Mike’s Mess

Brittany Schmigel

Mike’s Place looks as though it has been decorated with items from garage sales, flea markets and garbage dumps… and it has. Historic license plates, road signs, antiques, sports memorabilia, car parts and other random items cover the restaurant’s walls. Customers can find gas pumps, an Elvis statue, a row boat, a bus and thousands of items that have collected within the restaurant since it first opened 23 years ago.

“My brother-in-law got me a license plate with Elvis on it, so I stuck that up and then a week later, a guy brought in a whole bunch of plates, so I nailed those up,” said Mike Kostensky, the owner of Mike’s Place. “As people were throwing stuff out, they started bringing it in here and we started putting it up on the walls. A lot of the stuff just shows up.”

Kostensky didn’t always want to own a restaurant, though. “I was supposed to be a teacher,” Kostensky said. “And I bailed out on my student teaching.”

After leaving his position as a student teacher, Kostensky got a job at a restaurant, until the business was shut down for not paying bills.

“I tried to buy that (restaurant), but I would’ve been buying his problems, so I started looking for a spot,” he said. “I don’t know how the hell I ended up in Kent.”

Kostensky said he ended up opening Mike’s Place in 1987 after a Dutch restaurant that was in the building closed down.

Kostensky said when he acquired the building, the original décor was entirely country-themed.

“There were ducks and chickens and all that country crap, and it just drove me crazy,” he said.

He knew the place needed a change, and so he gave it one. Although the restaurant still has a couple items from its past, such as a picture of ducks and an old cotton dress, the whacky restaurant no longer resembles the Dutch restaurant it once was. Throughout the years, Kostensky has added more features to his restaurant to truly make it one of a kind.

The restaurant’s Web site calls Mike’s Place “a unique drinkery and eatery,” and it couldn’t have been given a better title. But it’s also Kostensky’s fun-loving and laid back personality that makes the place so unique.

“Kent is great, it’s fun being here,” Kostensky said. “The kids bring a breath of life into here, whether they’re drunk or disorderly, you know, we get them all.”

While other restaurant owners may not welcome rowdy college students, Mike welcomes them… after all, it’s his place.

The Twin Coach Bus

Kostensky said a friend of his had several old buses that he was giving away. Although Kostensky wasn’t sure what he would do with a bus, he went to look at them anyway.

“He had a lot of old buses from the ‘50s from Kent State. We were walking through one row of buses and I noticed a plaque that said ‘Twin Coach, Kent, Ohio’ on the one bus,” Kostensky said. “I looked into the history of it, and I found that they were one of the biggest employers in Kent, so I ended up getting the bus and restored it.”

Kostensky refurbished the bus with several tables, so customers would be able to sit and dine inside it. Unfortunately, the bus was not insulated, so in the winter the bus grew too cold and in the summer too hot. Kostensky solved this problem by putting an addition on to the restaurant and building around the bus.

“I’ve been here long enough that nothing seems too special anymore,” said Mike’s Place manager Stan Cooper. “But I’ve never been to a restaurant where there’s been a bus parked inside.” Cooper added that the bus is most customers’ favorite place to eat.

The Row Boat

One of the most talked about features of Mike’s Place is a full-sized row boat, standing up against the wall, behind the bar.

“That showed up in the back of the building one day. Last July, I came here in the morning and the boat was sitting out behind the restaurant,” Kostensky said. “I stuck it up on the porch because I didn’t know if it was stolen or not. But no one came for it, so we brought it in. Two guys came in a couple months later asking me if we got their ‘present.’”

Kostensky said it took several employees to carry the heavy rowboat into the restaurant. “It isn’t leaving. When I’m done, that thing is staying with the building,” Kostensky said.

The wooden boat is now propped up vertically behind the bar, liquor bottles lining the shelves. “Everyone always asks how that thing got in here,” Kostensky said.

The Star Wars X-Wing Fighter Jet

If you’ve driven past Mike’s Place, you’ve most likely seen the Star Wars X-Wing Fighter Jet on the front lawn.

“We drank a lot back then,” Kostensky said laughing. “We built it in my barn and there would be chickens in it, so when we’d go in there, we’d have to chase the chickens out.”

Kostensky said the jet only took him about four months to build, along with the help of his family and employees.

Kostensky said his original idea was to attach the jet to the roof of the building and to make it look as though the restaurant was being attacked, but the city did not approve of his idea.

Contact off-campus entertainment reporter Brittany Schmigel at [email protected].