Ernie’s Market! What a delight it was to finally experience this iconic Oak Park-based shop and its beloved sandwich.
The red-bricked convenience store/deli holds court on a corner in a residential neighborhood, looking like it’s straight out of the 1950s – because it is. Ernie’s Market opened in 1955 and is run today by the son of the original owners. He’s also named Ernie.
Maybe you’ve heard of Ernie and his big personality and big sandwiches. I was fortunate to encounter both during my visit.
The shop itself is tiny in stature, with a couple of rows of drinks, snacks, and other convenience items. At the back is the deli counter. Everywhere else is crowded with memorabilia: framed articles; Ernie’s-centric artwork; and accolades the market has won over the years (and it’s won MANY – including best-of nods from Hour Detroit and numerous WDIV Detroit Vote 4 the Best awards).
Ernie’s Market offers what it calls “Build It Your Way” sandwiches. There’s the Ernie’s Special, which includes one meat and your choice of toppings; the Ernie’s Double (which has two meats); and the Ernie’s Club with – you guessed it – three meats. And then there’s the Monster.
I think the main draw to Ernie’s Market is that Monster, which has received lots of press – and for good reason. It’s the seven-meat version of the Ernie’s Special, a compilation of turkey, ham, pastrami, pepperoni, salami, chicken, and corned beef. All that meat on a kaiser bun with cheese PLUS your choice of veggies and sauces. And that’s not all! The pièce de résistance of the sandwich is Ernie’s Love Spice, the shop’s proprietary blend of spices.
You know I had to try that Monster sandwich! The only modification I made was to nix the salami (since I don’t like it) and to add extra ham in its place. For veggies, I went with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, banana peppers, and jalapeños. I said yes to cheese, yes to mustard (but not mayo), and yes to the Love Spice (obvi!). All those ingredients were nestled in hefty layers between two halves of an uncut, onion-flecked kaiser bun.
When you’re a first-timer at Ernie’s and order the Monster, it’s requisite for them not to cut the sandwich in half for you. Initiation into the Ernie’s Market legion means taking that Monster head on!
It was such fun to be in the shop and orchestrate the build of that Monster sandwich. The staff members I interacted with were friendly and welcoming. I even got to interact with Ernie himself!
He said hi to me warmly – so warmly, I admit, that I felt sure he was confusing me with someone else he knew. Because of this, I’m embarrassed to admit, I didn’t say hi back at first. Then I realized it was him – Ernie himself!
I didn’t know that Ernie greets all of his customers so enthusiastically. According to the shop’s website, Ernie’s customary greeting to patrons is “Hey Baby!” because he wants people to know he cares about them – even if he doesn’t know their names.
That explains the “Hey Baby!” greeting Ernie gave a father and his young daughter while I was there. I’d assumed he knew them well. Maybe he did – or maybe he was displaying his customary warmth. Regardless, once I got past my initial confusion around his reception of me, it felt wonderful to be welcomed so congenially by Ernie – who, once he heard it was my first time trying his sandwich, said he hoped I liked it.
I hoped I liked the Monster, too!
My hopes were not to be dashed. The epic sandwich was epically delicious! What a kaleidoscope of flavors that Monster sandwich was.
The sheer number of ingredients and jaw-defying height of the sandwich meant that each bite was different. My favorite bites included the hearty meat with that soft kaiser bun, those spicy jalapeños and bananas peppers, and an ample smattering of Love Spice. That’s no surprise, given that I’m a lover of all things spicy. In fact, I bought a bag of Better Made’s Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Chips from Ernie’s to accompany that Monster sandwich.
You may be wondering: did I finish that Monster in one sitting? [Drum Roll] I did not. I ate over half of it for lunch that day. That meant I got to enjoy the leftovers for dinner! They were delicious toasted in the oven.
I wonder if Ernie would find toasting his sandwich sacrilegious. I have to think he’d be all for it. “Whatever makes you happy, Baby!” I can imagine him saying.
Worth noting: Ernie’s is a cash-only establishment – but totally worth the trip to the ATM!
8500 Capital St.
Oak Park, MI 48237