Common wisdom proclaims that good things can be found in unexpected places. That’s why I had to check out Mike’s Kitchen, the restaurant hidden behind the facade of a Cranston veteran’s hall.
One fact was immediately obvious – Mike’s might be hidden, but it’s no secret. Even though restaurant’s existence is hardly advertised, the dining room was bustling, even at 6pm on a Monday night. As I peered through the door into the brightly-lit large room, I had this sudden fear that everyone would look up from their food and spot me as a stranger. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into a restaurant full with happy diners of all ages immersed in the buzz of excited conversation.
The decor is just as much veteran’s hall as it is restaurant, but don’t let it fool you – at Mike’s, they are serious about their food. This was immediately evident from the giant specials board full of enticing dishes: an artichoke appetizer, roasted peppers stuffed with goat cheese, and a few unusual chicken and veal dishes. Once we sat down, the waitress also brought over a standard menu.
We ordered a bottle of Chianti and started with fried mozzarella and antipasto. The mozzarella was three palm-sized triangular pieces with marinara sauce, still sizzling from the fryer. I especially liked one of the meats on the antipasto platter which seemed to be spiced with star anise.
For an entree my boyfriend chose the combination plate, a sampler of eggplant parmesan, meatballs, sausage and roasted peppers. This is a great dish to order if you’re having trouble making up your mind and want to experience several dishes on one plate. I was especially impressed by the eggplant parmesan; I’ve had a lot of bland versions around Rhode Island lately, but this one was perfectly flavored with herbs and spices.
I decided on one of their more elaborate dishes, seafood diablo. Out came an impressively large plate of spaghetti topped with scallops, shrimp and lobster (2 claws and half a tail). The lobster was perfectly cooked and the scallops were gigantic and fresh. I enjoyed it immensely, but would have loved a bit more spiciness. Also, I do recommend the dish, but beware that it’s a bit messy to shell lobster claws in red sauce. In other words, this might be a good occasion to leave your white shirt at home.
One aspect of my experience at Mike’s that really stood out was the service. The restaurant’s tables were mostly filled, but our waitress was very attentive and the food arrived so speedily, I had to wonder whether the kitchen was staffed with magicians. It was evident that other diners were having the same positive experience, and their interaction with the wait staff suggested that many were regulars.
If you’re going to Mike’s, there are a few things you should know. First, they don’t accept credit cards, so bring cash. Second, drinks are not ordered with food, but separately from the bar. When we were there, a bartender conveniently made the rounds to take drink orders, and customers paid for the drinks on delivery. Third, the portions are large, so come with an appetite or room for a to-go box in your fridge. Last, they do have limited hours, so call ahead.
170 Randall Street, Cranston
P.S. Thanks to Mike O. (no association with “the kitchen”) for recommending this one!