I know I've been living in Hamilton for more than half my life but there are still so many places I have yet to discover. Not just new up and coming joints where the cool kids hang out with their ankle boots and denim vest - but places that don't come with comfy leather seats, well spoken servers, and hundred dollar light fixtures. Duarte's Super Market is exactly one of those places.
Mucho Gracias to Michael Marini from Hamilton EcDev for choosing Duarte's as our 7th small biz feature in our #BIEat series.
After doing a little research on "Home of the Hefty Hoagie" I instantly fell in love. Alcino Duarte and Filomena Sousa both grew up in Portugal, immigrated to Montreal and met at a magazine stand. Three months later they were married and get this - they honeymooned in good 'ol Hamilton! - Can you believe that?! This love story is cuter than a video of a puppy licking a lemon.
We all know what kind of reputation Barton Street has, and I'm sure most of you have a "one time on the Barton bus..." story. But we forget there is a whole community on that street doing more than just surviving. They're enjoying little gems like Duarte's - peacefully without prying hipster eyes and Locke Street sass. Those bastards.
When Marini and I walked into Duarte's, the place was packed! And it consistently had a steady line up the entire time. There was a system and a rhythm to the whole thing. If you were a regular you immediately knew how to slide in without any hiccups. Marini and I had to take a few minutes to observe, make a few notes on the enormous menu & hot bar - then when we were ready, we queued in line.
I obviously learned the hard way there are actually two lines - one for cold items and another for hot. What if you want both? I have no idea - the ladies working the counter were not waiting to make small talk. It was all business with them. I felt like I was in that one Soup Nazi episode in Seinfeld, either you knew how to order or you were SOL.
Thankfully, I was not completely SOL cause although I didn't get the cabbage rolls or perogies I wanted - I still managed to get my hands on this beautiful beast. And I whole heartedly stick to the beast nickname because it was massive. At $3.50 - it was also one of the most expense things on the menu.
One of the most expensive things on the menu is three dollars and fifty cents.
To quote my fellow food blogger Justin from Eating Your Content: "LOL $3.50 LOL"
Marini also went beast mode and ordered the steak sandwich for $4. That is the hands of a grown man holding that sandwich below. It was massive. And for four fricken dollars!
Ya'll are probably thinking, how can they afford to do this?
Alcino once said in a Spec article, "Sometimes you've got to make people happy, thats all. And they buy other things too". There you have it folks - happiness cost $4 and it's being dished out on Barton street smothered in caramelized onions. Not too shabby.
Establishments like Duartes's make me feel all mushy and warm inside. For less than the cost of a Big Mac combo you get a wholesome, handcrafted meal bursting with flavour and you're supporting a small business. How can you hate on that?
I'm sure Duarte's has a kitchen full of mama's churning out recipes passed down from generation to generation cause that's exactly what the food tasted like. This was a damn good sandwich - and not just one for under $5. The bread was soft and crusty, the lettuce was so fresh you could taste the sweetness, and the meat was plentiful, nicely seasoned and top notch quality. This is an establishment that takes pride in tradition.
What shocked me the most about the Duarte story was in 2003, they won the lottery and officially became millionaires - then they went back to work like business as usual.
THAT. Is true dedication and pride in your work & in your product.
It may not look like much from the outside, but this corner grocery shop known for its hefty hoagies is worth a visit. Not just for a declicous, homemade, hardy meal - but to just get a breath from all those damn hipsters downtown. Just kidding.
417 Barton Street East
Previous #BIEat features: #1 Westdale - Delirious | #2 Stoney Creek - The Attic | #3 Waterdown - Jitterbug Cafe | #4 Concession - Papa Leo's | #5 Dundas - Picone Fine Food | #6 Ottawa Street - Poco Loco
*this was a complimentary meal in partnership with The Hamilton Economic Development Office. The opinions expressed are my own