The colorful paper place mats at Mike’s on the Water are emblazoned with a bright red cartoon lobster, and while that might seem a little out of synch with the products of the local waters, it’s become something of a symbol of this lively waterfront spot that sprawls along the shoreline in the Michigan Harbor Marina in St. Clair Shores.
Lobster rolls have become among the most popular dishes here, the lemon-accented salad made with the claws and knuckles of the crustacean, tucked into grilled rolls and served with housemade chips. The house has kept a tally of the number served each summer since the dish was introduced four summers ago, now more than 30,000. This year’s tally so far: 6,270.
In keeping with its casual summertime setting, nearly everything at Mike’s is served atop red-and-white checked waxed paper in plastic baskets. Exceptions include some of the fish entrees, including the fresh lake perch in panko breading, served with a tart coleslaw, French fries and fresh lemon, another of the house specialties, that arrive on conventional plates from the busy kitchen well run by chef Maurice Webb.
It might seem as if you must order fish at Mike’s, but there is much more on the bill of fare, including an array of burgers made with Angus beef, grilled bologna on an onion roll and even a New York strip steak. It’s certainly not fancy fare, but it is well prepared, reasonably priced and brought to the tables efficiently by runners.
New at Mike’s this summer is the rooftop bar, unveiled last week to great anticipation, and it’s something of a surprise. In contrast to the completely informal setting both indoors and on the open decks below, The Lookout is done up like the cabin of a sleek cruiser, with teak-and holly boat flooring, maritime clocks showing world time zones, and just 50 seats, 12 leather padded chairs at the bar itself, all with a view of the lake.
In keeping with the theme, wines served there are Boathouse Wines from Leelanau. The only food available at The Lookout is a few snacks prepared on the barbecue at the steps.
There’s little doubt about which St. Clair Shores restaurant is most popular during the summer: Mike LeFevre’s sprawling waterfront spot on the Nautical Mile is pleasantly crowded most of the time, and will be until it closes for the season on Oct. 30. There’s something special about a seasonal place, especially one run by an enthusiastic, hands-on proprietor who is there most of the time, making sure things are running smoothly. And the staff, many of whom return every year, reflect his hospitality. You may not get split-second service, but the ensemble feeling here is appealing.
Mike’s on the Water
24600 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores
Call: (586) 872-2630
Rating: ★★ 1/2
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat, noon-11 p.m., noon-9 p.m. Sun. Bar later. Season ends on Oct. 30.
Prices: Appetizers $5.95-$10.95, some sharable, burgers $5.75-$8.95, sandwiches $6.95-$12.25, soups and salads $3.25-$13.95, entrees $10.95-$21.95, on an all-day menu. Desserts $1.50-$4 from the ice cream truck parked outside.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate to high
Parking: Large attached lot
Wheelchair access: No barriers. Note, however, that the new rooftop bar, open every day except Mon., requires climbing a flight of stairs.
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding