There’s something to be said for a neighborhood that truly offers a little bit of everything. As the self-proclaimed “intersection of creativity and culture,” the Mills 50 District (clustered around the corner of North Mills Avenue and East Colonial Drive, northeast of downtown Orlando) stays true to a welcoming “come as you are” ethos. This genial attitude went a long way when it came to our DIY pub crawl in Mills 50, as my husband and I met up with another couple at Quantum Leap Winery (1312 Wilfred Drive), a somewhat upscale, yet inviting, spot on the border of Mills 50 and Ivanhoe Village, comprising a spacious tasting room and outdoor lounge area.
I know what you’re thinking: No, they aren’t growing grapes out back. Quantum partners with wineries around the globe that start the winemaking process, and then finishes the wines here in Orlando. We ordered the mixed tasting (2-ounce pours each of the Rogue Valley riesling, Kaley’s Rescue Red and Stellenbosch merlot) from the $5 wine flight menu while standing at the U-shaped pouring area. Before heading out, we couldn’t pass up purchasing one of their bottles to take home.
Next we made our way by car to the bustling strip of Mills Avenue to begin our on-foot drinking stroll at Lil’ Indies (1036 N. Mills Ave.). It’s the quiet kid sister right next door to loud live music venue Will’s Pub, and from the outside, you’d never imagine that it envelops such a cozy, rustic vibe inside.
Disclaimer: You don’t have to be a hipster to enjoy Lil’ Indies. In fact, the super-friendly bartender worried more about what we were drinking (Genesee Cream Ales and Southern Star Brewing Company’s Bombshell Blondes), than if we were wearing skinny jeans (full disclosure: One of us was). OW associate editor Ashley Belanger had recommended the Viking Blod mead, but they were out of it. It wasn’t a problem, though; the wide-ranging menu of beer and wine – eight craft beers on tap, large-format options and plenty of red/white varieties – offered ample choices.
Two drinks in our bellies were growling for grub, so we made a detour a few blocks south on Mills to the ever-so-popular-because-it’s-freaking-delicious Tako Cheena (932 N. Mills Ave.). Instead of standing around waiting in the crowd for our order to be ready, we hopped across the street for a quick cocktail at Wally’s Mills Avenue Liquors (1001 N. Mills Ave.).
When you walk into Wally’s, you’ll find a devoted crowd of seasoned regulars who mean serious drinking business. It’s smoky, it’s dark, and if you can find a seat (there are maybe 25 total) at the bar, stiff cocktails are coming your way. (Note: Most other bars in the Mills 50 area only serve beer and wine.) Those looking for booze on the go can purchase from the liquor store that makes up one side of the joint.
After downing a few Korean beef tacos and Indian butter-chicken burritos, we got into some good clean arcade fun a few short blocks north at BART (1205 N. Mills Ave.). What this small spot lacks in space, it makes up for in personality: outgoing bartenders; video game-inspired art on the walls; and a well-curated selection of classic arcade games. I opted for Breckenridge Brewery’s Agave Wheat and set up shop for the rest of the evening at the Night Moves pinball machine.
With so many crawl-worthy bars in the Mills 50 District, we regretfully called it a night after leaving BART. There are enough remarkable watering holes here to embark on another pub crawl, with an entirely different drinking map. We’ll just have to wait for another night and another round.
If you're the "pics or it didn't happen" type, take a look at our Mills 50 Pub Crawl photo gallery.