traditional and my favorite, the tangy Carolina style. Our conclusion was unanimous—there was nothing on the table we didn’t like a lot, and wouldn’t order again.

Taking The Cake

Despite the full meal, I wanted to see if Ellie’s kept with the Southern theme for dessert, and indeed they did. What’s more Southern than Coconut Layer Cake ($7.00), a tall, multi-layered affair with creamy icing? Ellie’s serves one that’s a nod to the famous sky-high version found at Charleston’s Peninsula Grille. So good, as was the Eggnog flavored cheesecake, and one of the tastiest Key Lime pies I’ve had anywhere. 

I do declare Ellie’s a breath of fresh warm Southern air, and y’all should stop on in and enjoy their hospitality. Don’t wait for the porch to open. I certainly won’t—I’m already fixin’ to visit again.

Ellie’s Restaurant is located in the Mills Park Hotel at 321 Xenia Avenue in Yellow Springs. For more information please visit MillsParkHotel.com/Ellies or call 937.319.0402.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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