Millis, Massachusetts, a Beautiful Small, Family-Friendly New
The landmark Niagara Fire Engine Company #4 building with downtown
Millis on Exchange St. in the background.
Article and photos by Eric Hurwitz. Article
created on 11/15/17.
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Whenever visiting Millis, Mass., I always get a good feeling.
The mix of suburbia and rural areas is appealing, the people friendly,
and the general vibe unassuming and unpretentious. Route 109 has a
1950s feel with many small businesses and roadside restaurants dotting
the landscape while some of the country roads leading to neighboring
Medway and Sherborn showcase stately farms, open spaces and a big sky.
The Charles River, off Route 109, is a scenic gem, too, with the river
and seemingly endless fields providing a sense of relaxation--
perfect for kayaking, in particular. In the winter, it's pure joy
driving past all the older homes on or around Route 115 dressed up in
holiday decorations. Millis is really a beautiful, little New England
With some other high-profile towns pounding their elitist chests and
saying "Look at me, look at me!," this southwest Boston suburb in the
heart of Norfolk County has somehow got lost in the mix to the point
where I've heard many times in conversation, "Where is Millis?"
Downtown Millis district on Route 109.
Their loss, no doubt. Millis is not a precious foodie town, a trendy
suburban darling, or a place to show off one's riches as a means of
social climbing. Millis is more of a close-knit middle class town, the
way we used to know life. The population is small -- about 8,000 people
-- and the focus is clearly on community and schools. Although Millis
is much more affordable than many Boston suburbs, the commitment to
education is impressive to the point where Millis High School has been
named one of the best high schools in the United States by Newsweek.
Recently, I took a walk through the very tiny but pleasant downtown
district on Exchange Street, and four of the seven people I passed
initiated a friendly "hello." Believe me, this doesn't happen too much
in the Boston suburbs. Additionally, when entering Isabella's Deli on
Exchange St. for a sandwich, I was welcomed like a king while others
packing this tiny little sandwich shop were treated the same. At Roche
Brothers Supermarket at Milliston Plaza, I also often find the local
hired help treating people the same way -- not the surly or
disinterested approach that you sometimes find at other supermarkets.
At Roche Brothers, you can also see that everyone seems to know each
other -- it's almost like an unofficial social gathering place.
When in Millis, I almost feel like I'm in Mayberry RFD -- so laid back
Speaking of the downtown, Millis is in the process of developing more
of a central district with a beautiful new public library opened a few
years ago and a commitment to attracting new stores and restaurants.
For all its quiet ways, Millis, however, has lots of fun things to do.
Here are some highlights:
Tangerini's Spring Street Farm
Tangerini's is a wonderful farm stand to buy fresh fruits and
vegetables, cut flowers, perennials, hanging baskets, and annuals. The
67 acres are quite beautiful, including rolling fields and, often,
amazing sunsets. Tangerini's also features seasonal fruit picking, a
farm animal area and an ice cream stand. 139 Spring St., Tel. (508)
Tangerini's Spring St. Farm.
Ann and Hope Warehouse Store
Ann and Hope used to be a major New England department store chain, but
eventually transformed into one of the biggest curtain and bath outlets
in the six-state region. The Millis outlet store is phenomenal -- a
huge building with an incredible selection of discount curtains, window
treatments, bedding and home decor. The gardening center is equally
impressive. 725 Main St. (Route 109), Tel. (508) 376-1192.
Millis Wonderland (CLOSED) This
December Christmas display has caught the attention of the national
media with its amazing variety of colorful lights and more than 45
detailed and lovingly crafted displays featuring Santa’s friends,
family and elves. With the myriad displays and traffic that follows, it
often takes 20 minutes to a half hour to navigate the property by car.
Located at a local businessman's property on a lovely country road,
Millis Wonderland is a surefire way to get in the holiday spirit. 60
Causeway St. The email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Black Cow Let's face it,
most homemade ice cream is not homemade and often shipped in from
somewhere else. The Black Cow is different, truly making their own ice
cream and using 16 percent butterfat content -- not good for the
waistline but oh-so-good for the taste buds! Many ice cream spots
infuse a lot of air into their ice cream, so the taste isn't as densely
flavorful. Also, the Black Cow's ice cream parlor setting is pleasant
with seating and spotlessly clean surroundings. I like the gingersnap
and orange pineapple flavors best. The homemade fudge isn't bad,
either! The Black Cow is open April to September. 1397 Main St. (Route
109), Tel. (508) 376-4884
Ryan Family Amusements This
modern candlepin bowling alley and game room/arcade alley is
family-friendly and also a good spot for birthday parties. Adults
can enjoy a brew or some wine, while the entire family can munch on
snacks. 1170 Main St. (Route 109), Tel. (508) 376-1101
Ryan Family Amusements bowling alley.
