Hamming It Up at Lile's

When Today Show weather guy Al Roker was “in our neck of the woods” recently working on a TV documentary, he discovered Lile’s Ham Sandwich Shop in Dearborn


Published:

“His assistant came in and said, ‘Al Roker will be here shortly,’” owner Harry Lile recalls. Minutes later, Roker’s chauffer-driven car pulled to the curb.

“He was real personable, just like on TV,” Lile says. “I made him a good sandwich, ham on a poppy-seed Kaiser and a bowl of split-pea soup.”
Roker, who makes no secret of his zesty appetite, gave Lile’s a high-profile plug when he was back on the set in New York, saying, “I had the best ham sandwich in my life in Dearborn, Michigan.”

The only remaining evidence of Lile’s fleeting brush with network-level celebrity is a framed glossy of Roker on the diner wall.

All else is back to the basics.

Basic is a recipe that has served Lile’s well. Inside the small box of a building across from Dearborn City Hall, government suits mingle with UAW jackets. “Hi, Sweetie,” one regular says to a waitress. “You know what you need in this place? You need a place to take a nap.”

 


Then he orders from a menu with refreshingly minimal options: ham sandwich, corned-beef sandwich, turkey sandwich, American or Swiss cheese, bun or rye. The soups are bean or split pea. Orders are filled in seconds and placed on a red cafeteria-style tray.

Over the years, Lile’s has attracted a few other high-profile diners. Steve Yzerman is one, the owner says. The late Dearborn Mayor Michael Guido was a regular, and the late Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young stopped by.

“Coleman Young came in about 15 years ago,” Lile says. “He used to go to our place in Detroit, and one day he told his driver to keep going out Michigan Avenue until he found us.”

Harry Lile’s parents opened their first ham sandwich shop at Michigan and Grand River in Detroit in 1961. They added a second location on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn and later sold the Detroit spot.

Lile credits the restaurant’s longevity and loyalty to a simple recipe. “You have to have a quality product at a good price, and you gotta give people a little more than they can eat, not like a sandwich you can get anywhere or make at home,” he says. “I want people to remember us.”

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Inside Detroit Mercy's Civil Rights 'Immersion' Course

The program is taking students to iconic sites in three southern states

An Hour With... Steve Neavling

Aka the Motor City Muckraker

Essay: Why Being an 'Ally' Can Be More Complicated Than You May Think

Even good intentions can miss the mark

Why Your Next Wood Project Should Be Made Out of These Salvaged City Trees

Ann Arbor's Urbanwood Project is taking the reclaimed lumber trend to the next level

New Cranbrook Exhibit Remembers Keith Haring

The show comes 30 years after the contemporary artist's visit to Bloomfield Hills
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Excellence in Care: Beaumont Health
    Hour Detroit presented Beaumont Health with an Excellence in Care Award for this extraordinary...
  2. Pinot Blanc: The Charming Cousin
    Traditionally derided or ignored, this varietal is attracting a swell in interest at Michigan...
  3. Michigan's Microbrew Scene is Stocked with Some Edgy Labels
    But when does clever cross the line?
  4. The Sky’s the Limit
    Pilot opens second winery location in Irish Hills
  5. Hour Detroit and Detroit Home’s Downtown Living Tour 2017
    On Aug. 11, Hour Detroit and Detroit Home magazine held the first annual Downtown Living Tour,...
  6. Excellence in Care: DMC
    Hour Detroit presented the DMC with an Excellence in Care Award for this extraordinary medical...
  7. Excellence in Care: McLaren Macomb
    Hour Detroit presented McLaren Macomb with an Excellence in Care Award for this extraordinary...
  8. Excellence in Care: Henry Ford Health System
    Hour Detroit presented Henry Ford Health System with an Excellence in Care Award for this...
  9. Excellence in Care: St. Joseph Mercy
    Hour Detroit presented St. Joseph Mercy with an Excellence in Care Award for extraordinary...