What’s good here?
Ask owner John Clinger what’s good at his Old Mill Brewpub, and the answer you get will be straightforward and simple: the food and the beer.
In terms of the food, the burgers can’t be denied (some have been voted Columbia’s best burgers, Clinger said) but the menu has some other standouts that can’t be overlooked.
“Although our signature burgers seem to always top our best-sellers, our shaved prime rib sandwiches are a close second,” he said.
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The Elvis Presley is shaved prime rib served with caramelized onions and blue cheese crumbles and topped with horseradish mayo, while Brewpub’s P Snoodler has provolone, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and a side of au jus. The fish and chips, shrimp and grits, blackened chicken Alfredo and chicken (or salmon) piccata are also popular orders. Frequently ordered appetizers include the Buffalo chicken dip and a crab pretzel – homemade crab dip piped onto a large soft pretzel and oven baked.
When it comes to the beer, Old Mill’s microbrewery, run by brewer Matt Rogers, offers a selection of three craft beers that rotate regularly. Currently featured are a Blowfish Island Brown Ale, Coffee Stout and Strawbaby Wheat – the newest seasonal small batch, which uses 100 pounds of local organic strawberries from Watsonia Farms in Monetta. That’s a pound of strawberries per gallon of beer. Earlier this spring, Rogers was brewing Spillway IPA, Dark Chocolate Stout Nitro and customer favorite Pineapple Kolsch, which included pineapples grilled in-house. In the fall, Rogers brewed an Imperial Pumpkin Porter with pumpkins from his own farm. Rogers also grows his own hops and uses them for Old Mill brewing.
“These ideas come to him, and I don’t question it because he has the Midas Touch with beer,” Clinger said. “Everything he comes up with makes sense.”
If one of the three featured beers brewed in-house doesn’t match your taste, customers can choose from one of nearly two dozen beers on tap.
Old Mill also features a variety of entertainment options, including “Shag & Beach” on the outside deck and Brewpub trivia every Tuesday evening. Wednesday features team bingo while Columbia DJ Red Fraley rolls out the beats every Thursday. Different local bands take the stage weekend evenings during the month of June, with upcoming performances including Flooded Vessels (June 19) and Touch of April (June 20).
Old Mill will also hold its third annual Brewpub Games from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8, during which drinkers and diners can compete for prizes in classic pub games for a cost of $40 per person (which includes food and beverages).
How did Old Mill Brewpub get its start?
After starting his restaurant career in food service at age 14 as a dishwasher in 1976 in Potomac, Md., Clinger managed several restaurants before opening his first tavern, Clinger’s Tavern, in Hanover, Pa., in 1996. That’s where he met, hired and eventually married his wife, Kelly. The two then opened Clinger’s Public House in Harrisburg, Pa., in 2001 and eventually sold both operations to move to South Carolina, where John would become director of operations of a restaurant chain. In March 2013, the couple decided together to open Old Mill Brewpub.
What does the place look like?
Not much interior decoration work is needed for a restaurant housed inside a beautifully renovated 125-year-old cotton mill with hand-hewn beams and exposed brick walls. Old Mill’s interior is perhaps most aptly described as sophisticated rustic with an exposed huge, solid copper duct system extending through the dining room, craftsman-style stained chandeliers and intricate metal-cut wall art. The brewery’s three-and-a-half-barrel stainless-steel brewhouse and seven-barrel fermenters are housed inside, as well. The back of the restaurant opens to a large covered and uncovered outdoor dining area overlooking Lexington Mill Pond. The restaurant also includes a private room with seating for up to 30 people for private celebrations or business functions.
Who eats here?
Though the restaurant is, in fact, a brewpub, the atmosphere is family-friendly, as is the menu, which features a range of $5 kids’ meals.
“From 5 to 95 – we get everyone in between and enjoy the fact that they all return,” Clinger said.
Janet Jones Kendall
Old Mill Brewpub
711 E. Main St., Lexington
HOURS: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight, Friday and Saturday.
PRICES: Prices range from $7.50 for a BLT or veggie pita to $15 for a Brewpub steak or shrimp and grits, with appetizers ranging from $6 (fry baskets) to $11 (crabcakes). Kids’ meals are $5 and come with a side and a drink.
INFO: 803-785-BEER (2337).