I should’ve gone to Ernie’s Market a long time ago. I don’t know, I guess it always felt a little too obvious – one of those “secret” places that’s been featured on local TV and written about hundreds of times. But you know, sometimes, you can’t have too much of a good thing.
One look at the sandwiches Ernie’s dishes out makes it obvious Ernie must feel the same way. Because he loads these babies up. In a day and age when corporate chains are always trying to figure out ways take out another half-ounce of meat without getting caught, Ernie’s overflowing piles of meats and veggies are a beautiful sight to behold. For $7, you’ve got the contents of an entire Jimmy John’s lunch rush in your hands.
So big, I couldn’t fit the whole thing in the frame.
And if $7 sounds like too much for a sandwich, don’t worry. He can hook you up for as low as $4.
He’s got ham, salami, turkey, chicken, corned beef, pastrami, pepperoni, cheese, veggies, mayo, mustard, “love spice”, and more, and all the meat and cheese is sliced to order by Ernie himself. You tell him what you like, and he makes it.
I like to think that what Jiro is to sushi, Ernie is to cheap deli sandwiches.
Now if you’ve never heard of Jiro, he’s a sushi chef in Japan that charges the entire yearly salary of a Mexican factory worker for a meal of sushi, and getting a reservation at his place is about as tough as scoring Green Bay Packers season tickets. He’s got guys massaging dead octopuses for hours, and cooking rice for him is like a 10 year apprenticeship. He picks up fish from the local market daily and isn’t afraid of rejecting inferior product.
Ernie’s kind of like that, except with working class prices and zero pretentiousness, his gray hair poking out of his hat as he shuffles across his work station. Everything in his deli has to pass his inspection, and he treats each of his sandwiches like a work of art, beaming with pride as he plops the finished product in front of you before wrapping it up. And sort of how Jiro gives you the sushi he feels like making, Ernie’s at his best when you pretty much let him decide how to put together your sandwich.
That’s Ernie. I told him to make me his “monster” sandwich, and to go crazy on it.
Ernie, of course, will instinctively reach for an onion roll and pile it up with awesomeness, shouting “yeah, baby” and asking “who loves ya?” the whole way through. He’s a character, a real people person, and that’s why his little corner store in a nondescript Oak Park suburban neighborhood – just north of Detroit and the infamous 8 Mile Road – has survived all these years. It’s an institution, reaching back decades. His place is so popular, you can pretty much expect to wait about an hour in line during lunch.
Yes, I’m serious. An hour.
Sure, he could get the line moving a bit faster, but he doesn’t want to ignore you, and he definitely doesn’t want to give you a sloppy sandwich. Your first time in, he’ll call you “baby” and even give you “kisses”, a handful of Hershey’s Kisses that’ll make you feel like you’re at your grandpa’s, spectacles and all.
Ernie’s Market might look like any old corner store, with a stark brick exterior, beer signs, and a few shelves of snacks, but it’s no ordinary place. The ambiance is incredible. It doesn’t hurt that he serves up a pretty mean sandwich, either, literally dripping with goodness.
Before I left, Ernie told me a quick story about Michigan’s esteemed Gov., Rick Snyder. Apparently Snyder came in one afternoon and expected he’d get to cut in line. Ernie told him he’d have to wait along with everyone else (politely, of course).
Snyder left because he had a busy schedule, but was back the next day. It seems nobody can resist Ernie’s charm, not even our one tough nerd.
And you know, the thought of Snyder standing in line with all of his “fans” was almost as delicious as the sandwich.