Mike's Restaurant/VisitingNewEngland small business partnership - Local Small Business Stories
Why the Locals Love Mike's Restaurant in Fairhaven, Mass.
This popular South Coast dining
spot offers something for everyone in a most welcoming, family-friendly setting
Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article
created on 7/23/2019.
Prime rib, New England clam chowder, salad, rolls and dipping
oil from Mike's Restaurant in Fairhaven.
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If a dining out spot could be a best friend, Mike's Restaurant in Fairhaven would certainly earn top friendship honors in the South Coast of Massachusetts region.
Few achieve outstanding classic old school restaurant
status quite as well as Mike's. It seems like everyone locally knows about Mike's as a place to enjoy big portions of prime rib, lobster and pasta, as well as
delicious New England clam chowder at low prices in a homey
atmosphere. Call it a local landmark, but that only describes one facet of this beloved dining out spot.
Before ever setting foot in the restaurant even suggests something wonderful. The old-fashioned restaurant sign with a
bright red lobster and the words "Italian, Seafood Pizza, Specializing
in Prime Rib" timelessly hangs on the
cedar-shingled restaurant building from the 1940s that
was, before Mike's, a diner
and a chicken house. That sign and the parking lot packed with cars ultimately lead to a special overall dining experience.
Outside at Mike's Restaurant.
Inside, the spacious dining rooms with low-pile
board, high booths to the sides, tables in the center, 70s style wall
sconces, tiled ceilings with retro fans, pictures of New England scenes
and old-fashioned windows with mullions creates a nostalgic shield from
a modern society. The world simply returns to a simpler time when at
Mike's yet, at the same time, the restaurant possesses an uncanny ability to meet 21st-century customer dining out preferences..
Many loyal long-time and newer employees lend
professionalism and a collective down-to-earth nature -- similar
in nature to a diner where friendly small-town conversations
authentically flow between staff and customers.
"We have had many career employees here for more than 20 years," said
Metivier, owner and general manager at Mike's Restaurant. "The industry
tends to spit and
chew people out. I prefer to hire career waitresses here. They
generally have pride in what they do and serve as ambassadors to the
restaurant. We are a family here. Waitresses aren't a dime a
One of the waitresses, Darlene, has been employed at Mike's more than
years. Lyn's son, Ian, 33, also works at Mike's helming the bar. Lyn,
knowing the social aspect is just as important as the food and
the comfortable living-room-like atmosphere at Mike's, can be seen all
restaurant. From instructing first-time lobster eaters on how to open a
lobster to greeting and talking with the customers, Lyn is like a
caring mom making sure
this very large family is happy with everything.
The menu, also featuring a front-cover picture of a bright red lobster
as well as a ship, looks like something from those large, long-lost
Cape Cod family-style restaurants that many thought were gone forever.
Thankfully, this type of restaurant still remains 30 miles west of Cape
Cod as a family-style restaurant that, to many, serves as a seafood
restaurant, steak house and Italian restaurant under one roof. The
locals and travelers come here to feast on the regionalized five basic food
groups: lobster, prime rib, New England clam chowder, Italian
dishes (including pizza) and surf and turf -- the latter with 18 different
Mike's comes across as the classic townie
restaurant where everyone seems to know each other.
"We are homey," said Lyn. "We are not
fancy...People love coming here for
steak and potato, a salad, fresh seafood and chowder."
Mike, Mike, Mike and... Lyn
For a restaurant that looks so familiar, Mike's possesses
some unique qualities, as well as head-scratching anecdotes.
For starters, three of its past owners were named Mike. The late Mike
Costa was the original owner of
Mike's before giving way to Mike Cormier (a fisherman who owned a lobster boat) who, in 1976, created the
full-service Mike's Restaurant that customers see today. Mike DeForge and the late Gene Oullette took command of Mike's in 1990. Before purchasing the entire restaurant Lyn bought in as a partner 10 years ago with Daneen Eilertsen who, like all previous owners after Mike Costa, were former employees of the restaurant. That is another element unique to Mike's: when the owners retire they sell to employee(s).
