Mil’s Diner is a legendary yet humble Milpitas mainstay, a cozy mini-mall-based nook offering a warm atmosphere, a friendly staff, and heaping portions of mouth-watering food. Located at 36 South Abbott Avenue, the restaurant recently came under new ownership, and in the course of doing so it had the good fortune of seeing very little change…
The new owner, Teri Lane, just took over at the start of January 2023. Before then, she was a Mil’s server for 18 years. But she wasn’t even their longest-running server; she points to a current waitress, Jeanine, who’s been there since before the previous owners were.
“Everybody’s long-term here,” Teri shared in an interview with The Beat. “All of the cooks have been here longer than me.”
Upon taking charge, Teri kept the whole staff intact. Among the more tangible differences at Mil’s as of 2023 are new LED lighting and new toilets in the restrooms.
She tells the story of the recent transfer of ownership as follows: “My boss wanted to retire. He’d been wanting to retire for a long time…” She was referring to Louie Perivoliotis, who had long owned the restaurant with his wife Roula. Several interested buyers threw their hats in the ring, but all of them wanted to put their own stamp on the place.
Said Teri, “I didn’t want it to change.”
She added that many new businesses, particularly restaurants, don’t succeed, so why fix what wasn’t broken?
When she approached Louie with the idea of her buying it, his response to her was “Why have you waited so long?”
To achieve her dream of actually owning Mil’s, Teri had to strategize and maneuver. She realized that her clearest pathway was to pick up funding in the form of a business loan. But when that didn’t work, she panicked. Enter Anthony Camacho, a Mil’s regular of over 25 years who told her, “I can help you with that.” Teri knew Anthony from his many Sunday visits, when he’d show up for a meal following church.
A one-time mailman who’s now a mortgage banker, Anthony provides financing for home loans. Teri was also his client in that capacity. The restaurant business is new to him, but when Teri turned to Anthony with her plan, he said he wanted to make it work; they would be partners.
Anthony soon set up a corporation to make it so. Said Anthony to The Beat about Mil’s, “I see a lot of the same faces every day, even if we don’t interact. It’s like going to church.”
When they bought the place from Louie, the longtime owner said to Teri, “What are you doing? It only takes one piece of paper…”
When he’d bought the place, Louie had indeed just signed a single-page document. But now Teri was presenting stacks and stacks of paperwork to him.
“Not anymore it doesn’t,” she laughed.
Looking around at the packed diner, Teri said, “This is home. Ninety percent of the people who come in here are regulars…”
Interestingly, it’s only been in the past year that the diner has had proper signs outside. So for a long time, customers would always call Mil’s from the parking lot, saying, “I’m trying to find you…”
But they always got there. Nowadays, Teri serves the kids of people who were kids back when she started.
“The food is good,” she said. “The portions are huge. And it’s good-quality stuff.” Her favorite dish is and always has been The London Steak, a generous cut smothered in mushrooms, complete with eggs, hash browns, and toast.
Anthony smiled a little before revealing his own favorite: “Unfortunately,” he said, “it’s a salad…a large Cobb salad.”
But their preferences mirror the wide range of options enjoyed by the spot’s many customers. From salads to steaks, Mil’s has it all. And the owners intend to keep the place going for many years to come:
“Nobody,” said Teri, “wants it to go away.”