Mike’s is a dozen-seat lunch counter that feels like it’s from another era. It’s run by a husband and wife team who refill customers’ coffee cups every moment of rest. The menu is streamlined down to four items; absolutely everything except for the coffee (we assume) has ham in it. There are no hamburgers or blue plate specials. Just ham served with bread, eggs, or in soup. Forget fancy, grainy mustard. What you get here is the bright yellow kind.
For breakfast, there is ham and eggs any style with toast. The ham comes in thick slices that span a dinner plate. Eggs are cooked just the way you order them. Over-medium creates a grand combo of half-set yolks and salty ham. With a dash of Frank’s Red Hot sprinkled on top, you have an exemplary North American breakfast.
For lunch, you can get a ham sandwich: a soft poppy-seeded roll piled high with that divine pink meat. This glorious heap of ham on a roll can — and should — be had with cheese. The cheese is a thin layer compared to the ham, providing just a smidgen of relief from the salty attack of rump. A stack of pickle chips dresses it up.
Any way you get ham, it is carved to order from fairly lean house ham that has a dark roasted skin. It carries some spice notes, but nothing too distracting. It mostly tastes like sweet, salty pork. The ham has been made here, by Mike himself, since 1974.
Mike’s split pea soup is special stuff. It’s chowder-thick and rich with nuggets of ham. Even if you somehow avoid getting ham in your spoon, the flavor of it is deep throughout the soup. A trademark of Mike’s is that the bowls are overfilled so that soup inevitably spills down the sides. Considering the portion size and the heartiness of the soup, you could easily make a meal of a bowlfulb.
You can buy whole hams with dark roasted skin and ruby flesh to take home, but they are enormous, so you’d better have a bus load of folks ready to eat.
Like many Roadfood places in Detroit, Mike’s is cash only with a no-nonsense attitude. When we told Mike that we were on our way to Toronto that day, he generously insisted that we take extra food along. He warned us that all there is to eat in Canada is Wendy’s and Tim Horton’s.