Bartender’s Corner: Mike’s Tavern

Kate Baxendale

enerations of UMKC and Rockhurst students have passed through Mike’s Tavern, but its status as a college hotspot has remained a constant over the years.

Established in 1964, the once-ramshackle brick building at 55th and Troost Avenue has transformed into a stylish-yet-comfortable restaurant and bar, nestled between the two campuses.

Guests are greeted by Mike’s comfortable atmosphere. The bar serves as a large, rustic centerpiece to the tavern’s main room.

Manager Avery Bailey described the tavern’s old interior as dark, dingy and barely functional.

“Now it is much more hospitable,” Bailey said. “We want to be neighborhood-friendly.”

In addition to remodeling the interior, Mike’s now offers a variety of authentic Mexican dishes on its new menu, known as Cantina del Chef. After Cantina del Ray closed its Waldo location on Wornall Road, Mike’s began serving Cantina’s contemporary Mexican cuisine for lunch and dinner.

Mike’s embraces its seasoned appearance instead of stripping away the remnants of its history, juxtaposing old and modern elements seamlessly together.

Bailey stressed that Mike’s wants to serve the community.

“There are not very many local sit-down places where you can be served. We want to give people an option to dine,” he said.

The establishment boasts an arcade area with a skee-ball machine and a shuffleboard table.

“Every night, there’s a reason to be here,” said Bailey. With drink specials and events offered nightly, Bailey makes a valid point.

Happy hour is from 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Trivia takes place from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays. Wednesdays (“Hop Day”) offer 20 percent off for UMKC students with a valid ID. Thursday is karaoke night beginning 9 p.m., with happy hour running all day and night and Fridays feature live music.

A stage area hosts local band

every Saturday night.

Bailey hopes the tavern’s specials and location will continue to promote Mike’s as an ideal college hangout.

“Instead of driving all over town to places like the Power and Light district or to Westport, we are within walking distance of your [students] house,” he said.

Bailey said that the tavern’s renovation supported local businesses, such as nearby hardware stores and neighborhood carpenters.

“The more I can give back to the community that gives to me, the better,” he said. He hopes the bar’s presence will encourage other businesses to buy nearby vacant lots to further transform the neighborhood.

Chef Marco San Juan serves up a variety of tasty dishes. Some key vegetarian plates include the veggie quesadilla, stuffed with cheese, red and green peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and nopalitos (green cactus).

The avocado and bean burrito is filled with refried beans and avocados and is topped with Espinaca (a cheese sauce) that is highly recommended. Cantina del Chef also serves traditional dishes such as taco salads, fajitas and enchiladas.

Mike’s new look is paired with a new attitude. “Anything I can do to tear down the Troost Wall…that’s why I got this job,” Bailey said. “That’s why I put in