For whatever reason, whether it’s small size, an out-of-the-way location, or just a lack of publicity, some restaurants tend to fall under the radar with a larger audience. This series takes a look at these Underrated Places.
Where: Mike’s Café (5501 Asher Avenue)
The Restaurant: Mike’s Café is a no-frills restaurant specializing in both Chinese and Vietnamese food located just a stone’s throw from the UALR campus. With over 100 menu items, the menu is quite expansive, something one would probably expect from a restaurant featuring two cuisines.
The Atmosphere: You definitely won’t be blown away by a gorgeous décor and warm atmosphere. Mike’s is bigger than you might expect, as I believe it used to be a bar in the past. There’s still a stage set up, where I’m guessing karaoke might even still take place on a regular basis. In short, the restaurant is big, and during the times I’ve gone in for lunch, the place never seems very full because of its size. Make no mistake, Mike’s is definitely more suited for a quick lunch or a very casual dinner. And that’s a good thing.
The Service: Truthfully, I’ve yet to be blown away by the service but that isn’t to say it’s bad … maybe it’s just not noteworthy. I think the food could stand to come out a tad quicker, but that’s a minor flaw.
The Food: As mentioned, Mike’s has a huge menu, with dishes ranging from Vietnamese sandwiches to shrimp wonton soup to pork chow fun to an assortment of hot pots. On my visits, I was particularly impressed with both the rare beef noodle soup and the grilled chicken with rice vermicelli bowl. The latter is a traditional, well-executed bowl filled with many of the standard ingredients folks who enjoy a good vermicelli bowl have grown accustomed to. The tender chicken stands out, as does the fresh sprouts, lettuce, and cucumbers. The pho contains a delightful broth and piles of noodles, fresh vegetables and rare beef (that then cooks in the hot broth). Most only associate eating pho with colder temperature months, but this is definitely a year-round dish for yours truly.
The Price: Everything’s reasonably priced … expect to spend about $7-$9 per dish, which is a great value given the ample portions.
The Verdict: I’m guessing it’s fairly easy to fall in love with one particular dish at Mike’s Café and stick with it. Personally, I’ll be looking to try out new dishes with each visit. And there will be many in the future. Mike’s Café is legit. While we are limited with Vietnamese options here in Little Rock, I do feel Mike’s offerings are comparable, if not better than some of the others in town.
The Info: (501) 562-1515; Open 7 Days a week, Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday-Sunday 11 a.m.-midnight.