You know when your friend tells you about that new movie, “It’s the funniest movie EVER!!!! Ya gotta go see it! Oh, I laughed through the whole thing!”
And then five other friends tell you the same thing?
And you go and see the movie, and it’s funny.
But not THAT funny. Not world-ending hilarity.
You’ve fallen victim to elevated expectations. The hype was so intense, there’s no possible way the actual event could live up to it.
You know that feeling, right?
There’s a sandwich shop that has won Click on Detroit’s 4 the Best for over a decade running.
They’ve been covered by every major local news outlet, and featured in national articles and videos.
And everyone talks about the owner, this guy named Ernie.
With this much hype, there’s no WAY this place could possibly live up to expectations.
Not only does Ernie’s Market live up to the hype, it surpasses it.
This might be the nation’s best sandwich shop.
Because a trip to Ernie’s isn’t just about the sandwich. It’s also about Ernie.
Ernie Hassan is the third-generation owner of Ernie’s Market, and he’s a character. He’s a character in the same way the Grand Canyon is a big ditch. The way the Empire State Building is kinda tall, and the way Texans have a slightly inflated sense of self-worth.
He’s a force of nature, a whirlwind of “Hey, Baby!” and “Who loves ya” that blows your cares and preoccupations away, replacing them with a warm smile you didn’t know you had in you today, and a chuckle or two at the sheer number of dad jokes, tall tales, and occasional truths being loudly proclaimed from the other side of the cooler.
If you are buying a sandwich at Ernie’s, you will be ENGAGED.
“Hey, Baby! Put your hand up here.”
You do so, only to find your hand has been filled with Hershey’s Kisses, those simple foil-wrapped candies you haven’t eaten since you were a kid. You’ll eat them today, and you’ll smile at the memory.
There’s no sign prohibiting cell phone use at the counter, because there doesn’t need to be. Oh, people in line are on their phones, talking, texting, maybe taking pictures. But when they near the front of the line, they put the phones away. No one wants to miss their chance to get some of Ernie’s sunshine.
If it’s your first time at Ernie’s, you’ll probably get a Monster, on an onion roll. And you should.
The Monster is Ernie’s signature sandwich, with 7 meats (ham, turkey, salami, pepperoni, chicken, corned beef, and pastrami), 2 cheeses (they change daily), 8 vegetables (lettuce, tomato, onion, bell peppers, jalapeños, banana peppers, cucumbers, pickles), 3 condiments (mayo, mustard, oil), and Love.
Ernie has so much Love, he sells it off by the jar. Love Spice is a secret blend of all the spices Ernie used to keep in individual shakers. He put them into a signature blend, and now shakes that onto the sandwiches as the finishing touch, the coup de maitre of sandwich making.
The Monster is a BIG sandwich. On the onion roll, it’s about as tall as a can of Faygo pop, which is what you will buy, along with Better Made potato chips, to go with your Monster. Ernie keeps it local.
Yes, two people can easily split this sandwich, but on your first visit, they won’t cut it in half for you. They want you to have the experience of figuring out how to get all that sandwich into your mouth. It’s an initiation; join the club.
On a sunny summer day, it’s best done seated at one of the picnic tables outside Ernie’s, surrounded by planters absolutely overflowing with beautiful flowers (evidently, nothing at Ernie’s is ever done . . . small).
How does it taste? Well, that’s the interesting part.
Every part of this sandwich is as fresh as can be. The vegetables were purchased at the market this morning, sliced and shredded in the shop before opening. The meats and cheeses are also fresh, and the onion rolls were delivered this morning, just before opening.
You couldn’t make it fresher if you did it at home.
It tastes great! Somehow, the proportions are all correct The amount of crunchy veggies, the lubrication and fat of the mayo and oil, the savory, salty umami of the deli meats, the acidic tang of the mustard and pickles, and the slight heat of the Love spice blend all combine to make a unique and delicious sandwich.
Ernie doesn’t do it alone.
He’s been married to Lois for 45 years, and she worked as a teacher for 43 of them. His daughter, Lori, works at the market as well, ensuring Dad doesn’t overdo it (Ernie is 76, and I was tired after keeping up with him for 90 minutes). The other employees share in the banter, and keep the sandwich line moving, and seem to share the same energy. It’s impossible to leave this place in a bad mood!
The Market got its start in Detroit. The Samhat Brothers’ Market was located on Peterboro Street. The building is still there, although it now houses an Asian restaurant named after the street.
The present Ernie’s Market began in 1955, and the original wooden coolers are still in place. Some interior features have changed, and the Wall of Fame grows a bit more crowded with each new award. But a comparison with the photos on the wall prove much remains the same.
The Monster isn’t the only sandwich. You can get pretty much any combination of 1, 2, or 3 meats you can imagine, or a vegetarian sandwich, if that’s your jam. My present favorite is a 3 Meat with Turkey, Salami, Pepperoni, all the veggies, mustard, oil, and extra Love–cut in half, since I’m now a regular.
Regardless of which sandwich you order, it will be prepared with care and Love. Ernie genuinely wants you to enjoy your sandwich, and your time in the store.
And you’ll be back again, for another lunch.
The Market is built around lunch: sandwiches, sides, chips and snacks, soft drinks, cookies. An ice cream treat or two.
That’s pretty much the extent of the inventory.
Did I mention the price of the Monster?
9 bucks, and it’s the most expensive sandwich on the menu.
That sandwich, that price, and that guy are the reasons Ernie’s Market just might be the nation’s best sandwich shop.
Ernie’s Market is located at 8500 Capital Street in Oak Park, MI. It’s open 6 days a week, M-F from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. You can find them on the Web at www.erniessandwichshop.com, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/erniesmarket.