24530 Jefferson · St. Clair Shores, MI 48080




June 30. 2011


Casual and comfortable digs

Mike's on the Water has personal touch and approachable fare

Molly Abraham

Mike LeFevre was on his way to early retirement in Florida last year when a family emergency stopped him in his tracks. He stayed in Michigan to help out.

With Florida no longer beckoning, he decided to return to the restaurant business here. Mike's on the Water, open just since the latter part of May, is the result, the reworking of an old building that once housed a number of enterprises.

Now one of a string of watering holes along the Nautical Mile in St. Clair Shores, Mike's has a warm, low-key personality that gives it something the more commercial spots just don't have. From the moment a diner walks through the door of the low-slung building in Michigan Harbor, it's apparent that a person, not a corporation, is in charge.

Lots of little idiosyncrasies are revealed in both menu and setting. Take the wine list, for instance. Almost all of the wines have a connection to water, from the inexpensive Fish Eye whites and reds that are the house wines to Seaglass Pinot Noir, New Harbor Sauvignon Blanc, Arrogant Frog Pinot Noir and Twin Fin Merlot, a nice little touch of humor that makes the list completely approachable. I don't know when I've seen a wine list that is this much fun.

Approachable is also the word for the fare. When did you last see a listing for grilled bologna on onion roll? It's a surprising hit in the early going here. Or a "cheese" burger that's actually a robe of cheese wrapped around the patty of beef?

The house burger, one-third pound of beef, ground fresh daily, is a value at $5.50, and the burger theme continues with a trio of mini-burgers topped with grilled onions, "ham" burgers that, yes, include a slice of honey glazed ham, and mini-fishburgers with tartar sauce.

Fries just have to be good in a spot like this, and they are: thin, just salty enough and crisp, with some of the skin left on, and the onion rings measure up, too.

Menus are inscribed on the paper place mats, and the fare is served in plastic baskets atop sheets of red and white checkerboard waxed paper by a friendly, chatty staff.

Seating options include the long narrow bar, an adjoining covered patio and two open decks perched on a canal. Yes, this is on the water, but you're not in any danger of being doused by Lake St. Clair breakers. The lake is out there, but you'd better bring binoculars.

LeFevre is not a newcomer to the restaurant business, nor to the Nautical Mile. He ran Lido on the Lake from 1982-1990 (now Rojo Mexican Bistro), and then Jack's Waterfront from 1994-2003 (now Brownie's on the Lake). His new venture is still a work in progress. LeFevre plans to add an outdoor bar seating 20 — "But not a tiki bar," he says — and more landscaping to what is already an attractive destination, even if it doesn't have that sweeping water view we're always looking for.

One of the ways I evaluate any restaurant experience is asking myself "Do I want to go back?" In the case of the comfortably casual Mike's on the Water, the answer is in the affirmative.

Mike's on the Water
24530 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores
(586) 872-2630

Rating: HH1/2
11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-11 p.m. Sun. (Bar stays open later.)
Burgers and sandwiches $5.50-$7.75, salads $7.50-$8.50, fried fish and shrimp entrees including coleslaw, fries and corn on the cob, $6.75-$13.75

Credit cards: Visa, MC and Discover
Full bar
Attached lot
Wheelchair access:
No barriers

(313) 222-1475


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