turkey grinder

Learn How to Make a Grinder Sandwich

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Very few things bring me back to a time and place as much as food does. I’ve never felt that as much as I do now that I no longer live in my native Connecticut. When most people think of New England foods they probably think of clambakes, Maine lobster, and clam chowder, but to really eat like a southern New Englander, you will need to know how to make a grinder sandwich.

How to make a grinder sandwich

We haven’t been able to find a sandwich in Colorado that even comes close to the grinders that we grew up with so we were excited to try our hand at making them at home instead. For the first time in the three years that I’ve been away from New England, I had as close to a classic grinder as I think I’m going to get away from home!

What is a grinder sandwich?

Most people would call them a sub sandwich and while they are very similar, I recently called the sub the grinder’s underachieving cousin.

The one thing that makes or breaks a New England grinder is the bread. A grinder roll closely resembles Italian bread, but the inside is chewier and the outside has a nice crust on it, but it’s not too crispy.

Finding the perfect bread is a must then the rest of the sandwich will fall into place. Finally, I found rolls that looked and felt very much like grinder rolls on a recent shopping trip to Safeway. Could it really be? 

This, my friends, is how to make a grinder sandwich.

Grinder sandwich recipes. How to make a classic New England grinder sandwich

How to make a classic New England grinder sandwich

How to make a classic New England grinder sandwich

How to make a grinder sandwich

Slice the roll so that it’s open but not all the way; you want all of the ingredients to stay in the sandwich instead of all over your lap.

Liberally coat the bread with oil, then add a light sprinkle of oregano. Some people like mayo instead, but I prefer extra-virgin olive oil. 

Load the bread chock full of provolone cheese and delicious meats like ham, salami, turkey, or whatever you like. 

Now it’s time for the lettuce and tomato. One of the important parts of a true grinder is to shred the lettuce.  I use romaine lettuce, but you could use iceberg if you prefer. In Connecticut, you will also find some places that use green cabbage instead of lettuce which is also an excellent choice for even more flavor.

Once you’ve added the lettuce and tomato, drizzle the top with more extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, then sprinkle more oregano, salt, and course ground pepper.

How to make a classic New England grinder sandwich

There you have it. Now you know how to make a grinder sandwich. It may look and sound like a sub, but this Connecticut native insists that there is really no comparison. 

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14 Comments

  1. We miss grinders so much, For 17 years, this is the one thing I miss. Florida does not have anything close to a grinder. One of my snowbird friends keeps saying she’s going to find a way to bring some with her, but I’m still waiting. Thank you for this bit of nostalgia

  2. Susan Steinick says:

    A grinder in Iowa is hot sauce, ground beef, cooked & drained with pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese in a grinder bun. Wrap in foil and put in oven for 15 min or so.

  3. I still live in New London county. Grinders are a thing unto themselves. First made on Bank St. New London at a mom and pop shop, The New London Fruit co. They aren’t a hoagie or a sub. A “regular” grinder is cooked salami. But any meat used is still called a grinder. There’s also meatless grinders, there’s eggplant Parmesan grinders, fried fish grinders, seafood salad grinders. All with provolone, lettuce, tomato and oil. My current go to grinder shop is Hamilton Market on Broad St. in New London. A tiny mother/daughter shop that has lines out the door. This however, is a point of contention like which New Haven Pizza is best; Pepe’s, Sallies or Modern. I’m retiring soon and CT is an awful place to retire but one of the strongest pulls is to stay close to a good grinder and pizza. A tough call that

    1. I haven’t been to New London in so long, but I’m willing to make the trip for a good grinder.

      When I lived in New Haven I tried Sally’s a few times and was underwhelmed. Pepe’s or Modern all the way for me.

  4. vicky smith says:

    I was from Uncasville and we had a great grinder shop. Alas it is gone and I haven’t found their grinder anywhere. No luck on the bread either. Is there a company that makes grinder bread?

    1. Westerly Bakery used to make the best grinder rolls and Kaiser rolls and they sold them at Stop & Shop and McQuade’s, but I don’t think they exist anymore. I have yet to find another great grinder bread since then outside of a restaurant. I’m always looking, though.

  5. I’m from Philly. I would call your sandwich a hoagie. I always thought grinders were heated in the oven either open face or wrapped in foil.

    1. Not in Connecticut and parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Any sub-style sandwich is called a grinder whether it’s hot or cold.

      When we lived in Colorado they also called hot “subs” grinders and cold ones subs. Being a Southeastern Connecticut native, that was a totally foreign concept for me.

  6. Roger Greenlaw says:

    being a fellow Connecticut Yankee, I don’t remember the meat being ham or turkey. It was always Genoa salami and/or prosciutto meats in a Grinder.

    1. Maybe different parts of the state have different ideas of what a grinder is. I was born and raised in the Mystic/Stonington area and we always referred to all subs, regardless of the kind, as grinders. It doesn’t matter if it’s genoa, ham, or even tuna – they’re all grinders if they’re on a long roll.

      1. Mark Roberts says:

        You’re spot on Regan. Heading down to Groton Long Point for July and can’t wait. One added clarification, you must slice tomatoes and onions paper thin – meat is laid out flat to hold lettuce and tomatoes as well as catch extra olive oil.

        1. Nice! My family is from Groton Long Point, Noank, Stonington, and Mystic. Enjoy and have a proper grinder for me.

          1. Rocco Basilica says:

            I’m originally from New London and grew up in the old Italian neighborhood near Shaw St. where the grinder was born. Your right the bread makes it or breaks it, plus the extra virgin olive oil and the fresh coarse ground pepper. The red wine vinegar came later and still prefer my grinder without it. I now live in Florida and found the chain Jersey”s Mike to be very close to the old grinder of New London.

          2. Nice to “meet” you! I was born in New London and grew up in Stonington and Mystic.

            We have Jersey Mike’s here in CO and I agree that they’re pretty good. It’s the closest we’ve found outside of CT.

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