Robins are chirping, the Stanley Cup playoffs have begun, tulips are blooming, the weather is warming up, critters are scurrying —and Mrs. Mikes has opened.
Mrs. Mikes opening?
The opening of Mrs. Mikes on Tache Avenue has become synonymous with the start of spring.
St. Boniface’s venerable hamburger joint, still going strong after 45 years, is an institution in the neighbourhood, one whose opening is anxiously anticipated by its devoted followers. And while there are many good burger restaurants in St. Boniface, Mrs. Mikes is one of the gems.
It’s chilly today. One by one, people move towards a window that flashes open. One of a team of employees takes the order. Co-owner Steve Mikos, is working the grill and calls out my name my name as he recognizes me.
Steve invites me in for a chat at a small table in the back of the little restaurant. I’ve been coming to Mrs. Mikes for a long time, but never sat in the place. Customers sit at outdoor picnic tables, in their cars, or bring their goodies home. I feel special.
The brother-owners, Steve and Nick Mikos, have created a Cheers-like atmosphere in their little burger shop. The team inside is a family, kibitzing and enjoying exchanges with one another and with customers. Nobody’s yelling "Norm," but it’s pretty darn close.
When Steve and Nick came to Canada from ancient Sparta in Greece, they were teenagers. Nick worked for the original Mrs. Mikes in 1967 when it was exclusively an ice cream stand.
In 1969, Nick bought the building from the owner of the adjacent dry cleaners, which burned down 20 years ago, and added the larger food menu. Steve joined him in the business and they’ve been together since.
The name, Mrs. Mikes, comes from that dry cleaner owner who was named, of course, Mike. The ice cream cone atop the building’s steeple is the original remnant of the original establishment. It’s practically an historic monument.
Under Steve and Nick’s influence, the place began making burgers, fries and shakes, and, quickly, the little shop developed a following that today spans generations.
Joel, 19, waiting for his burger, is second generation customer. "My dad took me here when I was little, and now I come on my own," he says.
Steve has made the trek from St. James for the past 20 years. He spends an hour in traffic just to chow down on the iconic Kingburger. "Hands down, it’s the best burger in town," he says.
Dale has been coming to Mikes for over 30 years. "They’ve got the best chili n’ chips in the city. I remember coming late at night after socials."
Steve believes that up to four generations of eaters that have come to his windows. He likes that people enjoy his food, but for him, the Mrs. Mikes experience is something more.
"I’ve been dealing with good people all the time," he says. "All my customers make my life easy. I watched a lot of them grow up. I always appreciate their support."
Steve and I end our conversation and I exit through the side door.
Just before I leave, I order a burger and shake. Hey, it’s springtime.
Adriano Magnifico is a community correspondent for St. Boniface. You can contact him at email@example.com.