Sometimes we get really lucky when we do a random web search for a restaurant. That’s what happened for us recently when our search landed on Riley’s Place in Milford.
Riley’s Place lives in a rustic tavern in an old addition on the back of the 200-year-old Colonel Shepard House, a short distance north of the Milford Oval.
As much a music venue as it is a restaurant, it’s been open just over a year. On the music side, the regular acts lean toward blues and classic rock. On the food side, the emphasis is on barbecue. And based on our first visit, both are pretty successful.
The tavern, with its log rafters and rough-sawn board paneling, is on two levels. The bar, with several tables as well as bar seating, is just inside the door. Down a few steps to the left is the main room, with the stage at the far end. Wooden benches line both side walls and tables and chairs fill the space.
When we stepped inside, the place seemed so busy we weren’t sure we’d be able to get a seat, but a staff member who was doing a little bit of everything spotted us and quickly showed us to a table for two on the side of the main room, a couple of tables away from the stage. (By the time we left, I became aware that those wooden benches could use a little padding — I started to think about asking Mrs. Gourmet if she wouldn’t mind switching seats for a while.)
After a few minutes of menu study (we suggest you use the online menu as a guide — the menus don’t quite match up) we decided on three dishes that we would share.
From the appetizer list we chose the fried pickles ($7). These weren’t the strongest dill pickles we’ve ever had, and they were cooked to a dark brown which seemed to mute the pickle flavor more. Still, they were tangy enough to be a good contrast to the rest of our dishes.
We also ordered a bowl of Riley’s Homemade Chili ($13.95). While the presentation didn’t quite match the menu description (rice on top rather than under the chili, and no corn bread), Mrs. G loved the chili, raving about the smokiness of the beef. I thought it was pretty mild, but she’s the award-winning chili cook, so I should defer.
Our third choice was the Bucket of Bones ($24.95) — a gallon-size pail containing a half-rack of ribs, Buffalo wings and french fries. (The menu mentioned cole slaw, which we never saw.) The ribs were terrific, not too saucy and with great smoky flavor.
The wings had a nice spice level, but again, not too saucy — and it seemed like the same sauce as the ribs, so to us it seemed a stretch to call them Buffalo wings.
We were plenty full when we surrendered and stopped picking at the Bucket of Bones, and we took home a foam container packed with leftovers.
We typically don’t linger long after we’ve finished a meal, but the music started just after we arrived, and we decided to stick around for a second round of drinks and a second set by Category 3, an acoustic trio featuring a guitarist and two female vocalists who were crushing everything from Led Zeppelin to Taylor Swift.
The value factor was good — our meals plus two beers came to about $66. Service was a bit slow on a busy night: Several people waited on us, and the whole staff was straight out; as we left, our primary server, who seated us in the first place, was working behind the bar.
From the restaurant standpoint, there were a couple of minor misses, but the food was good, the environment was comfortable and friendly, and the music was great.
Our chance discovery of Riley’s Place turned into a fun evening out, and we will definitely be back.