New Mill Avenue restaurant will bring diversity and funk to ASU

The Funky Monk hopes to add diversity to Mill Avenue and offer students an enjoyable eating experience

Mill Avenue is a popular hangout spot for many ASU Tempe campus students and is often bustling with business, however one new establishment believes they will be bringing a major element the area lacks: diversity.

The Funky Monk will open its doors on Thursday, March 23, and staff members anticipate that its unique multifaceted theme will differ greatly from surrounding businesses, bringing in diverse crowds and satisfying more than just guests’ appetites.

Wasted Grain, a Scottsdale based bar chain, was the original eatery at the location but Jason Johnson, managing partner of The Funky Monk, said during the first week of January the company that owned the location decided to come out with something more personalized for the downtown Tempe community.

“There is no large restaurant bar on this corner of Mill, and it is surrounded by thriving businesses," Johnson said. "We are looking to complete the corner and bring a more diverse crowd to Mill that all the businesses can benefit from."

The company recognizes that the ASU student body has a massive amount of diversity and believes The Funky Monk will be the place where students with a variety of interests and desires can all find something they will enjoy.

“The Funky Monk is a representation of everything iconic from the past four decades, anything that was impactful in pop culture is something we want to incorporate into our style,” said Johnson. 

He said he believes the concept and defined individuality of the place differentiates itself from other nearby establishments.

“I think the novelty of the place will attract different types of people and ASU students, (who) might not come to Mill as often," said health sciences senior Rachel Sakelaris, who frequents Mill Avenue. "The theme is so different than anything else around here."

The legacy theme brings a funky fresh atmosphere to Mill Avenue, but for Johnson, the theme encompasses a sentimental value due to the death of his partner, Michael Stravers, who passed away earlier this year in a fatal car accident on Jan. 14, shorty after they had developed the new business concept for The Funky Monk.

"He (Stravers) has been a best friend for 20 years, roommate for 15 and business partner the entire time," said Johnson. "He had a pretty big impact on the inspiration of this place."

The monk restaurant logo was designed to symbolize Stavers, who was an ASU graduate in the class of 2003.

“This is a legacy bar, it is in honor of certain people, not just people close to us but everybody throughout the ages who has paved the way for us to be able to do this,” said Erik Stephansen, The Funky Monk's general manager.

However, the unique atmosphere of The Funky Monk extends beyond sentiment and novelty decor. The menu, which Stephansen said will range from "munchies" to quality entrees at affordable prices, will have a mixture of different cuisines and drinks to satisfy the desires of the variety of Mill Avenue consumers.

“I am excited for our healthier menu," Stephansen said. "It has a lot of different flavor and no one else on Mill Avenue really has a menu without any deep fried food on it."

The Funky Monk will open each day at noon for lunch, have happy hour food and drink specials from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., then transition to suit the night crowd on Thursday through Sunday nights with a special funky brunch menu on Sunday mornings.

The menu will offer a variety of salads, sandwiches, pizzas and pastas as well as a mixture of appetizers and entrees offering different flavors of cultural tastes.

The Funky Monk seems like it is going to be a place that I can go enjoy food with my friends and we will all be able to find something we want to eat on the menu,” Sakelaris said.

The assortment of drink options will also quench the thirst of those over 21. Customers can get excited for twists on traditional beverages on the exclusive Moscow mule and mimosa menu, along with specialty cocktails, a Red Bull slushy and a line of frozen drinks.

“We are going to have some drinks specific for ASU,” Stephansen said. “Every month we will be switching out the slushy machines to offer more options, and we are going to be having a frozen rosé: a ‘frosé’!”

While visiting the establishment, customers will get to experience the funk in all features of the restaurant. The groovy soul will beam throughout the interior through entertaining and iconic design. There will be a vault video game room, upper floor VIP lounge and a carousel horse as well as other decorations designed as prop pieces for Instagram and social media selfies.

“This place seems a lot more family oriented both during the day and during nightlife," said environment and resource management junior Brandon Sarhad. "The throwback music will be chill because other bars all kind of play the same pop culture music, and it’s nice to mix it up."

“We want this to be an everyday place, a neighborhood place,” Johnson said. “We want to develop a comfortable place for people who may differ in food and drink desires to feel like they can bring their friends and there will be something for every one of them to enjoy.”

The legacy theme of the The Funky Monk combined with the diverse food and beverage options creates a place that will be fun and of course funky for a variety of students, young professionals and older generations, staff members said.

“There is a lot of excitement here, to establish ourselves brings a lot of nervousness, yet excitement, because nobody else is doing anything like this on Mill or in Old Town,” Stephansen said.

Reach the reporter at or follow @hollymiller26 Twitter.

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