A St. Laurent institution is celebrating a half-century in business – and the secret to success, they say, is simple.

Decarie Hot Dog is a family-run restaurant that opened on Decarie, near Cote-Vertu in 1969.

Handpainted menus still run along the top of the fryers, and a simple counter design allows the staff to build up a relationship with their customers.

“The long counters are more of an interaction with the people – maybe it’s not the trendy fake fireplace on the wall and fancy coffees, [but] here you know exactly what you’re getting,” explained Tom Vriniotis.

It didn’t take long for some customers to become regulars; with only eight seats and a bit of standing room, the space forces people to get to know their neighbour.

“We see all walks of life in here: the elite of Montreal, the poor people and hobos – we see the starving students who have to scrounge their nickels together for hot dogs – but we treat them all the same,” Vriniotis added. 

But of course, at the end of the day, it’s all about the food – simple steamies, French fries, and hamburgers are the staples. 

After five decades, the business is already looking to the third generation. 

Perry, for example, is 13, but has already learned how to make it in the restaurant business.

“If you want to get somewhere, you gotta try hard and work hard,” he said. “Because you won’t get it for free – you have to work for it.”

The owners say they have no plans to change the menu or décor now, especially after years of practice making perfect.

“I’ve done at least a million hot dogs – yes, definitely,” Vriniotos said. “It’s a long history here, and we’re very proud of it.”