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Mike’s grills it up

As college students know, one should never judge a book or a building by its cover because what you find inside could change your life.

Roughly 10 minutes south of campus is such a building. Located at 7117 State Road 301 N. is Mike’s Southern Classic Bar-B-Que. While the food at Mike’s may not change your life, it very well may change where you eat your lunch.

Mike’s offers a variety of foods to choose from, including sandwiches, salads, dinner plates and the Smoke House Potato, a twice-baked potato stuffed with a choice of meat and covered with melted Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses. Finally, it’s topped with the ultimate spud topping: bacon.

All of the meat at Mike’s is slow-cooked with indirect heat, and they never add spices or sauces while cooking to ensure the flavor. But rest assured: There are sauces at the tables.

Mike’s features sauces made locally at Howton Farms. There are three bottles on each table. The first, which has a “Howton” label, is a thick, semi-sweet sauce with just enough kick to let you know it means business. The other two sauces pack little or no punch but are tasty just the same. One is a thick, sweet sauce that is wonderful on beef and ribs; the other is a slightly more watery sauce with a tangy bite – perfect for chicken. Barbecue sauce fans may already be familiar with Howton Farms, as they have won several awards including “First Place Mustard Mild” at the 2004 National Barbecue Association Awards.

For the really hungry, “Mike’s Specialty” includes three ribs, two pieces of chicken, beef, pulled pork and smoked sausage, plus two sides and bread. There is enough food on the plate for the average college student to get at least two meals for the price of what one trip to Sonny’s will cost. Not to mention it just tastes better.

And don’t forget to wash it all down. Forget the sodas. Forget the water. Both are available, but this is barbecue and that calls for a tall glass of sweet iced tea. If you ordered “Mike’s Specialty,” perhaps you’ll want to go with a gallon of sweet tea.

In the adult beverage department, Mike’s always has $1 draft beers and a decent variety of bottled beers.

Inside the building, the decor is rugged and definitely bears the handiwork of a man’s man: a man more interested in getting the fire started, rather than the feng shui of the building. Cowboy posters, steer horns and neon beer signs adorn the bare wood walls and give the place a rustic feel. The western vibe is aided by the county music playing on the radio.

Outside, Mike’s provides a porch with tables and a covered gazebo just off the Hillsborough River. Besides, barbecue just tastes better outside.

The low price (one beef sandwich, glass of tea and fries – less than $10), the quick service and the great food make Mike’s a delicious alternative to the average rib joint.

Grade: A