Annual Manual 2013
From soup to beer-nuts
Published: April 12, 2013
There’s so much stuff packed into this dynamite little neighborhood. Since the 1970s, the strip of Colonial Drive between Ferncreek and Mills has been dominated by Vietnamese restaurants and storefronts, and they give Mills 50 (which has also been known as ViMi, short for Virginia-Mills, as well as Little Saigon) an ethnic flair not found elsewhere in the city. Stop by Pho 88 (730 N. Mills Ave., 407-897-3488, pho88orlando.com) for some of the best beef noodle soup in town. This area is also ground zero for the best banh mi, those famously beloved Vietnamese subs – you can pick one up at just about any restaurant in the neighborhood, or you can head to Yum-mì (1227 N. Mills Ave., 407-894-1808, yummisandwiches.com), which specializes in them. They serve everything from the traditional pâté variety to the less adventurous (though still tasty) types. Dong A Market has two storefronts here: Dong A Imports (706 N. Mills Ave., 407-894-6062, dongamarket.com), where gifts and imported goods like ceramic lucky cats and elaborate textiles are sold; and Dong A Market (816 N. Mills Ave., 407-898-3807, dongacorporation.com), which is packed with Asian groceries, produce and goods from China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Mosey north up Mills from Colonial Drive toward Virginia Drive, and the neighborhood opens up to an eclectic mix of businesses, restaurants and bars. Get yourself fitted with the perfect pair of running shoes at the Track Shack (1104 N. Mills Ave., 407-898-1313, trackshack.com). The folks who run the store know their business, and they don’t just sell shoes – they also sponsor running events, such as the annual OUC half-marathon, which takes place in Orlando in December. The LGBT community is well-represented and served by both the Center (946 N. Mills Ave., 407-228-8272, thecenterorlando.org), which offers counseling, health services, HIV testing and support groups for adults, and the Zebra Coalition (911 N. Mills Ave., 877-909-3272, zebrayouth.org), which offers similar services for teens and young adults.
Then there’s the burgeoning nightlife scene. You could barhop in Mills 50 all weekend long, if you wanted to. Bounce from Wally’s Mills Avenue Liquors (1001 N. Mills Ave., 407-896-6975, wallysonmills.com) for a stiff pour, then to Will’s Pub (1042 N. Mills Ave., willspub.org) for live music, then to Lil’ Indies (1036 N. Mills Ave.) to talk about the show. You can play retro video games while sipping craft beer at Bart (1205 N. Mills Ave., 407-796-2522, bartcade.com), where arcade games from your childhood (Pac-Man and Galaga) are all free for patrons. End your evening with a leisurely nightcap at the Peacock Room (1321 Mills Ave., 407-228-0048, thepeacockroom.com), which is dark, moody and smoky, like a late-night lounge should be.