My partner Idan once told me a hilarious, but true story. When traveling in South America, he felt homesick, not for his friends or family, but for familiar foods. Luckily for him, and shockingly to me, there was a restaurant in Bolivia owned by an Israeli serving classic Israeli foods – hummus, pita, falafel and the like. As if that weren’t enough, a large television screened classic Israeli movies, the music was all Israeli hits and the waitresses, Ronit and Yael, hailed from some kibbutz in the Galilee. After that one night in Bolivia, Idan was back on the backpacker’s trail, homesickness cured.
Mike’s Place is to the Anglo tourist or expatriate as Moshe’s Bolivian Hummus was to Idan. Upon entering the bar, English can be heard in all its forms – not just from the American, British, Australian and Canadian patrons of all ages, but also in the nightly live blues music and from the mostly expatriate bartenders and waitresses, including our waitress for the evening the lovely and helpful Edna from England.
As I perused the long menu, my partner explored the multiple TV screens, each featuring a different sporting event, covertly trying to figure out which one he could most subtly focus on without me noticing. Back to the menu, it contains just about every American bar classic – nachos, chicken wings, fajitas, fries, burgers, clubs and even a sloppy Joe.
But first, it was time for drinks. Ginger-haired Idan, naturally representing the Irish contingent, started off with ‘The Irish’, a pairing of a pint of Guinness and a shot of Bushmills. Other beer and chaser pairings include ‘The American’ – Budweiser and Jim Bean and ‘The Mexican’ – Corona and Cuervo. With no ‘Canadian’ combo on offer, I stuck with a classic gin and tonic.
In wading our way through the menu, Edna happily offered up her recommendations, which we took, selecting a small order of 6 chicken wings to start off with. Gooey, a little bit spicy and super hot, the wings were everything this classic bar snack should be. We gnawed in our wings, sipped our drinks and finally sat back and licked our fingers in satisfaction. On to the main course.
The dictionary definition of ‘main’ includes the describers ‘principle’ ‘utmost’ and ‘large’. That just about says it. Our mains – spareribs with a side of fries and coleslaw and the steak fajitas with all the trimmings – arrived each on its own sizzling platter and struggled to fit on our table. We dug in voraciously, but halfway through we raised the white flag hanging our heads in shame. Edna didn’t make us feel guilty though, agreeing that ‘yes, the portions really are huge’ and ‘no, you needn’t feel bad about not cleaning your plates because it’s time to enjoy the band anyhow.’
And sure enough, at just about the time that Edna whisked away my unfinished fajita steak, the kick ass Mercy Band started winning over the crowd with their soulful blues and spirited rock and roll covers. Playing every other week on a busy weekend nights, when The Mercy Band is on tour elsewhere, the stage at Mike’s Place is kept full with a different band every night of the week.
So, if you’ve had a sunny experience in Eilat, a salty experience at the Dead Sea, a spiritual experience in Jerusalem and you’re longing for more familiar flavours, Mike’s Place is that very home away from home that you seek. Plus the live music rocks!
86 Herbert Samuel St., Tel Aviv