Burnt baby burnt
Despite being a relative newcomer to Hamilton’s restaurant scene, The Burnt Tongue has already had remarkable success. Located between Cannon and James, owners Leo Tsangarakis and Dan Robinson hit the ground running when their doors opened in the midst of a 2013 Super Crawl. Since then, their restaurant has been featured on The Huffington Post, the Food Network, and topped a number of Hamilton “must eat here” lists.
Every stop at the Burnt Tongue has yet to disappoint. From butternut squash, spicy chipotle, dhal, or Finnish split pea and apple, the list of soups offered goes on. Better still, each of the soups can be paired off beautifully with daily sandwiches and salads during the summer, or with classic burgers, fries, and grilled cheese. They even provide Rudy’s Pallettas and ice cream if you’re in the need of a refreshing dessert.
While some of these sides are certainly good enough to stand on their own, the soups at The Burnt Tongue always take centre stage through an ever-changing daily menu. In its first year of business alone, the Burnt Tongue has offered more than 600 soups, each posted on their signature chalkboard menu, displayed across their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, everyday at 11:30.
After talking soup, small business, and social media with co-owner Leo Tsangarakis, it’s easy to see why The Burnt Tongue is such a success. By mixing culinary talent with smart business and design decisions, Tsangarakis has made The Burnt Tongue Hamilton’s latest foodie staple.
Leo stresses that his restaurant was created to be accessible to everyone, in terms of both the food and the aesthetic.
“People relate us to a kind of ‘barn-like’ [atmosphere]...to me that just ends up meaning comfortable, organic and rustic. I had a very clear vision of how I wanted to do that. The massive community board was a must down here. I wanted a whole wall dedicated to corkboard and just nothing but people putting their business cards or whatever because that’s just how James Street came to be, just from the community.”
Leo personally created the interior design some friends who helped to craft the industrial design-inspired touches, such as the hanging Mason jar light fixtures (a clever play off of the soup theme), concrete sinks in the bathroom, and the dedicated cork board wall. The nostalgic décor combined with friendly counter-service has allowed many diners to take ownership of the space and further spread the word.
“Every other day we have people bringing their friends and they’re showing them their place and that’s more then alright with us… you don’t really get that from dine-in restaurants. You could, but you’re left more alone at The Burnt Tongue. Yeah, we will check up on how your food is doing and we hope everything is alright, but the casual nature creates a bit more ownership for the consumer for sure.”
The daily menu updates on social media was conceptualized from the beginning, and Leo believes it contributed greatly to the restaurants early success. “I would definitely use the exact same format if I opened another restaurant.” The restaurateur has hinted to the possibility of opening a second location.
Clearly, people are paying attention, as “@theburnttongue” currently boasts 3,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 4,000 likes on Facebook.
While the Burnt Tongue’s dynamic daily menu and comfortable atmosphere no doubt contributed to the early success of the restaurant, it couldn’t have been pulled off if it wasn’t for the work of the stellar chefs behind every bowl.
Head chef and co-owner Dan, (or “the Tongue” as Leo put it), has a knack for consistently creating a large variety of flavours, each of which can satisfy even the most adamant “not-a-soup-guy” guys.
Dan and the kitchen team head to Westdale’s Fiddes Wholesale Produce early in the morning, take into account the weather forecast and other elements that influence customers’ cravings, and formulate the day’s menu. Certain fan favourites are always subject to make a reappearance based on request or simply how fast they sell. While vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are almost always a mainstay on the menu, the kitchen staff first and foremost commits to using fresh ingredients every single day.
While soup isn’t exactly synonymous with the summertime, The Burnt Tongue’s vast menu offerings and the quality of each and every bowl makes this place a must visit this season.
The positive reception is well deserved, and though he wouldn’t confirm or deny the whereabouts of the pending second location, Leo again and again expressed their excitement and gratitude for the continued interest and love that the city has given them as they approach the two year mark.