Did you know that 5 May is National Hoagie Day? To celebrate, we take a closer look at America’s favourite fully-loaded bread roll and ask that age-old question - do you call it a hoagie, a sub, a grinder or a hero?
A hoagie is a bread roll sandwich piled high with deli meats, cheese, fixings and dressing, and is usually at least six inches long. The term ‘hoagie’ is most commonly used in Philadelphia and South Jersey, and has several possible origin stories.
One explanation for the name is its popularity with the Italian immigrants who worked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, also known as ‘Hog Island’. The workers and their favourite sandwich were known as ‘hoggies,’ which changed over the years to ‘hoagies’. An alternative explanation also has the name starting out as ‘hoggies,’ but this time because you had to be a hog to eat such a big sandwich.
Hoagies are usually served cold, and because of their association with Italian American culture, they tend to be made using Italian ingredients. Italian bread rolls, salami and provolone cheese are all popular.
Probably the best-known of the big sandwiches, the sub sandwich gets its name from its submarine-like shape. The name is used throughout the country, and even if you’re firmly Team Hoagie, you’ve likely still heard the sandwich referred to as a sub. Subs can be served cold or toasted, and they’re not associated with any particular culture, so in terms of fillings, anything goes. One of our favourites is the meatball sub.
‘Grinder’ is a New England term, used to differentiate sandwiches with hot fillings (i.e. meatballs or sausage) from those with cold fillings, which are typically referred to as subs. In Philadelphia, a grinder is a hoagie that is heated after assembly, whether the filling is made up of traditionally hot ingredients or not.
Like the hoagie, the grinder may have its origins among Italian-American labourers, this time in the dockyards of New England. ‘Grinders’ was Italian-American slang for dock workers, who spent much of their time grinding the rusty hulls of ships for repainting, and it is thought that the sandwich may take its name from them. Another origin story is simply that the crusty bread rolls were hard to chew, leading to much grinding of the teeth.
The hero is a New York version of the bread roll sandwich. The origins of the term are unknown, although it is sometimes attributed to 1930s New York Herald Tribune food writer Clementine Paddleford, who is supposed to have remarked that only a hero could eat a full one. The hero is another sandwich closely associated with Italian culture, with many New York pizzerias offering eggplant or chicken parmigiana, or meatball marinara heros (the plural is usually spelled without an ‘e’).
Whatever you like to call your favourite sandwich, we’ve got the perfect recipe for you.
If you’re hungry for hoagies, make these Balsamic Beef Hoagies from Taste of Home part of your National Hoagie Day celebrations.
If you stan the sub, treat yourself to a Spicy Turkey Meatball Parm Sub from Smells Like Home.
If you’re gaga for grinders, check out these Italian Grinders with Garlic Aioli from Food and Wine.
If you’re holding out for a hero, let this Italian Hero Sandwich from Eazy Peazy Mealz come to your rescue.
In the end, there is a lot of overlap between these different sandwiches, and the names are often used interchangeably. What you call your favourite sandwich probably depends more on where you were raised than anything else. To find out more, take a look at this map showing the different sandwich names used across the U.S.A.