Originally published March 24, 2016 – “Can I get some mayo?”
“No. Mustard, pickles, cheese.”
“No Miracle Whip?”
“No. Mustard is better for you!”
So says Mike Muftari, 67, the owner of Mike’s Famous Ham Place, on Michigan Avenue in Detroit. Mike has been here since 1974, along with his wife, Yrvet, serving up some of the best food in Detroit.
Think about it. How many times have you visited a restaurant and been confronted by a multiple-page menu, with four different ethnic cuisines, and prices that would fund a trip to any of the countries in question? And how often is that food great?
There’s a limited menu at Mike’s Famous Ham Place. You can order a ham sandwich, one of two soups, or a plate of ham, eggs, and toast. There’s usually two pies for dessert, and the usual soft drinks. That’s it.
So there’s probably no reason to go, unless you’re craving some ham.
If you are, that’s the perfect reason to go. And for 42 years, people have been coming to Mike’s.
The prices are quite reasonable, as you can see, and the menu is largely unchanged from when Mike bought the place back in 1974.
Mike emigrated from Albania in 1973. His first job was in a more upscale restaurant in Farmington Hills. It didn’t take long for him to realize that wasn’t for him. So with two partners, Mike bought this little restaurant in Detroit.
Located on Michigan Avenue, just a bit west of the Midtown renewal, Mike and Yrvet have been serving up great sandwiches and soup for 4 decades (Mike eventually bought out both of his partners), an amazing accomplishment given the failure rate of restaurants. It’s also amazing considering the changes that have taken place in the neighborhood through the decades.
I’d guess the decor hasn’t changed much in that time. There are two counters, one facing the grill, and one facing the Avenue. It’s safe to say Mike’s had an “open kitchen” concept before it ever was a concept.
The ham in question is a whole ham, still warm from the oven, and charred on the outside. It’s sweet, salty, and incredibly juicy. Mike carves thick slices for the sandwiches, which come in two sizes: regular, or large. You can get the sandwich with any combination of cheese, pickles, or mustard.
But no mayo.
The ham is delicious, and is also prominent in the two homemade soups, split pea or bean. Both are a bargain, and frankly, enough for a light(er) lunch.
Fast food chain Wendy’s used to advertise their chili as having as much meat as their quarter-pound single. Mike’s soups can probably raise that claim a bit.
A bowl is served on a plate, and the bowl so completely filled that a little almost always slops over onto the plate. For some reason, this seems completely right, proof you have been given your full and fair measure of soup.
And if Mike likes you, he’ll even hand you a chip of ham on the way in, a quick carve off the crust. It’s the best part, the charred burnt flavor contrasting with the sweetness of the pork.
But don’t tell him I told you . . .
Mike’s Famous Ham Place is located at 3700 Michigan Avenue, Detroit. Open daily from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. Closed Sundays.