What started as a much smaller cafe in less than half the space it now occupies, Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks is now the live and beating heart of downtown Millheim. Located on Main Street at the only light in town, what hasn’t changed is that you will still be treated like a good friend who is welcome to sit and chill, enjoy a meal or sip your drink as long as you like as you watch the Amish buggies clip and clop past the big picture windows.
The days and hours they are open are a bit odd (closed Mondays & Tuesdays, no lunch Wed & Thur) and there are also different bands featured to perform in the main dining area many evenings so check the web page and FaceBook page. Parking is on the street or behind the building.
What does this small town brew pub have to offer a vegetarian? Plenty! It’s exciting to say they have always had a nice vegetarian sandwich or two and a vegan hummus plate. Now I can add they are dedicated to all of that plus a vegan entrée and vegetarian soup choice every evening meal. Sitting at a high top table or on one of the elevated stages with good food and a local drink makes anybody, loner or huge family, feel like they belong at the Elk Creek Cafe. They feature Tait Farm Shrubs and local wines as well as their own established list of beers.
The food menu, self dubbed Nouveau Dutchie Cuisine™, is dedicated to fresh, local foods and we have enjoyed many a wonderful soup and “vegan bowl” with a house crafted micro brew. On our last visit, we started with some of the Belgian Cut Fries with the Tabasco Catsup & Aioli and shared a bowl of the vegetarian soup of the day, a vegan Watermelon Gazpacho!
The soup, as are ALL of their vegetarian soups, was crazy good. It was super chilled and had a great balance of tangy sweetness with onion in it’s to the deep pink broth. A thin chiffonade of flat leaf parsley added contrasting color as did the large halved blue berries that were floating in it. We both agreed that the little cubes of watermelon may have been marinated. We detected a bit of basil along with the peppery mustard seed we found on the bottom of the bowl.
We typically choose not to go when a band is scheduled because we like to chat and enjoy our meal. The dining area wasn’t full but about 1/3 of the 30 tables were being served in the cheery glow of the bright walls. We enjoyed peering around at the artwork of the month as we dipped our fries and sipped our soup. I even used my iTouch to pop online and touch base with Arron, just back from Japan. The Wi-Fi is free and no tvs even near the 16 seats at the bar to distract from the warm and woody ambiance of the place. I could hear a large meeting or gathering in the separate back dining area but it wasn’t keeping the wait staff from being on top of what we had ordered.
Our salads were served next. I got my favorite Roasted Beet + Fennel Salad and Jim ordered the vegan special of the day, the Tomato Panzanella Salad. Both were served with generous portions of tasty mixed lettuces and thinly sliced red onions in large shallow bowls. Jim’s was dressed with a sharp red wine vinegar which offset the sweet hunks of local tomato and saturated the large soft croutons. He loved the hint of dill he would taste with every other mouthful.
I just can’t get enough of the roasted beets nestled in those same greens and coated with a delicate grapefruit dressing. The sweet bites of mild and crunchy fennel are a wonderful counterpoint to the pieces of radish and red onion. It’s that little bit of fennel seed (caraway?) that makes me sit up and take notice and keeps me ordering it almost every time.
Over the years we have enjoyed tempeh sandwiches, quinoa and greens, mushroom soup with truffles oil, red beet latkes, artisan cheese and fruit plates and many a pint of good beer at Elk Creek Cafe. I cannot think of any meal I have not enjoyed every bite of and that includes their Sunday brunches (I dream about the tofu scramble and crispy potatoes.) Service can be a little slow at times but it’s not that any employee is dawdling. If you look around the staff are hustling to meet everyone’s needs and that includes knowing or being at the ready to check if a menu item is vegan or vegetarian, they care to know. We have taken family and friends, large groups and snuck off just the two of us, we have come for the bands and for the beer. Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks has never let us down.