Even though the historic Milleridge Inn in Jericho is not designated as an official landmark, its origins on Long Island can be traced back to before the time of the Revolutionary War, when the 11-acre property was used as a stopover for farmers, merchants, and other weary travelers along what is now Jericho Turnpike.
“The original property dates back to 1672…the history of the place says Milleridge has had presidents eating there, settlers, British and Hessian soldiers, and even an underground bootlegging operation during the prohibition era,” says Butch Yamali, president of the Freeport-based Dover Group.
Yamali purchased the Milleridge in 2016 from Kimco Realty, effectively saving the centuries-old property from becoming either a hotel, retirement community, or another commercial entity.
“We’ve got everything back online, we updated the menu…we wanted to maintain the Milleridge history,” says Yamali.
The sprawling Milleridge complex is an impressive property able to accommodate about 1,000 diners. It also features a catering hall, cafe, pub, bakery, flower shop, and general store.
No stranger to the hospitality business, Yamali founded his Dover Group in 1976 from just a couple of ice cream trucks. Today, the company owns and operates several local businesses and restaurants including Peter’s Clam Bar in Island Park and the Coral House in Baldwin.
“I’ve made it a practice to take over once-great places that have lost their luster, where owners have either aged out or lost interest in upkeep,” says Yamali.
Yamali says he is a self-taught chef who didn’t go to culinary school but has worked in many of his father’s restaurant kitchens since the age of 14. “I did lots of roasting and curing meats in the places I worked at,” he says, noting that his father owned the gourmet meats shop Pastrami King in Queens when Butch was growing up.
“I’m now 59, I’ve been doing this stuff for the past 45 years, working in nearly every position you can imagine.”
Ironically, Yamali says he doesn’t really like cooking and that is where executive chef Chris Seidl comes in.
Seidl, who grew up in Syosset, also didn’t go to culinary school. He began cooking at a small cafe in Utica while attending Mohawk Valley Community College. “I took a liking to the kitchen and that was it,” he recalls.
Seidl has been with Yamali for the past 13 years, starting off at the Maliblue Oyster Bar in Lido Beach. He now oversees most aspects of cooking, menu planning and other logistics for all of Dover’s properties.
Seidl says the Milleridge is something special. “What is unique about the Milleridge is that everything we make is from scratch, from the fresh-baked popovers and cinnamon bread to turkeys we roast and sauerbraten that is brined for at least two weeks…it’s a traditional, homestyle cooking restaurant,” says Seidl.
Milleridge specialties include chicken Milleridge, Yankee pot roast, sauerbraten, fresh-roasted turkey with all the trimmings, chicken pot pie, salads, and burgers. “We sell thousands of meals every week,” says Yamali, explaining that anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 people per day can be fed when the restaurant is very busy.
In 2015, Restaurant Business Magazine ranked the Milleridge as one of America’s top 100 restaurants with about $14 million in annual sales.
Yamali says by the end of 2017, sales had nearly doubled and continued to rise into 2018.
But then Covid-19 came along and put a severe crimp in business.
“We want to get things back to where we were,” Yamaha says, adding that a confluence of staff shortages and high-priced goods has continued to hamper business.
But things are looking up.
Yamali says that now all the complex’s structures are now up to code with just a few more things that still need work.
However, he says labor shortages have continued to plague the venue along with many other restaurants on Long Island.
Yamali has cut back hours to try and help matters. The restaurant is now open only five days per week, from Wednesday to Sunday, to help address persistent labor shortages and still allow staff to take much-needed days off.
He says that as staffing issues ease, he’ll add staff and extend the hours.
“Some of my staff never returned after the closures in 2020, some got real estate licenses, still other staffers are leaving the restaurant business altogether, and still others have moved out of state completely for lower costs of living,” Yamali says.
In addition, he points to food prices that have doubled in many cases. “Filet mignon used to be about $10 pound, now it’s nearly $20. But I can’t raise my prices because that might mean losing business.”
He adds that while most things are picking up, larger parties are still lagging. “People don’t want grandma to come out of the house yet,” he says, adding that catered events are still slow, such as weddings and bridal showers.
“When it’s busy, there’s nothing like it. But when it’s quiet, you want to cry because it’s such a big place.”
He says, however, that Thanksgiving orders and reservations are brisk, and that’s a “good sign.”
Diners can also look forward to a traditional favorite, the Milleridge Christmas Village, which will feature an elaborate array of music, decorations, and holiday festivities.
585 N. Broadway in Jericho. It can be reached at 516-931-2201. Visit at milleridgeinn.com.
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