Friday, May 23, 2014


Have you ever happened on a restaurant you absolutely love from the minute you walk in the door? Well let me tell you, it’s a treat. Such was the case when my husband Jack and I went to a family get-together at Mike’s Place in Kent. Even before we took a bite, our eyes took in the decor - which might best be described as All-American Clutter - and knew we’d found a culinary home.

For the record, Mike’s has been around since 1987, created “in the honor of salt, sugar & grease,” or so the website says. Also of interest on that website (see below), are the “Rules of Mike’s Place - a sampling of my favorites follows:

Special Orders DO UPSET US ! (our kitchen is staffed with former professional wrestlers).

Tips may be thrown at cooks. (in appreciation or as an incentive to never cook again).

Yes, burping is allowed and appreciated. (please, no rolling your placemats into megaphones).

We will not split orders. If you are that cheap, split it yourself.

We serve breakfast all day (cuz we never know when your lazy butt is getting out of bed).

At that aforementioned party, which was arranged by our son Scott, his wife, Lilla and Lilla’s brother Iain, we had a room to ourselves next to a real bus - empty except for the driver’s seat (a special attraction for restless youngsters) and several tables and chairs. Turns out, in fact, it’s rentable, as are other rooms here with intriguing names like Twin Coach Bus Room, Da Tequil Room, Thortan O'Grady "Filthy Oar" Irish pub room and (my personal favorite), "Ship Happens.” On that occasion, we chowed down on delicious munchies like wings - with way too many sauce choices to count here - as well as baskets filled with yummy breaded mushrooms, fries and such washed down with equally yummy margaritas.

We very much enjoyed poking around in all the other rooms, which are filled with all sorts of kitschy “stuff,” but since we were there mostly for the camaraderie we didn’t pay much attention to the menu except to make a mental note that we’d have to come back. And that we did a month or so later on our way home from drooling over the snazzy cars at the big auto show at the Cleveland I-X Center with friends Jerry and Barb from Niles. The first thing we learned is it’s absolutely impossible to review the entire menu and pick what you want in less than a couple of hours.

Yes, it’s that extensive. The sandwich section alone had 39 entries (and that’s not counting burgers or wraps); the whole menu takes up most of four pages of newspaper tab-size paper with print so small that if you’re our age or older, you’ll need a magnifying glass to read most of it.

Oh yes, and then there’s The Stu-anator - nearly 70 ounces of ground beef, onions, mushrooms, American and Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard and mayo topped with fries, curly fries and at least one pickle. Eat the whole thing and you get a shirt and your photo on the wall, but don’t get your hopes too high: 152 have tried it but only five have been successful.

We made a half-hearted attempt that lasted perhaps 15 minutes as we polished off the first of our beers, and then we simply gave up. The special of the day was all-you-can-eat breaded fish (cod, if I recall correctly) for $9.99, so we threw up our hands and went for it. Then, of course, we were faced with choosing two sides apiece - not an insignificant challenge. In part, that’s because the food here is a bit out of the ordinary; yes, there are mashed potatoes and fries and a couple of other standard accompaniments, but other choices are spicy Baja rice, Texas style baked beans with sausage, sprats with bacon & kraut, Southern green beans and, well, you get the point.

The fish turned out to be two rather large filets - so big that only Jerry polished them off and had room for a refill. It was delicious - as was the homemade tartar sauce that came with it. Our sides ranged from the simple to those baked beans with sausage for me, and I’m here to tell you I’ll be having that side dish again.

It didn’t take long for us to head back again, this time also on the way home from Cleveland but  just Jack and I. Once again, we wrestled with the menu, looking at dozens of yummy-sounding entrees like shrimp tortellini alfredo, ($11.39) and others with oddball names like The Hog Wild Mother Clucker, The Wild Salty Dawg Horseshoe and The Reagga Reefers Seafood Combo. Ah, what’s a diner to do?

We know what we did - revert to the old standard grilled whitefish ($9.99 with two sides, but not all you can eat). I got mine blackened, while Jack opted for basic lemon butter. For our sides, he chose simple cole slaw and applesauce, while I couldn’t resist trying the sprats with bacon & kraut and yes, those beans again. The sprats were good - lots of paprika - but I probably won’t try them again. And next time we’re here - and there will be a next time very soon - I’ll have had a chance to look over the menu I brought home and at least narrow it down to a couple of sandwich and  entree possibilities.

And then hope to heck I don’t like the special of the day and have to start from scratch.

If you go:

Mike's Place
1700 S. Water St.
Kent, Ohio
(330) 673-6501

Open 6 a.m. - 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 6 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 7 a.m. -10 p.m. Sundays.