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100 unsexiest men 2009

Growing pains

Stick with the beer at the Run of the Mill brewpub
By BRIAN DUFF  |  March 25, 2009

TASTE A FLIGHT Sampling Run of the Mill's beer selection. CREDIT REBECCA GOLDFINE 

I hardly need to remind you of the dangers of expanding liberalism. While conservatives will screw you if they can, liberals will track you down to stick it to you.

RUN OF THE MILL | 100 Main St, Saco | daily 11:30 am-1 am | Visa/MC/Amex/Disc | 207.571.9648

For example, George W. Bush merely encouraged us to join the "ownership society" by investing in overvalued homes. Barack Obama's bank plan guarantees that we will all find ourselves on the hook.  Run of the Mill, a new brewpub in Saco from the folks who run the Liberal Cup in Hallowell, repeats the lesson on a smaller scale. Liberal's virtues dissipate with the expansion. Run of the Mill foists mediocre food and service upon a captive audience.

It's a shame because the place has some real potential. If the cozy Liberal Cup in Hallowell feels old-world English, the expansive new pub is old-world Maine. Housed in an old mill in the middle of the Saco River, the huge space, with lots of brick and salvaged wood, is impressive — though breaking it up into four rooms diminishes the effect a bit. They take advantage of their ample space to brew beers on site. And if it is beer you are after, Run of the Mill is actually terrific. They offer 20 ounces for just $3.50, and you can sample all seven available brews on any given night for just $5.50. The State Budget Ale was spicy with a pleasant clove aftertaste. A reddish Chazmo Altbier was light and just a bit lemony. The stout was mild, though with a good strong aftertaste, and less off-puttingly thick than many versions. We preferred the more traditional Impact Pale to the very tart and bitter Cask Kicker IPA. The Bug Lager was light and refreshing.

It's with the food that Run of the Mill lives up to its name. It's a pretty standard pub menu, and quite affordable with generally good portions. But the execution is hit-or-miss. One would expect the beer-steamed mussels at a brewpub to stand out, for example. But what arrived was a big dull bowl of mollusks with no notable herbs and a flavorless broth. The crab cakes were a bit better. They were sort of wet and mushy, but because they were not over-breaded you could appreciate the crab and garlic.

The entrées were where things really went wrong. A grilled salmon focaccia involved lots of bread and little fish. The pink meat covered with a lemony aioli was fine in itself, but easily lost amid the bread and the pile of salad that made up the rest of the sandwich. The meatloaf entrée was a somewhat better. The meat was finely ground and well-seasoned, though it was hard to notice the spinach and cheese with which it was "stuffed." This was probably in part due to the ample gravy, which swamped the plate. The bacon that wrapped the meatloaf could have been crisper. Fries and garlic mashed potatoes were just fine.

But the real disaster was the steak with crab sauce we ordered from the chalkboard specials. Ordered medium, it arrived rare, which only helped clarify that it was not the sort of steak you enjoy rare. The sauce was cool and dull. Sent back, the same meat returned quickly, still just as rare and inedible. Our waitperson, noting the bright-red uneaten steak at the end of our meal, chuckled and said, "I guess the kitchen is really serious about rare steak!" We were charged for the dish.

That sort of incompetence is what makes a potentially pleasant, if unremarkable, place hard to bear. But it was hopping on a Wednesday night, which indicated the pub-starved people of Saco and Biddeford are resigned to their fate. So must we resign ourselves to paying for Obama's misguided bailouts of irresponsible bankers. While the cost of that decision will only get worse, Run of the Mill, at least, will look better in the summer, when you can have a beer on their patio and watch the sun set over the rest of the mill. If industrial decay can look that good, maybe we should let the banks fail and turn them into brewpubs.

Brian Duff can be reached at

Related: Drink in the season, All-night feast, Honky tonk blues, More more >
  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Barack Obama, Beer, Beverages,  More more >
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