I didn’t mean to get wasted at 1 PM on a Saturday. I only had one drink, but not only is the frosé at Millie’s incredibly strong—it is a mix of vodka, wine, and sugar, after all—but there’s something like a tear in the space-time continuum here, a suspension of reality.
One drink is not just one drink because you’re not even really you anymore, you’re the fun, carefree you, transported light-years away from DC and plopped down someplace where the hair is blown out and the limbs Hamptons-tan, a place where people probably use the phrase “island time” unironically.
That is the point of Millie’s, after all.
The Spring Valley spot is the brainchild of Bo Blair, the preppy overlord of a Northwest fiefdom that includes spots like Jettie’s and Surfside (and formerly the now-defunct Smith Point, the HQ for the WASP-y glitterati of the Bush Twins Era). This DC Millie’s is an offshoot of Blair’s original Millie’s, which sits nestled on that remote stretch of New England land that swoops upward through the sea like a patrician nose—Nantucket.
And yes, because this is affluent, polished Spring Valley (where the median estimated home value is over $1.6 million), many of the families who frequent this Millie’s have been to the original Nantucket Millie’s because, you know, that’s where well-to-do people go when it gets hot.
Speaking of hot: Not only are the female patrons at Millie’s successful, well-known DCites, they’re also really, really freaking attractive. So much so that their presence has resulted in a new moniker for the spot: MILFie’s.
So, whence the moniker? I spoke with several women who are frequent Millie’s customers—almost all had heard of the nickname, but no one knew who’d come up with it. (“Probably Bo,” one DC woman muses.) It’s an urban legend not unlike that of the Loch Ness monster, rising from the murky deep—well, if the Loch Ness monster sported a Cartier love bracelet and Solidcore abs, that is.
But, perhaps more important, what comprises the anthropological make-up of MILFie-us familiaris? Is one simply born into this tribe, a manifest destiny written into the DNA spirals in-utero? Or is it a title earned, a looming, vine-covered temple one hacks one’s way toward machete-like?
Park at the MILFie’s bar and you’ll see them in action, the jungle come to life: the women in chic midiskirts and Goyard totes herding kids through the ice cream line (where even the blueberry flavor isn’t just blueberry, it’s Maine blueberry); the women out to a girl’s night and raising wine glasses with Barre 3-toned arms (Caroline’s class, please); the women chatting about their kids at St. Patricks or Beauvoir while scanning the menu (a marg and a Lobb Salad, hold the potatoes).
“When our patio’s jumping, we have a capacity of over 100 people that can be on [it], and it’s sort of a place to see-and-be-seen,” he says. “It’s definitely who’s who at times.”
Clearly you’re not just going there for the $27 salad—no way, man. You’re also going there for the lifestyle, the smile-and-nod, the air kisses and chit-chat. So, of course, a mom’s gotta look good.
“[Depending on] where they’re coming from or what time of day, they’re going to be in like, their Lululemon uniform or they’re going to be in their more dressed-up way,” says a 41-year-old woman who lives in Georgetown and goes to Millie’s at least once a month.
She pauses. “It’s so casual, but even when you’re dressed like you’re not trying, you’re still trying, you know what I mean? Like, you know you’re wearing sneakers, but they’re $500 sneakers, you know?”
“We’re members of the George Town Club. It’s almost like [the same vibe at Millie’s],” continues the Georgetown mom.
“When you’re walking through there, you have to stop and say hi because you’ll know someone at this table, and then you’ll walk and see someone else,” she continues. “Then you sit down and someone walks by and then someone says ‘Oh, did you hear that story about so-and-so?’”
“[That] anxiety comes back for me, you know, like where to sit and the cool kids and I’m not cool,” says a 45-year-old TV news personality who lives in Bethesda and frequently goes to Millie’s. “It’s that Spring Valley like, popular girl clique. Like the moms with the Range Rovers and the big diamonds and the Thursdays at SoulCycle, you know?”
She recently met some friends for dinner there after an exercise class, and she instantly regretted showing up sans-makeup and in her sweaty workout clothes “because everyone is checking you out,” she says.
“They’re all doing that, like, high school what’s she wearing? You know, oh, I know her, she’s the mom from whatever,” she says. “They’re talking to you, but their eyes are like, beyond you checking out the next table.”
Now to be fair: Millie’s is a public establishment in DC, and certainly not all of its customers are of the Tuckernuck-wearing, Land Rover-driving variety.
Like most places in Washington, there are all kinds of folks. It’s just that Millie’s has more of said Land Rover Tribe than most places, especially in a city whose restaurant boom is more associated with the electric-scooter set.
“I mean, if you go to Le Diplomate, you’re going to see somebody you know if you’re from DC, right? But it might be someone from the store you like to go to or your office or the person that’s your uncle’s buddy. There’s a diversity to the people you know in parts of DC,” says the Bethesda woman.
“But Millie’s—there’s no other place like it because you’ve taken your neighborhood and picked it up and put it in a restaurant form. I can’t think of another place like that with—I’m just going to say it—the whitest, most upper-class, middle-class cross-section of people. I mean, it just is.”
Spring Valley is objectively a beautiful place—the stately homes leaning into one another, the lawns tidy and proper, the thick greenery of trees in summertime closing overhead like an exhale.
If you head there on a nice night and see folks walking down 49th or 48th Streets with dogs and strollers and babies in-tow, they’re probably going to grab dinner or take-out at Millie’s (Dana Bash, Kate Bennett, and Susanna Quinn have all been spotted there).
Or they’re going to the Pizzeria Paradiso or Compass Coffee that recently opened next-door, in part due to Millie’s success at revitalizing the shopping strip, the neighborhood’s ANC Commissioner Troy Kravitz tells me (he, too, is aware of the MILFie’s nickname, just FYI).
The strip wasn’t always a fine-dining destination. Designated a historic site, the shopping center was built in the 1930s and included an outpost of Garfinckel’s department store, a bank, and a gas station, the latter of which serves as Millie’s site today.
(In between gas station and Nantucket-inspired restaurant, the spot was a rotisserie chicken place called Chicken Out, and one can’t help but think of the golden birds when watching its now similarly bronze-hued patrons settle in.)
But today, the area is its own bustling village, almost Stepford-like in its tranquility, and there in its midst sits Millie’s, holding court with its picnic tables and string lights and music wafting out from raised walls of windows as the frozen drink machine purrs like a fat, sun-drunk cat.
The frosé is cold, and it feels good going down the back of your throat. If you have enough, you can look up at the sky and almost spot the rarest of city things—stars.
Or maybe it’s just the string lights.
A version of this story appears in the October 2019 issue of Washingtonian.
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Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She previously was the editorial assistant at Walter Magazine in Raleigh, North Carolina, and her work has appeared in Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Adams Morgan.