Sausage seller settles in
From cart to storefront, the King expands in Nashua
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
For the past eight years, Ed Canto has sold sausages as the Sausage King from carts to the downtown late-night crowd and contractors at two Home Depots in Nashua. Many of his regulars wanted him to open a restaurant, and now fans can get his sausages and more at his new store-front place on Main Street.
The first weekend the restaurant was open, the line of late-night customers went out the door.
“People thought I was crazy,” Canto said. “When I started this process, we were in the middle of the recession. But the recession helped us out because people were looking for good-quality food at a low price.”
Red Sox fans will love this place since the interior pays homage to historic Fenway Park. One wall is a mural of the ballpark, and there is a yellow Pesky Pole near the order counter, plus other baseball knick-knacks around the space. And the sausages he sells “are from the same vendors as the ones you find on Yawkey Way, but better because we season them up.”
The Boston sports scene was the catalyst behind Canto’s journey into the sausage business. Years ago as a college student studying criminal justice, he worked at the old Boston Garden on the K-9 security team. Part of his job was to keep an eye on the sausage vendors set up on Causeway Street on game nights. He was enamored by the fun they had selling sausages to hungry sports fans.
Canto went on to become a police officer in Massachusetts, but after five years his satisfaction with the job diminished. “It was exciting at first, but then it became just a job,” he said. “I wanted to have a job where I could interact with people in a positive way. Where people were actually happy to see me.”
The job journey took Canto down various paths, from restaurant manager to sales rep and finally tractor-trailer driver. Then one day, in 2002, he was stopped outside the new Boston Garden, and the smell of the vendor’s sausages wafted into his truck. That’s when he knew what he really wanted to do — sell sausages — and bought his first cart.
Now, thanks to the new restaurant, Canto can serve more than just sausages. The menu includes a list of gourmet all-beef hot dogs in varieties named after Fenway Park. The Green Monsta has feta cheese, melted cheddar cheese, and black and green olives on top. The Pesky Pole is made with pineapple, diced ham and melted cheddar cheese, and the Nor’eastah is a chili dog topped with melted cheddar cheese and jalapeños.
The menu also has a number of salads, subs and, of course, sausages. Canto said the Hall of Famer marinated steak tip sub is almost as famous as the sausages. He marinates the steak tips, and then freezes them, which he said helps to make the meat very tender. The sub is topped with lots of onions and peppers.
Then there are the unique deep-fried items, such as the black and tan onion rings (battered with the traditional black and tan beer mixture) and the spicy deep-fried pub pickles (jalapeño pickle spears coated with a beer batter). And for dessert there are deep-fried Oreo cookies, Milky Way Bars, Snickers, Three Musketeers, Reese’s Cups and Twinkies. Or go all out and enjoy a deep-fried Oreo cookie sundae, with little rounds of deep-fried goodness topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.
Canto still operates a late-night cart a little farther down from the restaurant, as well as the ones at the two Nashua Home Depot locations. He continues to do private catering and events, such as the annual Ribfest and Pumpkin Fest. Still, he’s excited about the new restaurant and what it can offer to the city’s residents: “Nashua needed a place where you can stop in and get really good food to go. I also make sure people are greeted as they walk in the door. Like the sausage vendors do it. Step right up! What’ll ya have?”