Walking into Millie’s is like walking into your (very stylish) friend’s house, the big front windows make their space bright and airy, the chairs are comfy, the atmosphere is beyond friendly, and the smell of food and great coffee greet you (as will Jen and Courtney, the owners) before you even get two steps through the front door! As someone with a long history in the hospitality business, my impression was that Jen and Courtney were absolutely meant to be in this business.
Jen O’Branovich and Courtney Sargent met a number of years ago and currently live in Madison, but they want to move out to the Cambridge area soon. They’ve worked together at different restaurants/bars/event centers over the years (oh—and they got married along the way). They both agreed early on that their shared love of the hospitality industry would culminate in owning an event center or restaurant of their own someday. Before they opened Millie’s (which is the name of Courtney’s grandma) they were working at the Cambridge Winery, which allowed them the opportunity to establish some roots within that community. They are 100% “people people,” and both possess the industry acumen/moxie it takes to run a successful eatery.
On the night of our interview, they were running a taco special (beef or vegetarian). It was a Thursday, so that meant it was the night they stayed open later (until 7) and people were stopping in to get food or have a drink and relax after work. Nearly everyone that came in was greeted by name, and most stopped by our table to check in with Jen and Courtney (Millie’s really feels like an upscale version of your neighborhood diner or pub, everyone knows everyone else). You would never know that they’d only been open for three weeks!
I was very impressed with their philosophy around hiring queer young folx from their community and paying them a living wage. Additionally, they feature art for sale by local artists. They also feel very strongly about sourcing as much of their menu from local and organic suppliers as possible—I ordered a bottle of local elderberry/cherry kombucha that was delightful! They get their beans from JBC in Madison, and the list of local food purveyors, such as Big Punch Farms of Edgerton, and Old Stone Farms in Cambridge, is too long to list, but just believe me when I say it was impressive. Courtney proudly tells me, “Our motto is Exceptional Food and Coffee to Fuel Exceptional People,” and that is so spot on!
Thanks to Courtney’s talent in the kitchen, the menu varies from day to day. Interestingly enough, when I asked what was one of their hottest menu items, they said it was their avocado crumpet. Ok, I’ll bite… It’s a crumpet (Google it if you’re not in the know) topped with avocado mash, house-made pickled onions, roasted tomatoes, and their superseed mix. You can take this next level by adding bacon and/or an egg. Basically, nearly everything on their menu is made in-house and is fresh, fresh, fresh! From the party potatoes to the salads and sandwiches, their menu has something for nearly everyone (unless you like dull and lifeless food, then maybe not so much). Also notable, they offer both wine and beer if you’re in that kind of a mood.
Millie’s is housed inside of Galleria 214, which hosts a handful of other local (mostly women-owned) businesses. Inside of this beautifully restored historical building, there is an indoor courtyard that Millie’s uses if larger groups stop by (the courtyard is really amazing). They offer eat-in or carry-out food and drink options and also have plenty of indoor space for private parties (and in the warm months, they also offer patio seating outdoors).
I’ll leave you with this thought. Jen and Courtney are awesome. They are very committed to their community. They were super-bold to open a place like this during a pandemic. Go there. Put their delicious drinks and food offerings in your mouth! Cambridge is ridiculously close to Madison, and there are so many things to do and experience after your meal at Millie’s. Make it a day trip, bring the family, and support our queer neighbors doing really great things for their community.
J Moe is the proud owner of Simply Served Personal Chef Service and also works at Edgewood College in science outreach. They’re nonbinary, and happily living as one of the village people (of McFarland). They love eating good food, discussing good food, making good food, and of course, writing about good food. Their pets are great, and they are dating a lovely human who also uses they/them pronouns because they like keeping our people on their toes. They gave up serious in lieu of fun a few years ago and have never looked back.