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Mid-Week Mugging: Ernie's Coffee Shop

In business since 1971, old fashioned downtown diner known for large meals made on the premises
Chuck Febbraro, Ernie's Coffee Shop manager and cook, with Chris Archibald, Ernie's Coffee Shop server. Darren Taylor/SooToday

It’s quite a compliment to have the staff of Ernie’s Coffee Shop hoist SooToday coffee mugs.

After all, Ernie’s, located at 13 Queen Street East, serves good coffee, terrific food, and is indeed a Sault Ste. Marie institution.

Owned and operated by founder Ernie Febbraro and his wife Judy, assisted by their son Chuck and his wife Donna, Ernie’s is known for exceptionally delicious breakfast, lunch and supper meals.

But Ernie’s is probably best known and appreciated for its unchanging, cozy atmosphere.

“It’s Mom and Pop and family operated, we’re nothing fancy, some people call us an institution in this city, we’ve got a real good business for downtown considering a lot has been taken away from the downtown,” said Chuck Febbraro, speaking to SooToday.

It remains a good old fashioned diner, with a definite sense of history in the air.

Family photos are mounted on the walls, as well as photos of Algoma Steel in its glory days and the Agawa Canyon tour train.

Tony Esposito’s photo hangs on the diner’s wall, brother Phil’s photo is in the coffee shop’s office.

“We’ve seen a lot of good hockey teams in here, we’ve fed everybody from Gretzky to the Esposito brothers, a lot of sports celebrities,” Chuck said.

But let’s get back to the food.

Ernie’s menu items include bacon and eggs and home fries, beef and pork sandwiches, hamburgers, pork and chicken cutlets, chicken parmesan meatloaf (which has been the subject of a TV documentary) and homemade cream pies.

The famous Ernie Burger is still available at the owner’s discretion.

Because of its size and the price of meat these days, the burger costs $20.

“The Ernie Burger started because there used to be a gym across the street in the 1980s. Guys who were training were coming in and wanting double patty burgers and bacon, wanting a lot of protein because they were beefing up,” Chuck recalled.

“By the time they got done, with the prices back then they were paying up to eight dollars for a burger, so we came out with the Ernie Burger.”

“It’s probably the first big burger in the Sault, we call it the Sault’s original Bad Boy.  It’s basically an extra large bacon cheeseburger, loaded.  It weighs two and a half pounds, the patty itself is a full pound of meat once it’s cooked.”

Everything at Ernie’s is made on the premises from scratch, most of the restaurant’s food purchased from local producers.

“They’re good sized meals,” Chuck said.

Ernie Febbraro originally ran the Princess Grill on Gore Street until 1968, then opened Ernie’s at its Queen Street location in 1971.

Chuck officially joined the Ernie’s crew in 1976.

Ernie’s Coffee Shop is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday and all statutory holidays.

Takeout service is also available by calling 705-253-9216

For those accustomed to fast food eateries along Great Northern Road or Trunk Road, Ernie’s may seem tucked away in an ‘old world’ corner, but Chuck encourages those who haven’t yet experienced Ernie’s to drop in and enjoy a meal.

“We’re a little out of the way but we’re worth it!”