In general, when a new restaurant takes over the space of an old one, the owner rushes to completely remodel the place. My congratulations go out to Tom Holmes, co-owner of The Pint in Millsboro (and of 1776 Steakhouse in Rehoboth Beach), for not doing that. The old Delaware Trust Bank building speaks for itself, and the physical changes made by the previous establishment (and the owners of the building) translate just as nicely to Tom's new restaurant. It is obvious, however, that he spent a lot of time on The Pint's menu, and I'm officially adding it to my short list of menus full of "stuff people like to eat."
For my first couple of visits, I was able to slip in unnoticed. One day for lunch I sat at the bar and started with the Loch Ness. The Pint's version of crab dip in a bread bowl stands out in the spice department, and it was delicious. My attempt at anonymity required that I not draw attention to myself by getting a photo, but now that this is written I can go back and get more pictures of the food.
On a second visit, we had the Irish Stew. I did get a picture when nobody was looking [left], and I have to say the stuff was delicious. This "stick-to-your-ribs" recipe is loaded with onions, potatoes, parsley, carrots and ground lamb. It was deliciously savory with just the right amount of spice to allow the lamb to shine through. I would get this one again in a minute.
Once I start taking photos, it's pretty obvious why I'm there, but by then the food is at the table and I can still be objective. One of the stars of the appetizer show at The Pint is the Dublin Cakes [pictured, right]. These remind me of my mother's ham croquettes that were standard fare after Easter, but rather than leftover ham in a slightly cheesy cream sauce, these little gems are made up of ground corned beef and swiss cheese. They are dredged in seasoned bread crumbs and fried to a golden crunchiness. With the thousand island dressing on the side, it's sort of like a reuben sandwich minus the sandwich part. They are filling, however, so order them to share.
Another must-get from the appetizer side are the equally filling Scottish Eggs [pictured, left]. The two massive orbs (order these to share also!) are nested on frizzled onions (the onions should be on the top, however, so they can stay crispy longer -- just sayin'...). By the way, a Scottish Egg is a hard boiled egg that is wrapped in a thin shell of sausage, dredged in something crispy and then fried [interior photo pictured right]. My other suggestion is that Tom could be a little more generous with the spicy whole-grain mustard. Three little dollops on the edge of the plate are very Iron Chef-ish, but it's not enough. The mustard pairs very well with the eggs, and there should be more of it -- perhaps in a 1 or 2 oz. ramekin on the side.
The Steamed Mussels were also a pleasant surprise, in a mild white wine/garlic sauce with bits of shallot and butter laced with curry. The generous (for $12.95) portion of happy bivalves paired well with the wine and the butter. This was another one we munched incognito on an earlier visit, so I don't have a photo yet. But I'll get one soon.
The mains lean in a decidedly English/Irish direction, with a tasty (and not too dry) Irish Soda Bread accompanying many of the dishes. The Cheshire Chicken [pictured, left] reminded us of Shepherd's Pie, but without the mashed potatoes on top. It's served en casserole, consisting of pulled chicken, caramelized onions and mushrooms in gravy, then topped with roasted garlic potatoes and bacon bits. Think deconstructed bacon/cheese potato skins. It is deliciously seasoned, very rich and well worth the $14.95 tariff. Don't plan to eat again for a while.
Whenever I try out a new restaurant, I like to see how they handle the basics. For Italian it's the parms and marinara. For deli it's the pastrami, pickles and the rye. For Mexican it's the salsa, burritos and enchiladas. For The Pint, it was the Fish & Chips and the Molly Maquire (your basic hamburger). The Fish & Chips [pictured, right] are the battered variety, but the batter is not too thick or bready. It's thin enough to fully coat the cod, yet remain firm to the tooth during the entire meal. Coated/seasoned fries accompany, along with lemon and tartar sauce. Nothing frilly, and if you like fish & chips, you'll like this.
In spite of the cute name, the hamburger [pictured, left] is straight-ahead and delicious. A generous 10 oz. grilled patty is crowned with cheese. Period. You can add bacon for a buck. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: It's all about the bun! I've had arm-wrestling matches with restaurants that proudly trot out a fresh, but very dense roll for their hamburgers. Sorry, but a too-firm, unyielding roll makes for a difficult bite as the contents either end up in your lap, or worse yet, are launched out of the back of the sandwich to put somebody's eye out. The roll at The Pint is of the kaiser persuasion with the exterior personality and pull of a traditional kaiser, but with a soft and yeasty inside that properly cradles its treasures to become an integral part of the sandwich. Again, crisp seasoned fries accompany.
The Pint had only been open for about a month before we visited, so a couple of glitches were to be expected. With all the high-tech restaurant POS software out there, there is no reason to have a "food auction" when multiple dishes arrive at the table. On our most recent visit, though our main server was excellent, one of the other waiters kindly acted as a runner. That was a good thing. The bad thing was that when he arrived, he had no idea where anything went, and even acted annoyed when we apparently couldn't read his mind as he stood there with the plates too high for us to see what they contained. This is a minor issue, but everyone in our party noticed it. Maybe this young man needs to be in a different line of work, but this momentary lapse in professionalism is no reason to avoid The Pint. In fact, I still awarded them a well-deserved "9" for service, as they appeared to be short-staffed and still handled the full restaurant very well. And the food's waayyy too good to let a possible one-time hiccup like this affect your mood.
By the way, I usually don't make a big deal about dessert, but the 'Shire Bread Pudding [pictured, right] is quite good. It's served warm, is quite firm and drizzled with the obligatory Irish whisky sauce. In spite of its surprising firmness, it is quite good and I'd order it again any time.
The Pint is at 303 Main St., just past the Georgia House and Blue Water Grill as you drive east through Millsboro. They are open 7 days: 3:30 - 10 Monday thru Wednesday; 11:30 - 10 Thursday thru Saturday; and 3:30 - 9 on Sunday. The wonderful bank vault is still there, and if the tucked-inside table is available, go for it. It's sort of fun, and there is a doorstop to keep you from being trapped until Monday morning when Mr. Mooney arrives for work.
Check out the menu here, and feel free to double-check the hours (this is Delaware, after all) by calling 302-934-5822. (L. (Thurs., Fri., Sat.), D, Bar) Price range: Moderate -.