Your definitive guide to the drunken streets of Mill Avenue

It’s 10 p.m. on a Friday. You’ve just woken up from a midday nap that extended into the night, filled with dreams about eating a Chipotle burrito on Coachella’s main stage next to the robots of Daft Punk riding unicycles.

Your roommate knocks on the door, ending your restful slumber by shouting about an image of slamming shots of Absolut like an easy glass of water at your favorite Mill Avenue establishment.

This is how it starts. A night full of regrettable choices, minor acts of delinquency and glasses full of alcoholic beverages, all in the setting of the downtown Tempe’s sometimes beautiful and sometimes terrifying Mill Avenue.

The Uber picks our group up at a college pad that seems like an average abode, but may disguise a habitat for college dudes intent on causing a ruckus for the city of Tempe.

Our driver is judgmental, but friendly. She’s there to get a job done and doesn’t make small talk like other Uber employees I’ve encountered. Maybe it’s because Roommate A is yelling about cigarettes with the excitement of a One Direction fan in the front row of the boy band’s Madison Square Garden performance.

The first stop of the night is Cue Club, a “low-key” joint with pool tables, already packed with drunkards by 11 p.m. We could partake in a clumsy game of billiards, but the bar is calling our names.

Currently .. @MillCueClub

A photo posted by @djchrisvilla on

There are a few women hanging to the left of us. We’re looking at them with the intent of learning a little bit more about why they chose this hellhole of a place to spend their Friday night. They’re looking at us like we’re ravenous hyenas.

And this is a simplification of the gender relationship on Mill Avenue. As booming club music eliminates any chance of a real conversation, men and women cannot possibly connect in a sustainable way. Instead, they must rely on primal instincts.

The drinks are done, we’re onto the next club. As you exited Cue Club, you noticed a few lovers of the night feeling much more intense than you are right now. If only I could have a passion like that, other than alcohol. Another club, Zuma, feels dead, but on a Monday, this place is always popping. 

Why have I been to Mill on a Monday? I really don’t know.

A few guys are about to brawl near the Urban Outfitters. Bike cops are on the scene, pedaling from University Drive to interrupt any meaningless violence about to occur. I can’t help myself from taking out my phone and putting some of the altercation on Snapchat (I’ll delete it when I wake up the next day.)

El Hefe is the place to be, but the line is too long. A group of women in stilettos stumble in front of the line and are let inside without a problem. I wish I could be them, but I don't think I'd be as graceful in six-inch heels. 

A photo posted by El Hefe Tempe (@elhefetempe) on

We’ve ended up at Gringo Star, which has a dress code, so one of our squad members wearing shorts didn’t make it inside. He ended up smoking a cigarette with a homeless person. She's not a potential mate, but at least it’s a new friend. And that’s what counts, right?

If you’ve ever had the desire to feel like a sardine packed into a can on the shelf of a Safeway grocery store, dead, sitting in your own fishy fluids, then this is the place to go. Everyone in the club seems to be sweating bullets. The tables are all booked by frat stars and high-roller financiers that are either self-made badasses or have a little too much of mom and dad’s money and no clue what to do with it.

I watch as a dude attempts to twerk onto an unsuspecting girl having a perfectly good time by herself on the dance floor, an experience that she will look back on as a dark time in her life, and not because of the club’s lighting. Needless to say, drinks are spilled, a face is slapped and an ego is wounded, while she finds solace in her group of girlfriends comforting her.

There’s an outdoor patio that is packed too, but at least there’s fresh air, if you exclude the scary amount of cigarette smokers enjoying a smooth drag. I decide to join the pack and light up. I’m separated from our group now; the rest of them are at the bar ordering drinks and practicing their flirting game on girls who have heard it all before.

It’s close to 1 a.m. The bars are starting to close, and we Mill rats are finding our way into cabs and Ubers with drivers that are hoping to God no one pukes in their surprisingly clean motor vehicles.

The next stop is Casey Moore’s Oyster House. It's not exactly on Mill, but it's close enough. Drink your single life sorrows away with a bunch of hipsters at a bar that doesn’t have Pitbull songs blaring through its speakers.

Eventually, you make your way home to drink some water and try to sober up. You’re either dreading that early morning shift or planning on sleeping in until the afternoon, but the memories you made on Mill are timeless and should be cherished forever, that is if you have enough brain cells to remember anything that happened.

There’s always next weekend to make more amazing memories. And that is the magic of Mill. Even when the street has eaten you alive, chewed you up and spit you back out, there’s still a faint lingering of fake happiness that calls you back. Until then, I’ll be clutching a bottle of Gatorade, nursing this hangover and hoping that my liver will one day forgive me for the damage I have caused it.

Ah, the life of partying in college. In the words of Drake: “What a time to be alive.”  

Related Links:

Gringo Star, LSD and hippies: The history of Mill Avenue's Laird and Dines building

Stay thirsty, stay foolish

Reach the arts editor at or follow @misterjacobgold on Twitter.

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