Oak Grove Park A great example
of an exceptionally well-kept town park, this scenic oasis features
extensive walking trails, a playground, soccer and ball fields.You'll
feel like you're out in the country here as the air has a sweet smell
and the open spaces and forest areas take one far away from the Boston
suburbs. The Millis Historical Commission is also located here, set in
a beautiful old farmhouse. Route 115 near the Sherborn line.
Uncle Ned's Fish Factory Fish
experts will tell you that Uncle Ned's is the place to go for buying
fresh and saltwater fish (some quite rare), as well as learning more
about proper care and the right products to purchase. 1590 Main St.
(Route 109), Tel. (508) 533-5969
Town and Country Antiques
This small, friendly store is jam-packed with antiques and collectibles
(including jewelry). Town and Country Antiques is yet another example
of a local antique store you probably haven't heard of, but when there
makes you glad that you discovered the place. Call for hours before
visiting! 37 Exchange St., Tel. (508) 376-8888.
For a small town, Millis has a surprisingly high number of quality
restaurants. Kravings (979 Main St.) looks
like a fast-food restaurant but goes way beyond that genre with
masterfully-created club sandwiches, homemade soups, giant salads,
Greek specialties like gyros and spinach pies and one of the best fried
seafood platters in the region. Everything here tastes fresh and
homemade. They even serve Richardson's ice cream!
Tuna club with sweet potato fries from Kravings in Millis.
Tandy's Millis (969 Main St.) recently opened and exudes a classic
Irish pub atmosphere with a great drinks selection and a real focus on
the quality of the food. The burgers are better than most of those
trendy burger places and the Shepherd's Pie is a must-try. Budabing's (1060 Main St.) is a
colorful 1950s style cafe with booths and counter that serves up huge
delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners. I love the roast turkey
dinner and the haddock Caesar salad with a giant piece of fish! In
downtown Millis, Saigon (180
Exchange St.) features Vietnamese cuisine, Victory Lane (32 Exchange St.)
delicious steak tips, burgers and pasta dishes in a restaurant/bar
setting, and Isabella's (20
Exchange St.) "real" subs, homemade pasta, Sicilian pizza, as well as
Italian pastries from the North End of Boston. The Lilac House (34 Milliston Road)
is a solid Chinese restaurant, serving favorites like Lo Mein, Kung Pao
chicken, moo shi dishes, pork fried rice and pu pu platters. Twist Bakery and Cafe (30 Milliston
Rd.) got its name right: baked goods and sandwiches with a "twist,"
given its commitment to fresh seasonal ingredients (and organic
whenever possible). Most items are gluten and peanut free. I recently
had a whoopie pie here that made me say "Whoopie!" It was delicious! Primavera (20 Pleasant St.) serves
some excellent Italian cuisine, features an impressive Sunday brunch
and has a nice outdoor patio dining room and lounge. The overall
atmosphere is casual but with a slight upscale feeling. Primavera is
also quite popular for weddings and other events. Jalapa Mexican Grill, at 929 Main
St., states on its storefront windows, "The
Best Mexican Food." From our estimation, that is a thoroughly truthful
statement. Colorfully designed, cozy and friendly,
Jalapa Mexican Grill offers an outstanding selection of familiar and
lesser-known Mexican dishes, as well as a good drinks list. Highly
recommended: the Fajita Mixed Combo with sizzling marinated tender
of steak, chicken or shrimp sauteed with bell peppers and onions and
served with rice, beans, warm tortillas cheese, sour cream and
guacamole. The King
Street Cafe, at 39 Main St., is one of those classic roadside
breakfast places with huge portions of eggs, bacon and pancakes and
some of the freshest, chock full of fruit muffins. The prices are rock
bottom and the
overall experience ranking right near the top of best breakfast
restaurants in the Boston area.
Millis is certainly not a tourist destination, just part of the
authentic fabric that makes New England so special. Residents
love it here and visitors like me feel right at home while visiting one
of the many attractions. If in the area, I hope you get to visit Millis!
Also be sure to read:
Walpole, Mass., the friendly town
Massachusetts travel! Read
Town Greens book -- Discover New England's first travel
town commons. Includes chapters on nearby Walpole, Norfolk and Franklin!
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