Grim's Grub: A sandwich by any other name

The many monikers of a sandwich we are all familiar with.

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

At home, at school, during the big game or whenever you feel like it, few things are quite as simple and filling as a sandwich filled with meat and stacked high on an extra long bun.

Of course, you know what I'm talking about, but what do you call it? It has several names, including sub, hoagie, hero, grinder, spuckie or wedge. Some say po'boy too, but that specific sandwich has specific fillings.

The names all came from different regions of the United States with very different personalities.

  • Sub: Sub or submarine sandwich might be the most universal name for these long sandwiches in part thanks to its use in famous franchise restaurants, one in particular. The meaning of this name is simple: The bread is shaped like a submarine. Hence, the name.

The name "submarine" dates back at least to January 1940, when a phone book advertisement for a restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware, offered them to go.

  • Grinder: In New England, the name "grinder" was once king. The name was adopted due to the thickness of the bread. White bread or round buns would have been softer, thinner and easier to chew. But even now, most grinder buns are taller and made of a tougher dough, requiring one to really chew, or grind, the sandwich.

At one point it was customary that grinders were hot and subs were cold, but that is no longer the case.


  • Hero: Many of these sandwiches are Italian in origin, with connections or sometimes contested origins in New York. But the name "hero" in this case is definitely a New York thing.

The sandwich itself is, once again, Italian in origin and originated in the 1940s, 20 years before the audibly similar name "gyro" for a very specific type of Greek sandwich, so don't get them confused. The name "hero" is likely borrowed from armored car guards, who used that name to refer to big sandwiches for unknown reasons.

  • Hoagie: The hoagie comes from Philadelphia, once again to describe an Italian sandwich. The term, once again, is traced back to the 1940s, possibly to Al De Palma, former jazz musician and later sandwich shop owner.

De Palma recalled that he saw another musician eating a huge sandwich once and told him he had to be a hog. When he opened his shop during the Depression, he added them to the menu as "hoggies." Eventually through the usual linguistic shenanigans, it became "hoagie."

Almost all of these have Italian origins, thanks to the shape of the Italian loaf, so it shouldn't be surprising that a survey among Facebook friends identified the Italian sub as their favorite. I will include one such recipe by one such friend before going off the rails a bit.

Read more of 'Grim's Grub'

Italian Submarine Sandwich

Courtesy of former Pine River Journal Editor Christine Lupella

  • 1 loaf Italian bread
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1-1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced deli ham
  • 1/4 pound sliced provolone cheese
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced hard salami

Cut the bread horizontally in half. Hollow out the bottom half, leaving a 1/4-inch shell. Save the removed bread for another use or discard. Brush the cut surfaces of the bread with oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and oregano.
Layer the bottom half of the bread with the remaining ingredients and replace the bread on top. Cut the sandwich into 8 slices and serve.

Patty Melt Slider Grinder

  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1/2-1 pound ground beef
  • 6-inch hoagie bun sliced in half
  • 1 large white onion, diced semi-fine
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (or 1 clove, minced)
  • Pickles
  • Seasoning salt, to taste (optional)

This sandwich will require a wide skillet on medium high heat (even better if you have a large, rectangular griddle). Start by heating a skillet big enough to toast your buns. Mix about 1/4 of your butter with your minced garlic. Spread the butter on the sliced sides of the bun and place the buttered sides down on the skillet until golden and crusty. Remove and reserve the buns.


Wrap your ground beef in plastic and use a rolling pin to roll it into a layer 1/4 inch thick or less, and as wide as your hoagie bun. This strip of meat might end up fairly long. It can be cut so that at least one piece is as long as your hoagie bun.

Next, make a pile of onion on your hot skillet, approximately the same shape as the meat you just rolled out. If you have one strip of ground beef, you will only need one row of onions. Now, divide your remaining butter fairly evenly onto these rows of chopped onions. The butter will melt into the onions. Once it does so, toss the onions in the melted butter and, again, shape the rows approximately like your ground beef patties.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place the beef patties on top of the onions and sprinkle seasoning on them. Use a butter knife to pierce the patties to allow steam to escape through the thin slider patties. Top this meat with half of your Swiss cheese. Once the cheese has begun to melt, you may top the longest patty with your bottom bun. Allow it to continue cooking until the thin patties seem to be fully cooked. Flip the patty with the bun onto a plate. If you wind up with more patties, pile them all on the sandwich before topping off with the remaining cheese, pickles and a top bun.

Place the sub onto a baking sheet in your preheated oven for 10 minutes to toast.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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