FOOD REVIEW: The Peppermill
Outdated atmosphere, unimaginative American mainstay dishes, affordable prices, interesting after dinner drink selection.
In the restaurant industry there are a number of paths to take in order to stand the test of time.
You can hire a chef who is constantly looking to adapt and evolve with the culinary scene and gain a reputation as a progressive eatery, or you can take the route of The Peppermill and tie some cement boots to your culinary journey. With it's convenient location just off York Road, this American fare eatery proves that you can hang around a long time if you never change a thing—that is, if you know who to cater to.
The first thing you'll notice when you enter The Peppermill is the clientele. I don't want to be ageist here, but all I'll say is that when the number of fake hips in a room approaches the number of real ones then there is a certain trend developing.
It comes as no surprise then that the décor reminded me of an armory dining hall. The colors are bland. The decorations are non-threatening. The whole place is brightly lit with frivolous free-standing plants that try to create some sort of separation without actually blocking the customers across the dining room from listening in on your conversation. As we were walking to our table I couldn't help feeling like I was about to spend my evening dining in a giant manila envelope.
Our menus echoed in bland unison with the décor. Mostly the fare consisted of American classics that were generally targeted at a lowest common denominator clientele with really very little adventure to be found—crab cakes, prime rib, shrimp cocktail, etc. That's not to say I'm too cool to eat a good steak or that I wouldn't sleep on a pillow made of crab cake if I could, I'd just appreciate the effort to offer some alternative options as well.
Looking at this menu, the only adventurous dishes I found were clearly targeted at a specific market such as the sautéed calves liver, or the sour beef and dumplings. (By specific I mean patrons who may or may not have attended junior high with Woodrow Wilson.)
While I know I've spent a lot of time throwing stones here, in all fairness I have to admit the food was technically very good. By that I mean to say that the meat was cooked properly, the fish was flakey and not too dry. While my cream of crab soup was a little on the gluey side for my taste, it was still full of crab meat and relatively tasty. I hate to keep wiping my feet on the same rug, but again the food just felt too safe. Even the sides that were offered, such as stewed tomatoes and creamed spinach, screamed for some sort of flare that make you realize you aren't eating in a hospital bed.
Luckily for me, the drink selection at The Peppermill at least helps make up for the atmosphere. The wine list is very limited, but the selections are relatively cheap. And at The Peppermill it is clear that quantity equals quality as the drinks are poured strong and tall—another tally in the positive category. The highlight of the night (read: surprise) was the selection of signature after-dinner drinks such as the Carrot Cake Irish Coffee or the Mocha Latte Martini.
As expected for a restaurant catering to the wallets of an older crowd, the prices at The Peppermill are very reasonable. Most entrees will run you between $15-20, and appetizers or dessert will only tack on a few extra bucks. All said, a night at The Peppermill shouldn't break your bank account and you will generally leave very full.
Part of me wants to think I'm being a little harsh on The Peppermill as the truth is they are just trying to feed their customers and provide an eating experience that is satisfactory, but in the end that is exactly why this place rubs me the wrong way.
I'm all for finding your niche, but when finding your niche means abandoning all ambition to be original, aside from a few dessert drinks, then I tend to be put off. The Peppermill for me is the restaurant equivalent of Michael Cera—harmlessly plain, outlandishly boring, just barely good looking enough to not turn away, and hopelessly intent on doing the exact same thing that kind of worked years ago.
Editor's Note: The author is 22 years old.