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Photo by Anne Braly / The rib-eye cheesesteak at Mike's Tavern, served here with a side of hand-cut fries, is a mouthwatering combination of fork-tender beef, onions, peppers and cheese.

Editor's note: This story was updated Tuesday, April 12, 2022, at 7 p.m. to clarify that Mike's Tavern was opened by Mike Robb (who died in 2020) and John McClellan. This story was also updated to remove a restaurant listed that is no longer in business.

With so many new restaurants that have opened in the Hixson area over the past several years, a place can get lost in the shuffle if there's little to no street presence to draw customers in. Mike's Tavern appears to be beating the odds.

It sits well off Highway 153 and is a little difficult to see as you whiz down the road — unless you know where to look. But Mike's had something going for it even before it opened. Its sister restaurants, Mike's Smokehouse and Mike's Hole in the Wall, are known for cold beer and good Southern comfort food, including some excellent 'cue, so Mike's Tavern had a good reputation for food before it even opened.

On a Tuesday at lunch, Mike's was packed with all kinds of people — businessmen, a tableful of women, young people, middle-aged folks and retirees, too.

 

THE MENU

Opened by Mike Robb (who died in 2020) and John McClellan, Mike's Tavern is located in a newish shopping center along Highway 153 with a couple of other restaurants, including the popular brunch place, First Watch, none of which compete with each other as their menus are totally different. At Mike's, you'll find burgers, wings, nachos, egg rolls — typical tavern bites.

But then the menu takes a turn to steakhouse fare with its 12-ounce New York strip served with parmesan mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus; lemon-crusted pan-seared salmon; lobster ravioli; and shrimp and grits — a panoply of dishes on a menu with something for every taste, a full bar with beers on tap or in bottles and brunch on Sundays.

Photo Gallery

Mike's Tavern

 

THE ORDER

We went with a blackened mahi sandwich with onion rings, rib-eye Philly cheesesteak and pan-seared salmon.

The sandwich was massive, with a large, thick filet of mahi, but the blackening seasoning was hardly noticeable. With the onion, tomato and house-made remoulade paired with a delicious brioche bun — the kind that gets kinda gummy and good in your mouth — it was very good. Only next time, I'll ask for enough blackening to make it taste like a blackened sandwich.

Onion rings are a yardstick of mine — a very unhealthy yardstick, but one that's hard to resist, especially in a tavern. These did not disappoint.

The rib-eye cheesesteak was a thing of beauty in every way — fork-tender beef with onions, peppers and cheese that all melted in your mouth. The fries that came with it, though, needed a little help. I think they may have been sitting out for a little too long as they were lukewarm and chewy instead of hot and crispy.

The salmon, on the other hand, was perfect. The filet was big and flavorful, not overdone. The mashed potatoes were creamy, and the broccoli was crisp-tender, as it should be. No complaints there.

 

If you go

— Where: Mike’s Tavern, 5211 Highway 153, Suite 103

— Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday

— Entree price range: $11-$25

— Alcohol: Full bar

— Contact: mikestaverntn.com, 423-541-3615

 

THE SERVICE

Our server was as sweet as the tea she was pouring, but I have one complaint. We were told about the soup of the day, and my lunchmate ordered some at the beginning of our meal. My meal was delivered along with her side salad, but the soup was a no-show. The server apologized and said the soup had been finished off the night before. Are servers not informed of this before opening?

 

THE SPACE

Standard- and bar-height booths and tables fill the dining and bar areas. The high ceilings are made even more noticeable by the floor-to-ceiling windows, which bring in a lot of light — almost too much when the winter sun comes shining through. Shades would be a nice addition. There are televisions in the bar area, and a partial wall separates the bar from the dining room.

The decor is industrial with exposed piping overhead. It's a comfortable space, not cozy like some taverns, but comfortable nonetheless.

There's also a large outdoor dining area when the weather's nice.

 

THE VERDICT

It's nice to have Mike's in Hixson. It's a restaurant that's built a reputation of good comfort food — something we all need right now.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com or annebraly.com.

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