Hoagies and Grinders: Sprucing Up Sandwiches with Regional Inspirations

Sub sandwiches don't have to be a simple on-the-go meal, as these regional variations and attractive alternatives to the standard sandwich show.

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April 22, 2019 4 min read

Depending on your local culinary traditions, a submarine sandwich might not seem like a very exciting meal nor a great addition to your personal arsenal of recipes as you work to become a professional chef. If your only exposure to a sub is through a quick service chain restaurant and you weren’t pleased with the results, it’s easy to see why. However, there are plenty of exceptional concepts for subs across the country, going under a number of different names and filled with a cornucopia of delicious and diverse ingredients.

A close up of a hot sandwich with vegetables, steak and melted cheese.Heating a sub sandwich can drastically improve the flavor profile.

Boulder culinary school students don’t have to look far for inspiration

Students at Boulder culinary schools can check out a long-established local restaurant to see an especially broad range of subs and a variety of happy customers. Half Fast Subs offers more than 130 different variations of sandwiches on a long roll to its customers. The menu includes hot and cold selections, spanning from traditional mixes of deli meats, veggies and dressings to more unique selections like crispy shrimp, baked tempeh and tofu, sauteed steak and meatloaf. With positive reviews on platforms like Google and Yelp, this local institution can help broaden your sub sandwich horizons. That’s true whether you visit in person or simply take a look at the menu.

Hoagies: A Philadelphia specialty

Hoagies aren’t as well known outside the City of Brotherly Love as the classic cheesesteak, but residents love this sandwich just as much. It has some core similarities with along with some vital differences from a standard sub. Serious Eats pointed to a few special touches that set great hoagies apart:

  • Flavorful toppings and garnishes: While more mild lettuce still provides an important crunch, roasted or fried hot peppers, pickled peppers stuffed with provolone or prosciutto and hot pepper relish star on hoagies.
  • Tightly stacked flavor: A breaded, fried cutlet of chicken or veal, already full of flavor, is boosted even further with toppings like mozzarella, broccoli rabe and prosciutto.
  • Fresh ingredients: The best hoagies don’t just use freshly sliced, flavorful deli meats; they also use a range of standard and specialty breads baked that same day.

Moving past a mass-produced loaf of bread, bulk sliced deli meats and thin, watery tomatoes and shredded lettuce is a key takeaway from studying the hoagie.

Grinders: Hot from New England

In some parts of New England, grinder is a synonym for any type of submarine sandwich. In others, it’s a way to distinguish between a hot and cold sub, as New England Today pointed out. These warm, baked, often sauce-filled sandwiches – the hot oven grinder seen on many mom and pop pizza parlor and Italian restaurant menus – are another example of transcending the limitations of the standard sub.

Baked in an oven – often the same conveyor belt type used to cook pizzas – this variation at its best features a hot, slightly dried roll that absorbs the rich, piquant marinara sauce blanketing fresh meatballs, breaded cutlets, sausage and similar toppings. Melted cheese, often provolone or mozzarella but with some others making an appearance, crowns the dish. In many cases, a hot oven grinder takes a classic plated meal like chicken parmigiana or spaghetti and meatballs and turns it into a flavorful handheld feast.

Many more ideas to consider

You don’t need to draw great sandwich ideas from a specific region or restaurant. Everything from a full Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing on a sub to stir-fried vegetables or cheeseburgers halved and placed on a roll, then dressed, have pleased eaters looking for something they pick up off their plate. Students at Boulder culinary schools develop the strong foundation they need to confidently craft their own subs that can not only fill up customers, but impress them as well.

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