I know it seems as though I am suddenly writing about eating out in Barberton quite a bit lately, but I had quite a few photos queued up that I haven't had a chance to get to until now. It has been probably 20 years since I had a chance to eat at one of Barberton's famous chicken houses and I just happened to be passing through one Friday evening about a month ago and decided to give it another try. My memories from two decades ago remind me that this isn't a fancy place, but a family friendly, and hopefully a tasty one.
So I pulled into Milich's Village Inn (4444 South Cleveland-Massillon Road, Barberton, OH 44203, 330-825-4553) on a Friday evening around 7 pm to find the place was nearly packed. Fortunately, I had arrived as most people were finishing their meals and leaving, so a table opened up fairly quickly. Now I had come here with the intention of getting the fried chicken (their specialty). However, it being a Friday night, there was an all-you-can-eat fried haddock meal on the menu for under $10.
Considering the fact that they were infamous for their fried chicken, I decided for some reason to transfer this accolade to their fried fish. I ordered it with mashed potatoes and gravy, cole slaw, and hot sauce. If you'll remember from my post at the Chicken Manor Restaurant in North Canton, I first talked about hot sauce. Essentially it is rice cooked in a tomato sauce with peppers and onions and is, as the name suggests, spicy.
First the bread was brought to the table. Clearly nothing fancy ... two slices of white, two slices of rye.
Although my server warned me that my fish might take a while, it wasn't fairly long after I received my bread that I received my entree:
Cole slaw on the upper left, hot sauce on the upper right, and fish on the bottom. A shot of the mashed potatoes is next:
Now, before I talk about how the food tasted, I wanted to point out that the fish on the plate were not the nice, neat, whole filets, carefully breaded and deep-fried. Here is a slightly closer look at what showed up on my plate:
It was as if when they put my plate together, I just got the dregs that were at the bottom of the fryer baskets. The presentation was AWFUL. To top it off, when I asked for a side of tartar sauce, this is what I received:
PACKETS of tartar sauce?
Look. I'm not trying to be all froo-froo here and expect that I'm going to be served from a silver platter while asking the table next to me for the Grey Poupon. But honestly, the whole thing felt "cheap". I know that many a restaurant will take the LARGE bottle of tartar sauce and distribute it into smaller portioned cups for service and that the tartar sauce is the same whether it comes in a little cup or out of some packets. Similarly, had I ordered a side salad, I would have my choice of a variety of dressings, all of which come in individually wrapped packets. My point here is that it amazes me how restaurants will make it a point to talk about family-style or homemade or yada, yada, yada, but then skimp when it comes to other areas.
Anyway, back to the taste. The cole slaw was okay. It was a vinegar based slaw and had a nice balance between acid, sweet, and salt. The mashed potatoes and gravy were nicely seasoned. The hot sauce, in my opinion, was probably the best thing on the plate. It had a bolder flavor then the version from Chicken Manor and actually had a nice heat to it. The one thing on that plate that absolutely fell short was the fish. Because I had gotten a lot of end pieces, which are thinner than the middle of the filet, they were overcooked and dry. I did have a few mid-section filets and while they were moist, it struck me as just average.
When I went to pay at the counter, I noticed it was sitting directly in front of the kitchen. I asked my cashier if they knew what kind of fat they fried in. He replied, "Lard." This kind of surprised me as I didn't think anyone fried in lard anymore. I will say that I don't think the fish had any kind of off-flavoring from the cooking oil, so maybe that was because of the lard.
The final thing I'll say about Milich's is that while I was standing at the cash register looking into the kitchen behind it, the one thing that stood out to me was how dirty it was. Fried stuff in baskets, on the counters, on the floor. And I don't mean sitting in containers. Clearly, clean as you go is not a mantra that this kitchen adheres to. I'll admit that by the time I left, most of the dinner crowd had come and gone. However, a clean kitchen is a safer kitchen. Personally, I don't think I would've wanted to work in that kitchen.