From dream to reality
Couple makes success in Northeast Mississippi
A Chicago couple’s dream has turned into a culinary boon for one North Mississippi city.
In 16 years since moving from the Chicago suburbs to Corinth, Marcia and the late Mike Guare’s small barbecue joint has turned into a thriving café serving pizza, salads, appetizers, sandwiches and steaks.
Mike and Marcia Guare met while both were working at Villa Nova restaurant in Chicago. Mike Guare had begun working there as a busboy in his teens and ended up staying for more than 20 years, working his way up to head chef.
After two decades of restaurant experience at Villa Nova, the couple and their two children, Mike and Mandi, moved to Corinth, where Marcia Guare has family.
The couple bought a little place and started Mike’s Barbecue Express.
“They did barbecue at first because of the South, but my dad started adding his own stuff,” said Mike Guare, the youngest of the two children. “It caught on immediately.”
Within two years, the couple opened Café Mike’s on North Harper Road, and after finishing his graduate degree in 2006, the younger Mike Guare returned home to help with the family business.
Guare didn’t see himself returning to the restaurant after college, but the business comes naturally to him.
He said he remembers visiting his dad at Villa Nova as a child, and he and his sister helped out at Mike’s Barbecue Express to earn money for movie night as children.
By the time Café Mike’s opened, the siblings were helping out three and four nights a week.
“When we were really young, our parents were teaching us about hard work and saving money,” he said.
The elder Mike Guare died in 2008, but the restaurant continues to offer some of his fan favorites, including the Café Burger, a half-pound burger with grilled onions and peppers topped with mozzarella cheese on Texas toast.
Other crowd-pleasing sandwiches are the Philly cheesesteak and a shaved ribeye sandwich topped with white American cheese on Ciabatta bread and served with a homemade au jus.
Guare said the chicken salad is made from scratch each morning, and customers occasionally request it by the tub.
Another favorite at Café Mike’s is the homemade ranch dressing. He said many customers have tried to duplicate the dressing, but without success.
“I’ll tell them what’s in it,” he said. “But, it’s just the ingredients we use.”
Customers request the dressing for dipping everything from potato skins to fried pickles, and, of course, to top salads.
“They dip everything in it,” he said.
Customers also like the thin-crust pizza with homemade sauce and dough that’s made from scratch every other day or as needed.
It’s those homemade touches that keep customers returning, but it’s great customers in great town that keep the restaurant thriving.
“My parents worked hard every day and night and were determined to provide great food and service,” Mike Guare said. “My parents have been blessed to have great people around them and be part of a great town and community.”