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For all the years I’ve been enjoying grinders, I’ve never given much thought to that term—grinder. Where’d it come from and what does it mean?
Phil Ramos, owner of Terrace Bakery in New London, says he knows the answer.
“When you bite it, this is what you do,” Ramos says mashing his teeth. “You grind it.”
I started my weeklong tour of area grinder shops today at the Jefferson Avenue bakery and sandwich place. (Anyone interested in making some suggestions for other spots can post them below or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I felt a hankering for something with marinara and an Italian cheese, so I went with the hot eggplant grinder after giving serious consideration to the meatball. It came on crusty grinder bread, with fried eggplant and provolone cheese. With a little parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes sprinkled on top, it was hard to beat.
Ramos says he took over the well-known establishment two years ago when the previous owner, Kathy Pappas, retired. He says he’s kept up much of the old practices, like baking the bread fresh every morning.
The most popular grinder is the Italian combo, which includes ham, salami, genoa, provolone, lettuce, tomato, salt and pepper. Other menu items that stood out to me were the Thanksgiving turkey, eggplant/meatball combo and the steak and cheese.
Ramos offers a “grinder challenge” as well: If a patron finishes a 5 lb. Italian combo in 30 minutes, the bloated customer gets the grinder on the house, a $10 gift certificate and his or her photo on the grinder Hall of Fame. City Councilman Anthony Nolan is among the grinder enthusiasts to make the hallowed wall.
The only catch is, if you fail, you owe $25.
When asked what makes his grinders special, Ramos returns to the house-baked bread. Teachers may have told us when we were younger that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but when it comes to grinders Ramos says the opposite is true.
“Everything is in the bread,” he says. “It makes the grinder when you have it on very fresh bread.”