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

Meet the Makers: The Empowerment Plan

How the non-profit’s coat, sleeping bag project continues to expand

For MLN8, the Magic Started With a Subscription Service

Meet the forthcoming conglomerate using unconventional ways to celebrate and support Detroit’s African-American community

What’s the Source of the Steam Pouring Out of Detroit’s Sidewalks?

Environmental groups want to clear the air about the fuel behind a little-known power system

The Way It Was

1975, The Brazeal Dennard Chorale

Netflix Set to Bring Local Author’s Horror Novel to Life

Sandra Bullock stars in the film adaptation of Ferndale author/musician Josh Malerman’s original thriller
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. 2018 Restaurant of the Year: Parc
    Excellent food, exceptional service, and a crisp and formal but distinctly unstuffy atmosphere...
  2. The Fisher Building Is a One-Stop Shop for the Alternative Bride
    Plus, bridal looks with vintage flare
  3. What’s the Source of the Steam Pouring Out of Detroit’s Sidewalks?
    Environmental groups want to clear the air about the fuel behind a little-known power system
  4. An Hour With ... Angela Aufdemberge
    President and CEO, Vista Maria
  5. Local Winter Activities Worth Bracing the Cold
    Metro Detroit’s parks are prime for winter adventures
  6. Love at First Sip
    Michiganders dish about their love affairs with local wine
  7. Cocktail Recipe: Man on the Moon
  8. Meet the Makers: The Empowerment Plan
    How the non-profit’s coat, sleeping bag project continues to expand
  9. Netflix Set to Bring Local Author’s Horror Novel to Life
    Sandra Bullock stars in the film adaptation of Ferndale author/musician Josh Malerman’s...
  10. Making the Case for a Less Sedentary Lifestyle
    Martial arts instructor trains people to defend themselves and take a stand against dangerous...