Millie’s seafood restaurant opens in Spring Valley after protracted battles

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Millie's is located at 4866 Massachusetts Ave. NW, the site of a former gas station that is part of a historic landmark. (Brian Kapur/The Current)

After a protracted battle with the local advisory neighborhood commission, D.C. restaurateur Bo Blair’s new seafood joint, Millie’s, is finally open for business in Spring Valley. The restaurant held its grand opening on Wednesday, featuring a ribbon cutting with Mayor Muriel Bowser.

“Many of us will remember a time when you really couldn’t go to a great restaurant in Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said. “And now we have great restaurants everywhere, we’re Michelin-guide-rated and we’re known, we’re really on the map for our restaurants, and it’s because of great entrepreneurs like Bo.”

The D.C. Millie’s, located at 4866 Massachusetts Ave. NW, is the second of its name; the original is in Nantucket, Mass. Their namesake, “Madaket Millie,” is a Nantucket legend who grew up on the island and volunteered for the Coast Guard.

With the Spring Valley location, Blair hopes to bring the Nantucket summer to D.C. year-round — the restaurant features nautical decor and a range of seafood dishes. Blair said that the core of the menu is the same as the original Millie’s, with the Spring Valley location’s offerings expanded to include more appetizers and entrees. All items are priced below $30.

Blair said his aim was to provide patrons with a “very family-friendly, casual yet elegant,” neighborhood dining experience, something he felt the area was lacking.

“I just thought that this was the perfect place for this concept,” Blair said. “There’s probably nowhere else in the city I would have opened a Millie’s besides here.”

But that choice was not without difficulties. Millie’s sits on the location of a former gas station in the Spring Valley Shopping Center, which was planned in the 1930s and designated a historic site in 1989. Accordingly, Blair had to preserve some of the building’s original character — the bar has glass garage doors reminiscent of a service center and although the pumps have been removed, the filling station area is still standing.

ANC 3D, which includes includes Foxhall, the Palisades, Spring Valley and Wesley Heights, had raised concerns not only about historic preservation but also about the impacts of a large restaurant opening close to single-family homes. As a compromise to secure his liquor license, Blair agreed to have a smaller bar and to stop serving alcohol outdoors by 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

“After a long road, it’s nice to be up and running and open,” Blair said.