Don's Hoagies - Melbourne - 5 Stars
"There are some men who lift the age they inhabit."- Anderson
The man who owns this family-run and eponymously-named restaurant is a trendsetter in the restaurant industry. Don, who for many years could be seen manning the counter in his Marine flat top barking orders to his troops of employees, was a sight to behold. Don took a basic premise - make a sandwich on fresh bread with fresh, real ingredients - and made it his mission. Thirty years ago at its first location, the sandwich board was a smattering of several sandwiches, and it was run in a straightforward way. You want a hoagie? - "There is the list." Do you have a question? - "No questions allowed." Don knew he was providing the best product and no one could touch him. He has a wall of signed portraits, several of whom I know are now deceased.
The menu board is now bigger and Don's son currently mans the helm. Gone from the refrigerator case are the missives about working hard, contributing to America, and being proud of what you accomplish. Occasionally, there would be a hand bill written by Don excoriating the Melbourne City Council, The State Legislature, or the food distributors.
Although I am a loud, outgoing person, Don always managed to scare me. So I would smile, make brief eye contact, and then quickly look away for fear of angering this great man My perspective changed a few years ago, when I was with my mother at the local country club and, lo and behold, in walked Don and his wife. My first thought was "Hooray! An everyday hard-working guy had made it." He moved effortlessly among the financial elites with ease. Finally, after 25 years, I summoned up enough courage to approach Don. I shook his hand and introduced myself, telling him how much I admired him and his business model. To my surprise, he was a kind, easy-going person and we chatted for a few moments. For several years afterwards, I would go to his restaurant and find him in the zone - barking orders and yelling as per usual, but now I knew the truth of the man behind the mask.
Everything is good here. I have been getting the Challenger Hoagie (named after the Space Shuttle) for years. Nothing has changed - you get the same amount of meat you did 30 years ago. The price has gone up, but it is well worth it - loaded up with ham, turkey, capicola, and all the fixin's. If you are the lone person who has never yet been to Don's, I highly suggest you go. Big Boy says if there were a 6th Star, Don's Hoagies would get it.