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Apr 4, 2012 01:42 PM

Define "Grinder"

As I understand it, the grinder comes from somewhere between New Haven and New London. It's a cold sandwich on a hero-y roll, made with cold cuts, or tuna salad, provolone, sliced iceberg lettuce and tomato. Oil and vinegar dressing is customary, but not mandatory.

A good grinder doesn't need much protein. The bread has to be very fresh. And the soul of the sandwich is the generous pile of shredded lettuce that cushions the other contents. At a grinder shop near Niantic (perhaps the epicenter of grinder country), in the mid-sixties, the woman behind the counter told me that the sandwich itself was named for "the ground-up lettuce".

That means a hot grinder isn't really a grinder, no matter what they call it.


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  1. Depends where you are. Same thing is a grinder here, a sub there, a hoagie somewhere else, a torpedo elsewhere, and a hero someplace I used to be.

    And I'm sure there are other names, too.

    I doubt any of them can be strictly and scientifically defined.

    Edit: I've heard it called Grinder in central Maine, and a sub when I went to school in New London (and no, not at the Coast Guard Academy!)

    1. No.

      There are idiots out there who insist a slider is only a specific type of mini burger cooked with onions and cry loudly when someone 'misuses' the term. Then there's the rest of us who have moved on to using the term 'slider' to mean anything on a little bun.

      Grinder is a similar situation - it's come to mean the same thing as a submarine/whatever. You might find a pedant or two clinging to the 'traditional' defition, but we can safely ignore them.


      8 Replies
      1. re: ratbuddy

        Just because you call your Barcalounger a '68 Buick doesn't make it so. Likewise, calling your grilled cheese sandwich a grinder.

        1. re: Perilagu Khan

          Consensus is different from a single oddball. Your examples are disingenuous.

          1. re: ratbuddy

            I daresay your big-tent definition of a slider is not the concensus. Hence, peekie toe crab foam with passionfruit aioli on a small bun would not meet the majoritarian definition of a slider, yet you said "anything" on a little bun.

            At any rate, I reject descriptive rather than presecriptive ontology and heuristics. Increasingly, I see so-called "professional" writers incorrectly using the apostrophe to indicate the possessive of "its", but that doesn't make it correct and it never will.

              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                Among pedants and purists, sure, slider means a very specific type of sandwich. Out in the real world, if you put peekytoe sliders on a menu, you can be assured people will know exactly what you mean - although you might be better off phrasing it 'crab sliders.'

                Language changes over time, and the only folks who fight to stick with an outdated meaning are the ones who enjoy correcting folks who use the word 'wrong.'

                1. re: ratbuddy

                  I'm not talking about slider with a modifier in front of it. Put the word slider alone on a menu, then serve it with peekytoe and passionfruit and see how long you stay in business.

                  Linguistic change is not the same thing is linguistic decline. I accept the former and mock the latter, along with its abettors.

                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                    "...You might find a pedant or two...."

                    And on cue, one appears!

                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                      I suspect that putting modifiers in front of words like 'slider' and then eventually removing said modifier once people begin to associate the word 'slider' with any small sandwich using a bun is exactly how the definition of that particular word begins to change.

                      Not that I think there's anything wrong with that. I fall distinctly into the descriptive rather than prescriptive camp of linguistics.

          2. I grew up just west of New Haven and there is no clear definition of a grinder. They can be hot, cold, on stale bread, on fresh bread...a grinder is a hoagie, a sub, a wedge, a torpedo, depending on where you are from.

            I never heard of this "ground up lettuce" business. Even if that woman is right, they will always be known as meatball grinders to me, piping hot with no lettuce in sight.

            1. Define "Grinder..."
              Franklin Giant Grinder, Franklin Ave, Hartford, CT.

              8 Replies
              1. re: qbdave

                I grew up in Middletown, CT and every sandwich
                on a roll (sub, hoagie, etc.) is called a grinder to me.
                I also know chocolate sprinkles on ice cream as
                shots, so there's that, too. :)

                1. re: dennisl

                  Same thing in RI - we had meatball grinders, eggplant parmesan grinders, italian coldcut grinders, tuna salad grinders, cheeseburger grinders . . . And chocolate sprinkles on ice cream were jimmies.

                  1. re: cookie monster

                    I grew up in Pawtucket and I think that is generally the case, but I seem to recall that for some reason, steak and cheese (not cheesesteak as in Philly) were called subs, not grinders.

                    1. re: cookie monster

                      I grew up in Western Mass. A grinder to me is anything on a sub roll.

                      1. re: cookie monster

                        Another Rhode Islander--if it was on a long roll it was a grinder. And I called the steak and cheese one a grinder too.

                      2. re: dennisl

                        Shots! me too. I grew up in W. Hartford...circa 1970. I was in Key West last spring ordering an ice cream cone "with shots" and the guy who waited on me knew exactly what I meant. Of course he was about my age and I discovered...he was from Vernon, CT.

                        1. re: masha bousha

                          our family called chocolate sprinkles "ants"

                          1. re: betsydiver

                            GET OUT! No ants on my cone, please. What a thought! Oh, that is too funny! Now shots, sprinkles, jimmies, those are A-OK. ;)

                            ETA: Did you ever go to a friend's house and ask for ants on your ice cream? What was their reaction? That had to have been a Kodak moment!

                    2. I grew up in Colchester, and any kind of sandwich on the Italian style roll i a grinder, hot or cold. I lived in Arlington, Va for a few years after college, and I could always tell when someone was from Connecticut because they called it a grinder :)