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Mike Cohen rediscovers Mikes Restaurants as iconic franchise celebrates more than 50 years of pizza, subs and more

    I must confess that it had been a few years since I dined at a Mikes Restaurant (www.mikes.ca) . But after going to a few movies at the Cinemas Guzzo Spheretech 14 in St. Laurent in recent months and seeing one of the new locales, I was anxious to give this iconic franchise another try.

    The interior of the new St. Laurent restaurant

    Founded in 1967, the first Mikes location was on Somerled Avenue in NDG, a small storefront designed more for pickup and delivery. Marketing Director Marc-André Lamy told me that for the company’s 50th anniversary in 2017  they wanted to re-establish a restaurant on that same street, but they could not find  the right location. Setting something up in NDG very much remains on their radar screen.

    There are presently 70 Mikes Restaurants. All of them are in Quebec, except for one Ontario franchise in Timmons, Ontario. A new Quebec City spot will open in June.

    Mikes are now owned by the MTY Group, under the Imvescor restaurant group subsidiary banner,  which also manages Scores, Baton Rouge, and Ben and Florentine.

    For decades Mikes was known for its staple items of submarine sandwiches, pizza and pastas. In 2007, the company tried to reinvest itself with a trattoria format and expanded menus. In 2016 they pushed the rewind button. Customers were not sure what Mikes stood for anymore. The selection of items was scaled  down, with the focus on what  got them started at the beginning.

    Four of the appetizing pizzas Mikes serves

    There are 48 items on the menu right now and plans are for that to be reduced some more as the clients provide the information necessary to see what are the favorites. Mikes restaurants are open for breakfast, lunch and supper. On weekends you can start your  day off  at 8:30 am with morning pizza, eggs, crepes, waffles or French toast.  The Express Lunch menu (11 am to 3 pm) features six meal options, including a choice of soup, salad or dessert of the day and a beverage as well.  Yu can also experience any of  their dishes on the dining room menu with a table d’hôte,  including soup or salad, tea or coffee and a gourmet dessert of the day for only $ 6.

    In the Greater Montreal area there are seven Mikes locations: St. Laurent,  Lachine, Anjou, Kirkland, LaSalle, Complexe Desjardins, Rosemont, Place Versailles, Rue Lajeunesse and Pointe aux Trembles. There are two in Laval, six on the South Shore  and  one in Valleyfield.

    The St. Laurent location was originally on Cote Vertu Road, visible from the street. But when a storefront became available in the Spheretech complex  franchisee Alexandre Rossini and the Imvescor team thought it would be a good fit.  Half of the Mikes franchises have been given a total makeover, this one included. It now seats 165, with a seasonal outdoor terrace able to accommodate another 60. Work was completed in the fall of 2017 and the response has been good. It has proven to be a very convenient spot to dine before and after movies and the delivery service is booming.

    Server Alex has been with Mikes for 16 years

    My friend Robert and I enjoyed an excellent meal. Our server Alex has been with Mikes for 16 years, all of them at Cote Vertu. He not only knows the menu inside out, but provides some very good suggestions.

    We started off with some salads, a Caesar for Robert and a House for me. The former featured crisp romaine lettuce with croutons and bacon bits, topped with a creamy garlic dressing. Mine included a mix of homemade lettuce and kale, tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, homemade croutons and dried herb. I had the house balsamic dressing.

    There was a nice choice of appetizers and we had a difficult time making up our minds. That is when Alex recommended the Mix Mikes. It includes four cheese sticks, bruschetta rolls and popcorn shrimp as well as some homemade waffle chips with two dips. We were pleased with that choice.

    The Mikes Mix and some other items

    While we both wanted pizza, I had my eye on the special lobster and shrimp, available for a limited time, (cream sauce, onions, celery, mushrooms, a mix of lobster meat and shrimp, topped with mozzarella pizza cheese) while Robert liked the Carnivore (pepperoni, Philly steak, capicollo, ham, bacon,  Bolognese sauce and pizza mozzarella cheese).  We agreed to order a thin crust medium half and half. We also shared a moderate serving of chicken and broccoli penne pasta  and a small order of seasoned fries.

    The Choco Mikes for dessert

    For dessert,  the Choco Mikes cake won it. At only $4.99, it actually comes in two slices.

    A look at some of the pastas and sub sandwiches

    I look forward to future visits in order to explore the menu some more. There are a variety of other pastas and of course the trademark subs. This includes the famous Co-Star, Philly steak, pepperoni, mozzarella, onions, tomatoes and lettuce.  There are five choices of poutines as well as salmon, fish and chips, marsala chicken and chicken parmigiana and soups. Some come  in the Duetto option.

    As Lamy noted,  it is time for people like me who grew up eating at Mikes to rediscover this storied franchise.

    Log on to www.mikes.ca where you can view the entire menu, specials, find a location near you and even order online.

    Mike Cohen

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