Beside the abundance of Mikes having run the
restaurant, Mike's also possesses another unique quality: They do not
serve any fried foods -- unusual for a neighborhood restaurant near the
coast specializing in seafood, as well as traditional comfort foods.
"Baked, stuffed, steamed, sauteed -- we
do not have a Fryolator," said Lyn. "So that means no
French fries, either, We offer so many other fresh choices that not having fried foods does not hold us back."
The cozy bar -- separated from the two main dining rooms -- remains a popular local draw for those who love basic beers, many wine choices
and, ultimately, a sense of community filled with local talk.
"People come in and will wait for a seat at the bar on the busiest nights because they love the atmosphere and camaraderie so much it is worth standing in a crowd on a Friday night just to get those coveted seats," said Lyn. "Our bartenders are some of the best around who go out of their way to make everyone who sits there feel welcome and happy to be a part of it."
The bar at Mike's Restaurant. Photo credit: Mike's Restaurant.
"I think much of our appeal is that we have something for everyone,"
added Lyn. "We have the foods people love. We have a bar. There are no
minimums or plating fees. People can bring in their own cakes for
celebrations. We don't want to be just a destination. This is a place
you can come back to a couple of times a week. Some people come here
five days a week!"
Lyn could have chosen another career but, after
Mike's in 1995 as a bartender, ultimately felt a calling to stay here
time away from the restaurant. Mike's, however, had become firmly implanted in her career DNA.
"Although I left the business on several occasions to pursue other endeavors, Mike's drew me back to my 'home' when I had the opportunity to buy in as a partner," said Lyn.
Lyn (center) with staff from left: Korie Oliver, Alli Isherwood,
Hannah Lewis and Sam Henriques.
Lyn is not one of those "Let's change everything" type of new owners,
knowing the value of what customers like at Mike's and its
household-name local restaurant status.
Customers have asked Lyn, however, if the restaurant name will change.
"I always jokingly reply that I would change my name to Mike before I would change the name of this iconic restaurant," said Lyn.
How Mike's Restaurant Caters to the Traditional American Appetite
New York sirloin topped with garlic butter from Mike's Restaurant.
Photo credit: Hannah Lewis.
Mike's delivers what the people want, and does it exceptionally well. Also, while Mike's doesn't offer many main course vegan meals, they can
always come up with dishes based on customers' needs.
For the most part, Mike's Restaurant has ultimately stuck with what works best -- and that's a great thing. Why reinvent the wheel when a restaurant like Mike's is so driven to a commitment to excellence?
"The menu has pretty much stayed the same," said Lyn. "If you got
chowder here 10 years ago, you can get chowder here now. At the same
time, some recipes have changed because tastes have changed."
Mike's makes its food from scratch and sources much of its seafood
locally like the scallops brought in "right off the boat" from Nordic Inc.,
just down the road at the bridge that separates New Bedford and
The New England clam chowder is freshly made -- full of tender clams
and cream, potatoes and butter to create the magnificent whole,
Mike's Clam Chowder earned a best chowder award as a favorite amongst
locals at the annual New Bedford Chowder Festival.
"Many of our customers can't go home from Mike's without having our
chowder," said Lyn.
New England clam chowder from Mike's.
Mike's brings Surf and Turf to the
top of the New England food chain. Here, one of the combos featuring
lobster, prime rib and chowder proves that point...
Prime rib, lobster and chowder headline the menu at Mike's
Restaurant. Photo source: Mike's restaurant Facebook page.
There are 20 possible surf n turf combinations with meat choices of sirloin steak, prime rib, Filet mignon or tenderloin tips and seafood choices of baked stuffed shrimp or scallops, steamed whole lobster, Alaskan king crab or, the most decadent, "lazy man's" lobster.
Of course, the 12 ounce prime rib can stand on its own as a main dish
heaping portion of juicy meat and salty au jus. The open-faced
sandwich is as tender and flavorful as it gets -- and with juices soaked into
the bread for added goodness.
