Like that last present tucked away in the shadows behind the tree on a waning Christmas morning — quietly waiting to be discovered — I unwrapped what turned out to be an exciting surprise gift in the form of Michelle’s Lounge on the northeast side of the city.
Following the word of several bar flies from various Belly Up assignments, I made my way to Michelle’s in search of a breakfast and a little hair of the dog. No other bar exists that felt so much like my own, so much like home. The family vibe among the staff and the patrons was a disarming contagion to which immunity is an impossibility and an exercise in futility. But there I go overthinking with unnecessary loquaciousness. Folks at Michelle’s have no interest in fancy three-syllable words.
“Everybody here makes their bloody marys by hand — we don’t use no mix — so they all taste different depending on the bartender,” said Terri Schumacker driving a toothpick through two olives and propping it atop a masterpiece all her own. Hers included not only olives but a spear pickle and a lime — something for everyone. The mix was a spicy complement with just the right kick and, much like the screwdriver I sampled from the friend next to me, she knows how to pour ’em, if you know what I mean.
“Hey girl, you want one of those big-ass pancakes?” she said to a woman who walked in and sat at the bar as if by habit.
“That’s what we call ’em — big-ass pancakes,” Schumacker explained. When the cook emerged from a small kitchen in the back with the woman’s breakfast, it was plain to see the nickname was earned.
Fixing up the grub at Michelle’s is purely the pleasure of Carol Cavil.
“We’re really known for our biscuits and gravy,” Cavil said.
“The gravy is made with Graziano sausage, so it’s spicy with a kick to it,” added Schumacker. “They’re available all the time, even when the kitchen is closed.”
But I couldn’t resist ordering the Whitetrash breakfast sandwich. The BLT with egg and cheese is the genius invention of Schumacker’s mother. She grew up eating them and brought the dish to the public when she started at the bar years ago, back when it was Kenny D’s.
“Michelle Armstrong is the owner now. She was the bar manager back then,” Schumacker explained. “When the former owner passed away, he left it to her. This place has always been a bar.”
Good to know. Along with the genuine kinship, strong but tasty drinks and underrated food, the two pool tables, dart board and walls of video games make Michelle’s an anybody’s kind of bar. And the foosball table makes it mine, too. CVMichelle’s Lounge 3925 E. 14th St. 263-9900 HOURS: 6 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Sat.; 9 a.m.-2 a.m. Sun. HAPPY HOUR: 6 a.m.-8 a.m., 4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 6 a.m.-10 a.m. Sat. KITCHEN: 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sun. ENTERTAINMENT: Karaoke – Sun. 8 p.m.-12 a.m.; Silverstrike bowling tourney – 2 p.m. Sat.; pool leagues 3 p.m. Sun. EVENTS: Ugly Sweater Christmas Party, 8 p.m. on Dec. 22. CAPACITY: 117