#SoupsOnt: An Interview with The Burnt Tongue

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words and photos by Carly McLeod

On Cannon, a couple of storefronts from the corner James St N., sits my favourite place to eat in Hamilton: The Burnt Tongue. Even if you’re not from Hamilton, you’ve probably heard of The Burnt Tongue. With food this good, word of mouth travels fast. This local gem has a rotating menu that consists of soups, grilled cheese sandwiches, salad, burgers, and frites. They also feature Rudy’s Paletas (the perfect cure for any burned tongue).

I’ll readily admit that every day at approximately 11:30am, I stare down my Instagram feed waiting for The Burnt Tongue to upload their daily menu. From daahl, spicy sausage lentil soups, to more traditional favourites like creamy tomato, their selection is both diverse and excellent. It’s a treat to see what they prepare each day.

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Walking in to the restaurant, the first thing that catches your eye is the cork board wall decorated with business cards and posters for local events — a collaborative display of what’s what and who’s who in the neighbourhood. The Edison bulb/Mason jar lighting creates a relaxed, warm, and inviting dining experience. Don’t be put off by the small seating area (there are only 5 tables). You might have to wait a few short minutes, but trust me, it’s well worth it! Above all, the food speaks for itself. Creative combinations and savoury masterpieces await you.

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If you’re thinking about making the trip to Hamilton and are in the mood for “soup-er” good food, I highly recommend you eat here. A word to the wise: step outside your comfort zone. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything less than utterly delicious. If you’re feeling a bit lost, the staff is always happy to aide you in making your decision. They’ve helped me out on more than one occasion when I simply couldn’t make up my mind. Vegan and gluten-free options are also available.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to ask owner Leo a few questions about my favourite lunch spot on behalf of Fat Girl Food Squad. Check them out below!

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Fat Girl Food Squad: Tell us about how The Burnt Tongue started.

Burnt Tongue: So, Dan and I met at the last restaurant we had worked at. Dan had run a couple kitchens in the past and I had always wanted to own my own restaurant. I would be pretty vocal about it and I guess we just linked up based on our mutual goals.

We started discussing what kind of restaurant we would do and it changed a lot. We wanted to do a grilled cheese place. It had been done. We wanted to do a sandwich place. It had been done. We wanted to do a cafeteria-type place but it was too expensive. This went on for some time and one day Dan called me and just said, “The Burnt Tongue… we sell soup.” And boom. There it was. I incorporated some aspects of the restaurants I had envisioned and we had our concept! A soup place with a menu that changes daily! It hadn’t been done and we knew we could execute it in a manner in which people would appreciate.

FGFS: How did you decide on Hamilton? Why Cannon and James?

BT: We had weighed our options as far as location went. We looked at all the Hamilton “hot spots”. Locke, Ottawa, Dundas, Westdale, and obviously James. I was already very familiar with the area, with friends owning businesses and with promoting shows nearby in the past. Now, the current building we are in was not the most ideal spot when we first saw it but we knew it had a lot of potential. Our landlords are amazing and we foresee a long and great relationship. James is such an amazing neighbourhood. We truly feel honoured to be a part of it.

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FGFS: How do you come up with your changing menu? Is it something that your plan ahead for or something you make up on the fly?

BT: The menu is not planned per se. We visit the produce market every morning; see what’s fresh, see what the weather is like, etc. We love being spontaneous and we love making soup. We always try and have a vegan soup, a veggie soup, a hearty soup, etc. Sometimes we make customer requests and recipes they bring in. Our staff is very enthusiastic and we always allow them to partake in the creative process of soups. It’s really fun. “Soup” is such a broad term and is really the boundaries we work within. Now with the summer around the corner we are starting to have daily salads and sandwiches.

FGFS: When creating your soups how do you know what works and what doesn’t? Is it trial and error until you’re happy with the flavour?

BT: Over the past 7 months we have really taken a tally of what works and what doesn’t. We love serving the classics (you know them) and we love when people trust us and experiment with our more “exotic” soups (i.e. Malaysian cabbage, tomato dahl, Moroccan cous cous, etc.). We will never serve a soup unless we are proud of it. Since we have opened we have only not served about 5 soups. Haha. They just weren’t right. But hey, it’s like anyone’s kitchen! We do our best tapping into all types of palettes. Whether the customer can appreciate the flavour profile or not is sometimes their own preference. We do our best to try and steer choices in the right direction.

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FGFS: Do you have any tips for creating a good soup?

BT: Tips to creating a good soup… do your homework. Have patience and be willing to allow room for trial and error. Always strain your purée soups for a proper smooth texture and have fun! Soup can be intimidating but so rewarding when you have that first bowl.

FGFS: How was it to create soups in honour of The Trailer Park Boys?

BT: Haha. It’s always fun when our boundaries are tightened. The boys asked us to make soups that were relevant to the show. We made a “Cheeseburger”, a “Zesty Mordant” which was a zesty cheddar soup topped with fresh corn chips, and “Sausage and Beer”. We have also done themed soup series with the Food Network. The most popular of those posts is “Comfort food turned into soups”. Some of the popular soups from that post are “Buffalo Chicken Wing” and “Loaded Baked Potato”. We have our recipes now on the Food Network website.

10 Cannon St. East
Hamilton, ON

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