The coming of the fall season, in my opinion, has always been the most nostalgic time of the year. Spring may be when the flowers and trees come back to life. But fall seems to be closely linked to memories of new beginnings: the school year, elections, the football season.
I was in Hartford on an assignment this morning when I was swept up in a wave of nostalgia… for a grinder shop.
For some in the Hartford area, Franklin Giant Grinders on Franklin Avenue is pretty close to a household name. Growing up in the suburbs of Hartford, my dad used to take me into the city from time to time to drive through his childhood neighborhood. He'd point out spots along his old paper route and on many visits we'd end at Franklin Giant Grinders, where we always got sausage and peppers grinders.
On one occasion, when I was probably in late elementary/early middle school, my dad gave me some cash and told me to run inside and pick up our order while he waited in the parking lot.
I was intimidated by the somewhat cinematic yet unfamiliar grinder shop scene: a line of pugnacious and crabby customers shouting orders on a busy Saturday afternoon.
I ran back out to the car.
"Dad, they don't have our order," I lied.
He made a turn around motion with his finger. "Go back in there and don't come out until you have our grinders," he said.
Grinder lessons from the master.
As part of my new grinder tour leading up to the Grinder Festival in New London on Saturday, I decided on the fly this morning to take advantage of my fortuitous trip to the capital city and feature Franklin Giant Grinders.
Walking into the place is like entering a time capsule. There's a juke box in the seating area, and the counter and signs on the wall appear unchanged. They even use the same yellow butcher's paper to wrap the sandwiches they used 20 years ago.
"How long have you guys been here?" I asked the two women behind the counter this morning.
"Forever," said the younger woman, who was probably not even born when the place first opened.
"Forty-eight years," the older woman said.
I picked up two grinders on this trip: a provolone grinder-- which came with probably a half-pound of cheese, lettuce, tomato and oil-- and a sausage and peppers grinder.
I ate half of the provolone grinder. On the third day of my grinder journey, I've learned a lesson or two about eating an entire grinder in one sitting. The sandwich was delicious and lived up to my memories of Franklin Giant Grinders.
I gave the sausage and peppers to our managing editor, Tim Cotter. A native Rhode Islander, I thought Tim would most appreciate the exotic gift of a grinder from the far-off land of Hartford.
"My Franklin grinder was stuffed with an oversized sweet Italian sausage, split down the middle; red and yellow peppers, provolone cheese and a touch of red sauce," Tim said. "What's not to like? Perfectly put together and, yes, it was a nap-inducing giant."
So, if you're in the Hartford area or even just looking for a good destination for a food road trip, give Franklin Giant Grinders a try.
But there's no rush. I've got a feeling they'll be around for at least another 48 years.