Yonatan Sternberg gets excited about the return of this classic Jerusalem bar, a focal point for music lovers from all over Israel, tourists galore and, of course, a center for Anglo-Saxons to gather. The new and improved version on Jaffa Street will certainly provide the same warm home for these American-style bar instincts.
Mike’s Place has returned home! There is neither a tourist nor a European-descended Israeli who does not know Mike’s Place. It opened in 1992 in Nahalat Shiva in Jerusalem and has been one of the only bars in the city to offer live concerts and sports events broadcast in an American-style atmosphere. In light of the concerts on various evenings, this small Jerusalemite bar turned into a beacon for music lovers throughout Israel and singers and musicians of all types began their careers on this small stage with a small but various crowd. Throughout the years, Mike’s Place has passed through a number of metamorphoses, changing locations in the holy city, branching out to the boardwalk in Tel Aviv as well as a branch in Ramat HaHayal. In 2009 they closed the original location in Jerusalem for renovations.
About a half a year ago, Mike’s Pace finally re-opened with their new beautiful capital city branch on Jaffa Street. Despite the fact that nearly two years had passed, it feels like Mike’s Place never left. The atmosphere remains the same, the music remains delightful and from what I could tell during my visit, the loyal crowd of customers returned as well. We arrived on a Saturday night to a full-to-the-brim bar. We were lucky enough to find the last two open spots on the bar in the lower area; we removed our coats, took our seats and immediately our heads bopped lightly to the music. No doubt that the language of the bar is English, so much so that the menus are printed only in English. Do not let this deter you, however, as the work is worth it and on any given night, among the tourists and Anglo-Saxons, you can find a few authentic Israelis peppered into the crowd to meet a nice looking tourist.
Beers are served by the third liter, half liter or in pitchers whose exact measurement remains a mystery. Knowing that I would later be driving home, we ordered 1/3 of Stella and another 1/3 of Pilsner. To balance with our beers, we asked the bar tender for some nachos and a small order of spicy wings. In the category of food, the influence is also clearly American. The wings were dubbed “Buffalo Wings,” a classic dish of spicy wings served with crispy celery and a variety of dips. In light of the fact that Mike’s Place is kosher, they do not served blue cheese sauce with the wings, but they serve a lovely Ranch-style substitute with loads of dill. It was a successful switch from the traditional dish for sure! The nachos arrived and we were delighted with the spectacular platter: a mass of corn chips with guacamole, tomato salsa, ground meat chili con carne style, reminding one of the classic “sloppy Joe” recipe.
Other menu items also fit in the category entitle “American Bar Foods.” Mike’s Place offers hamburgers, sandwiches, meat stew prepared with Guiness beer and served with mashed potatoes, sloppy Joe sandwiches (obviously featuring the above-mentioned meat), fish and chips, mini-shnitzels, steak and more. In my opinion, the most interesting selections from the menu at Mike’s fit into the “Tex-Mex” category. Tex-Mex is essentially a version of Mexican food prepared with the American palate in mind. It is a delicious kitchen offering a variety of cooked dishes, pastries, wraps, rolls and munchies. At Mike’s Place you can enjoy a burrito, a torta (Mexican-style sandwich) and a fajita served with a variety of dips. As we ended our evening, we thanked our friendly bar tender, in English of course, and headed out for the car. Whether you are looking to grab a beer or you just want to improve your English small-talk skills, no doubt that the new and improved Mike’s Place Jerusalem is a perfect choice. I, for one, already know where I plan to watch the next Superbowl.