When I walked into Miles Lab at about 12:45 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 17, the opening day of Elkhart’s annual Dining Days, I was struck by the size of the crowd.
Per the restaurant’s policy, my friend and I had to find our own seat, but the only ones available were at two larger tables.
We found two seats next to each other at the bar and within a minute or two, owner Mike Miles, who was tending bar, had taken our drink orders.
We sat in front of a large picture window that offered a glimpse, through some trees, of the St. Joseph River across Jackson Boulevard.
I had heard rave reviews about the burgers, but first I took a look at the restaurant’s Dining Days offerings.
In Dining Days, from Friday, Oct. 17 through Saturday, Oct. 25, 23 participating restaurants are offering $10, $20 and $30 special meals, and donating 10 percent of the price to the Food Bank of Elkhart County, a program of Church Community Services. Miles Lab is trying three new dishes, and could make them permanent if they go over well, Miles said. They are:
- $10 Autumn Cobb Salad: Mixed greens with hard-boiled egg, diced apple and pear, crumbled bacon, blue cheese, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds.
- $10 Blue Cheese Bruschetta: Toasted ciabatta slices with melted crumbled blue cheese drizzled with honey. Served with dried apricots.
- $20 Mahi-Mahi: Herb crusted and pan roasted fillet of Mahi. Served with mango salsa.
- $20 Seared Ahi & Grilled Shrimp: Lightly seasoned and drizzled with delicious balsamic glaze.
- $30 Twin Lobster Tails: Two 4- to 5-ounce North Atlantic tails. Seasoned and steamed. Served with melted butter.
It was lunch, and I’m a reporter, earning a reporter’s salary, so the $20 and $30 offerings were out of the question. I tend to like meat or at least chicken, so the $10 specials also weren’t happening.
After considering one of the highly touted burgers, I was too intrigued by the lunch special, a chicken Parmesan sandwich, to pass it up. My friend wound up ordering likewise, and we were both pleased.
Let’s be clear, I’m no food critic. I’m happy if I can remember to chew before I swallow. But it was quite tasty. It was a large, breaded chicken patty, covered in melted mozzarella and pasta sauce, with lettuce and tomato on a soft ciabatta bun. It came with chips, but I upgraded to fries and they, too, were good.
I liked the atmosphere as well. There are flat-screen TVs all over and the place had an active feel, just the right amount of commotion.
I’d always been curious about the name. Miles said his great-great-grandfather was Dr. Franklin Miles, founder of the pharmaceutical company that once employed thousands in Elkhart. His picture hangs on the wall, along with other Miles-related art and photos.
Sitting next to me at the bar was regular Paula Bilancio Coffey, on lunch break from her job at nearby building products distributor BlueLinx. She had a bowl of beef noodle soup that she said was “very good.” The mushroom Swiss burger is her favorite.
“It’s a fabulous place,” she said. “The food, I’d rate it in the top ten. The owner and employees are very friendly and nice. They’re very personable.”
I had to agree. There was something cool about having the owner serve you himself, and he was polite and cheery, even before I told him I was writing about his restaurant.
3763 E Jackson Blvd.