Gems off the light rail: A fresh look at Mill Avenue

Uncover hidden gems all over the city with reporter Nicole Dusanek as she gets off at a different light rail stop each week to explore.

Mill Avenue radiates a lively atmosphere that draws people from all around the state with its energetic streets and quaint, friendly vibe that's just off the light rail.

While Mill’s reputation often comes from its famous nightlife and the bars on every corner, it can feel like a whole other avenue when the sun comes up. Many students frequent places like Mellow Mushroom and Steak n' Shake, but just a couple blocks away is the lesser-known My Big Fat Greek Restaurant.

Walking in is like being transported to one of the restaurants that could be found on the coast of the Aegean Sea among other white washed buildings in Santorini, Greece. Pictures of Greek buildings cover the walls, and blue marble surrounds the oven in the wall.

As soon as someone chooses to sit on the porch or glance out the window, the illusion might be shattered, but it does not ruin the experience because the reality is just as good. Rather than sitting on the Greek coast, the restaurant is on a friendly and animated street with a variety of shops and restaurants to explore.

The food has an authentic feel with unique options that cannot be found in just any restaurant. I ordered a vegetarian moussaka, which was a blend of vegetables formed into a cake-like meal.

Being a vegetarian, the idea of a Greek restaurant made me nervous.  Having flashbacks to the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which is what the restaurant is based off of, I remembered when Toula introduces her fiancé, Ian, to her aunt. Ian is a vegetarian, and upon learning this, after a bit of squabble the aunt offers the unhelpful suggestion, “That’s okay, I make lamb.” With this in mind, I was expecting a menu that wasn't vegetarian friendly at all.

However, the menu had something for everyone, and plenty of vegetarian options. The best part was many of the items on the menu I had never tried before. For students, part of the college experience is trying new things, and this is a great place to start.

Following the meal, I ordered a chocolate mousse cake as dessert and was not disappointed. The creamy mousse was pleasing to the palette, but next time, I might venture out for something more exotic, such as the baklava, which is flambeed table-side.

For a student who wants to have an affordable meal, and switch up the usual college pizza diet, My Big Fat Greek Restaurant is a great option.

The restaurants scene on Mill Avenue is definitely one draw to this location. However, next to the restaurants are shops that can easily empty pockets if one stops by for too long. 

With trendy stores such as Urban Outfitters, Pitaya and Divaz, it's easy to keep up with the latest fashion. Among all of the shops, however, my favorite was Candy Addict, which offers all sorts of candies from the usual offerings to vintage and foreign brands.

Candy Addict features “century” candy which has candies from specific decades, such as the '80s or '90s. Up at the front, award-winning truffles are sold.  But be warned, if you're a truffle addict, once you've had these, all others will pale in comparison.

Mill Avenue may be known for its night life, but the culture and excitement doesn't die with the sunrise. During the day, the quiet, tree-shaded streets of Mill are definitely worth a visit.

Related Links:

Gems off the light rail: A taste of India at the Dhaba

Gems off the light rail: Bargain buys at the Park 'n' Swap

Reach the reporter at ndusanek@asu.edu or follow @NikkiDusanek on Twitter

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