IMG_1862One year, I came home from College for spring break and went for a bite to eat at one of my favorite burger places on Dempster Avenue just northwest of Chicago. The name of the establishment eludes me now.

When I approached, it appeared that the place had actually closed because another bright red sign that said, GRINDERS was in its place. I moseyed in figured perhaps they still served good burgers.

I looked at the menu and saw nary a burger on the board.

The proprietor was a kind gent who explained to me they served Grinders.

“What’s that?” I asked.

He went on to tell me a Grinder was an east coast phenomenon and was a toasted sandwich on a roll. He went over his menu and explained which sandwich was which, what was on them and after he got finished, I figured it was worth a go, so I decided to try one.

It was quite the tasty treat and I thanked him for being so informative on what was a new taste sensation for me at the time. It was so good, that when I came home for summer break, I was craving a Grinder and stopped by to enjoy one. However, I came home to find the GRINDER sign gone and the restaurant closed. I was disheartened.

Sadly, a Gas Station with a Car Wash now stands on the site of the tasty sandwich shop and any remnants of the restaurant are all but bulldozed away. (Of course, this was many moons ago.)

Flash forward a few decades and my wife and I were trying to come up with a different Saturday dinner idea when that Red GRINDER sign flashed through my mind. I recreated the Grinder as best as I could and it turned out to be a success in our house. Over the years I’ve tried to perfect the method.

You will need:

1 loaf of French or Italian bread. Cut it into thirds, then slice each third in half length-wise. If you did your math right, there should be 6 nicely sized slices. (Say that fast 6 times!)

A tasty base. Mix ¼ cup of olive oil with Italian Seasoning, basil, and garlic powder. Even add a little pesto if you’ve got some.

Vegetables. A green pepper, red pepper and sweet Vidalia onion work best. Sliced mushrooms might work too. Thinly sliced tomatoes are good, but don’t sauté those.

Cheese. You’ll need a package of shredded cheddar or maybe even mozzarella.

Meat. You are using 3 kinds of lunch meats here chosen from your favorite deli. Pastrami is a must in my version. You may use turkey pastrami if you prefer. The one in the cover photo has a smoked turkey /pastrami / tavern ham combo. (If your doctor says you need to get your cholesterol UP, use pastrami, salami and baloney. Whatever combo you prefer works. If 2 slices is your thing, that’s fine.)

More cheese. Get some sliced cheese from the deli. The photo sandwich has Colby Jack cheese.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1. Sauté the green and red peppers until just tender, not overdone. Same with the onions.

2. While these are cooking place the bread on a baking stone and add some tasty base on each slice of bread. Sprinkle just a tad o shredded cheese over the bread as well. (I found that this keeps the veges from sliding off.)

3. Top each bread slice with the sautéed peppers and onions, not too much though.

4. Top that with a slice of pastrami, then smoked turkey, then tavern ham. Add 2 thinly sliced tomatoes per piece of bread on top of that.

5. Place a slice of cheese on top of each open faced grinder.

6. Place in the oven and cook until the bread is toasty, the meat piping hot and cheese is melted. About 15 minutes. You may want to broil on low for the last 5 minutes.


There you have it. A Saturday night special that will become your favorite weekend treat. I appreciate your feedback after you’ve tried your first home-made Grinder. Thanks for reading.