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Dining

Grinders adds regional favorites to the mix

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The cheeseburger grinder at Grinders Pizza Lounge.
Photo: Sam Morris

Hoagie. Gondola. Po’ Boy. Hero. Where you come from dictates how you label what is perhaps most commonly known as the sub sandwich. These, among countless other regional colloquialisms, all identify what couldn’t be a simpler dish: your choice of ingredients, including meats and cheeses, swaddled in a long, crusty roll.

If you’re a couple of Philly guys like John Anthony and Rick Hollinger, who have opened a sandwich and pizza shop nestled in a strip mall behind a Taco Bell, you’d name it after the sandwich of your youth: the grinder. The regional term for a heated sub, the grinders at Grinders Pizza Lounge get finished off in the pizza oven. And they’re damn tasty.

Grinders’ sandwich selection is straightforward, ranging from Italian or turkey subs to the pork or cheesesteak ($6.50 for a half, $14 for a whole). Unless you’re Joey Chestnut or feeding an entire family, a half will suffice, as these are seriously robust sandwiches.

The ones I’ve sampled range from good to outstanding. The successful Italian layers salami, ham and capicola with provolone in a traditional manner, although the pork sandwich, with sliced pork loin, provolone and sautéed spinach, is a bit lacking for my tastes. Being a Chicagoan, I’m unfamiliar with this regional delicacy, although my Philly friends swear it’s an institution almost as strong as the cheesesteak. (Though it’s traditionally served with broccoli rabe instead of spinach.) I’m not sure that matters much, but purists—you know who you are—will be angered.

Pizza or grinder? It's tough to choose.

Pizza or grinder? It's tough to choose.

Instead, if you’re looking to be transported to the home of Hall & Oates, check out the cheesesteak, but be forewarned: They’re using American instead of Whiz. I don’t think this cheesy concoction suffers the least bit for it.

Besides the cheesesteak, I’m most enamored with the interesting cheeseburger grinder. While burgers on a long roll may be blasphemous to some, the house-made patties layered with American cheese and the typical fixings are perfectly at home in this unfamiliar setting.

The key to these sandwiches is the bread. While the fillings are high quality, the bread is an absolute star. Grinders makes its dough daily from scratch, and the care is obvious from the first bite. Crispy crust yields to an addictively airy interior, so much so, you’ll want some on the side to feed your fix. It’s all right, everyone’s doing it.

The same dough is used for the crust on the New York-style pies. Grinders uses a standard oven, so there’s little of the characteristic char you might encounter at wood- or charcoal-fired pizza joints. It’s just solid, thin-crust goodness, but I suggest asking for yours on the crispy side; the kitchen will be more than willing to oblige. Who says East Coasters aren’t friendly?

With the recent addition of a small but thoughtful selection of craft beers—Lagunitas, Oskar Blues, Ballast Point and more—Grinders may well become your new casual favorite. The Phanatic and the Fresh Prince would approve.

Grinders Pizza Lounge 5625 S. Rainbow Blvd. Suite E, 702-293-5800. Daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

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