Mike's packs its lobster rolls with plenty of locally-sourced lobster
meat. The standard three oz. size will please a normal appetitie but for those a
bit hungrier, the double meat (6 oz.) and the lobster sub at over a half pound of meat will more than suffice.
Mike's offers a cup of New England clam chowder with each lobster roll
Lobster roll with New England clam chowder. Photo
credit: Hannah Lewis.
Seafood selections abound at Mike's, including
baked scrod, baked stuffed shrimp, baked scallops, Scallops Casino
(topped with crab meat stuffing and crumbled bacon), grilled swordfish,
blackened blue swordfish, stuffed quahogs, Alaskan king crab legs and
various salmon dishes. This salmon with lobster sauce dish is clearly a
Salmon with lobster sauce. Photo
credit: Hannah Lewis.
The seafood casserole is a customer favorite with scallops,
shrimp and scrod topped with crab and lobster stuffing and baked with
white wine and lemon juice. The locally-caught lobster can be ordered
in various sizes: as a single, twin, triple, "Lazy Man's Lobster Saute"
or "Lobster Saute with stuffing."
Heaping portions of Italian food remain a popular draw at Mike's
baked lasagna, lobster ravioli, veal picatta, chicken and broccoli
alfredo and the seafood trio scampi with shrimp, scallops and lobster
Seafood trio scampi. Photo credit: Hannah Lewis.
Also featured at Mike's: an Italian Pu Pu platter for two with baked
lasagna, ravioli, four meatballs, two Italian sausages, linguini with
meat sauce and garlic rolls.
Mike's pizza is also a standout, clearly one of the tastiest bar pizzas
Massachusetts with the right mix of cheese, tomato sauce and toppings
within a thin crust. On a busy night, Mike's will often serve more than 100 pizzas.
Veggie pizza from Mike's. Photo
credit: Hannah Lewis.
For dessert, the Mud Pie stands as one of the most beloved treats with
a gooey chocolate sauce, a buttery crumbly chocolate crust, coffee ice
cream and Oreo cookies! Some opt for other desserts, however, and they would be rightly justified -- case in point, the molten lava cake...
Molten lava cake. Photo credit; Hannah Lewis.
Mike's Restaurant will never be mistaken for a trendy
restaurant but rather one that has permanently trended with locals and
for the long run. It is a place to fill the appetite, feel comfortable,
get great value for the money and enjoy good times with family and
friends in a relaxing atmosphere. Lyn has seen three Mikes and a Gene
something out of this place. She has witnessed people who met here and became best
friends -- with many leading to marriage and starting families -- and the generations
that followed them to Mike's. A few former employees have even gone on
to great success with restaurant ownership like Fairhaven twins Matt
and Mike Menard, of the Charred Oak Tavern in Middleborough, Mass.
Mike's might have a locally fabled history, but there are no imaginary
fables here -- just a real place with real people spanning many decades
who care about each other and the food selections that proudly reside
in the category of "something for everyone." It's a restaurant as
straightforward as its name -- staff and customers would never want it
any other way.
"When I got a job behind a desk, I hated it," said Lyn. "I was a shy
kid and now here I am owning a restaurant and being social with
everyone. Although it can be overwhelming at times, it has been great.
I have 50 employees here and feel responsible for them and my
customers. That's what matters to me most. I've watched kids grow up. We
have a couple in their 90s who come here all the time. They can't cook
at home, so they come here for a nice affordable meal. People love nostalgia, the seafood, a good steak with potatoes. It makes me happy
to see them happy. It's a nice place to be."
Mike's Restaurant is located at 390 Huttleston Ave. in Fairhaven, MA. Tel. 508-996-9810. Web
Also log onto Mike's
Restaurant Facebook Fan Page for more information.
small business story to enjoy reading: Four
Seas Ice Cream in Centerville, Mass. (Cape Cod)
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