Set in the small village of Clifton northeast of Dayton (south of Springfield), Clifton Mill is a working mill that is probably best known for its Christmas light display. However, there is also a restaurant inside that features pretty good breakfast selections. I had eaten there before, but it had been quite a while, so I decided to try out their lunch fare.
front of the mill
The original mill was built way back in 1802, and provided grain grinding services to local farmers. Today it still grinds grain, some of which is offered in the gift shop.
While I have some nice memories of eating at the Clifton Mill Restaurant back when I was in college, as I said, I hadn't eaten here in quite some time. I decided to stop by with my family and try a burger. We went in the afternoon on a Sunday, at around 2 PM. There was 1 person in line before us, and about half of the tables were occupied. Our experience was rather poor, to say the least, because we ended up waiting nearly 45 minutes before our food came. That's a bit too long to wait with kids, and it was much longer than we expected. Food was decent, and portions were a little smaller than expected. Management gave us 15% off the check, which was appreciated, but I still think we should have been notified up front to expect a long wait, and not just left to become disgruntled.
On the plus side, there is an outdoor viewing area that lets you have a nice view of the covered bridge, the river, water wheel, etc.
view of the rear of the mill
I thought that perhaps early Sunday afternoons are just too busy, so I decided to go back and give it a second try on a weekday at about 3:30 in the afternoon. I decided to make things simple, and just grab a burger with a friend. This time there was no wait at all to be seated, and all but 2 of the tables were empty. Unfortunately, the table we were seated at was sticky, and the waitress was not very apologetic when I asked her to clean the stickiness off or seat us at another table. In addition to this, the place had a fly problem. I realize it is difficult to completely keep flies out in the summer, but everywhere I looked I could see 2 or 3 flies. One kept landing on my arm, which was also annoying, since I don't go to restaurants and hope that I get to swat flies while I wait for the food. I'm hoping they have since fumigated the place.
I enjoy burgers quite a bit. On my first visit, I ordered the angus beef burger for 8 bucks. Adding the fries was another $1.75, cheese another buck, and tomato and onion 45 cents each. So that $8 burger became almost 10 bucks with cheese, tomato and onion. Thankfully, the lettuce was no extra charge, and I was allowed to put on as much catsup as I wanted without an additional fee. Yes, I'm being a little sarcastic here, but in truth I did feel a little bit "nickel and dimed". The burger was very good, however.
half pound buffalo burger
On my second visit, I went with the half pound buffalo burger for $9.25. Since I wanted a bit more, I elected to get a pasta salad instead of the fries. It turned out to be the tiniest "pasta salad" that I had ever seen in my life - about 3 inches across, and maybe 4 ounces. Again, the cheese on the burger added a buck, and the onion and tomato about half a buck, bringing the price up to over 11 dollars. The burger was cooked just the way I like it, and it was very juicy, not dry like another buffalo burger I had eaten elsewhere. The total wait for the food to come this time was about 20 minutes.
I'm left with mixed feelings after eating here. I'd say don't visit on a Sunday, especially if you have young kids. I'm hoping the fly issue was just temporary, and no longer a problem. The breakfast menu is probably the big draw, since it is less expensive, with variety, and some of the offerings will really fill you up. The lunch menu is a bit sparse though, and the amount you receive is somewhat on the small side. I would really like to see them add meals to the menu that have everything included for one price. Keep in mind that the cost of drinks (pop, etc.) can add up quickly here. When I looked over the receipt later, I saw that about $6 had been added for pop, which only 1 person at the table had ordered. The pop was supposed to be about $2, so all I can figure out is that they must have charged the full price every time a waitress came by and asked if a refill was desired.
On the way out of the place, I grabbed a menu and noticed that Clifton Mill is selling wine with their name on the label. I remembered seeing that there is a local winery nearby, and asked if they obtained the wine there, or if they actually owned the winery. The lady told me that the wine is actually from California, and they just put their label on it. I'll give them points for honesty, but anyone thinking they are buying locally produced wine will be sorely disappointed. Hopefully they can work some cross promotion out with the local winery, or at least start selling one from Ohio.
Just a couple of blocks west of the restaurant you will find a parking lot for Clifton Gorge State Park. It offers a very nice, mostly shaded walk with a lot of informative signs along the path, and some very nice photo opportunities.
the nearby Clifton Gorge State Park
Bottom Line: visit for the Christmas light show or the view, but avoid Sunday early afternoons. If money's not an issue, plunk down $27 for their "Big Breakfast", which will easily serve 3 people. There's no way you'll go home hungry after ordering that one!
location: 75 Water Street Clifton, Ohio 45316
hours: Sun. 8-5, Mon.-Thur. 9-4, Fri. 9-8, Sat. 8-8
telephone: (937) 767-5501
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