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    Saturday, December 03, 2022

    The Day’s readers choose their favorite sandwich and grinder spot

    Julia Collins serves up a buffalo chicken grinder loaded with veggies at Salem Prime Cuts. (Elizabeth Regan)
    The baked ham grilled cheese at NV Bakery & Market (Erica Moser)
    The baked ham grilled cheese at NV Bakery & Market (Erica Moser)
    Part sandwich/part grinder, the Steak Bomb at New London’s Recovery Room is a double threat. (Rick Koster)
    A small turkey grinder from Scott’s Meats & Deli (Kristina Dorsey)

    This is the kind of question that gets food fans arguing feverishly:

    Which venue makes the best sandwich or grinder?

    Well, The Day asked its readers that very question, limiting it to restaurants and delis in southeastern Connecticut and Rhode Island.

    The votes are in, and the sites were narrowed down via a bracket from 64 to a final four: Scott’s Meats & Deli in East Lyme; Recovery Room Restaurant in New London; Salem Prime Cuts in Salem; and NV Bakery & Market in Waterford.

    And the spot with the most votes is ... Salem Prime Cuts.

    We sent a few reporters out to try the final four.

    Salem Prime Cuts

    12 New London Road, Salem

    Driving south out of the roundabout Saturday afternoon, I passed Dunkin and the packie before flipping a U-ey to grab a grinder at Salem Prime Cuts.

    As the local slang would indicate, I’m a Connecticut girl born and bred. I migrated east of The River as an adult and settled in this southeastern corner about 14 years ago. The pace and space suits me. We don’t do much here in Salem, but what we do, we do well. Ice cream at Salem Valley Farms. Craft beer at Fox Farm. Meat at Salem Prime Cuts. Big servings to satisfy everyone, from the rural suburban soccer mom who skipped lunch to the last remaining farmers with appetites worked up in the fields.

    A large take-out grinder from Salem Prime Cuts doesn’t disappoint, if you like 12 inches of shaved meat bursting with fixins’. I got the buffalo chicken grinder – that’s buffalo flavored sandwich meat as opposed to chicken salad – piled high with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, green peppers, banana peppers and jalapenos. The base grinder with tomatoes and lettuce was $16; additional toppings were 50 cents each. Had I been inclined to downsize, a small would have cost me $8.50, with 25 cents for the toppings.

    Next time, I’m going back for the hot sausage with provolone cheese, roasted onion and peppers ($16). There’s even a breakfast grinder on a grilled roll for when I want to start my day off right ($6.50).

    According to New England culinary lore, the grinder got its name from the need to grind one’s teeth through the hearty bread and all those fillings. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend eating it while driving. This is no soft sub. It’s a Salem tradition to be savored.

    – Elizabeth Regan

    NV Bakery & Market

    40 Boston Post Rd, Waterford

    If you're like me and suffer from anxiety induced by making food decisions, the grilled cheese menu at NV Bakery & Market may send you into an existential crisis. And then there's one of life's deep mysteries to ponder: What IS a grilled cheese? Some will argue that as soon as you add anything else to two pieces of bread and cheese, it becomes a melt.

    But that debate doesn't matter here. What matters here is that these are great sandwiches.

    I ordered the baked ham grilled cheese ($10.50), an oozing sandwich with triple cream brie, caramelized pears, dijon apricot spread and arugula on multigrain bread. It's not a sandwich to order if you don't like sweet things, but the arugula beautifully cuts through the sweetness of the apricot spread.

    Along with literally being a hot sandwich, it metaphorically evokes warmth – like you're wrapped in a cozy blanket on a fall day or sitting around the dinner table with family.

    Other sandwich options include prosciutto and figs, smoked salmon, mushroom melt, antipasto and Cubano.

    – Erica Moser

    The Recovery Room

    In our latest reader’s culinary bracket, we blithely kneel at the altar of sandwiches AND grinders, with a connective distinction between the two.

    One of the finalists, New London’s vaunted Recovery Room, offers each — but only at lunch. In fact, they have a meatball grinder, a roast beef and cheese sandwich AND a creation that’s advertised as a Steak Bomb, which is a shaved steak and provolone sandwich served on a grinder roll — so a combo of both. Perfect!

    For $13.95, you get the basics: steak, cheese and a giant, crusty, toasted French roll. For an additional $1.50, you can augment the creation with mushrooms, onion and peppers. I asked for peppers only and a tangy slather of sauteed red peppers topped the lean, Philly-style beef and mellow Mozzarella.

    It was darned tasty, but the construction of the sandwich/grinder was such that the chefs must anticipate most customers will ask for the onions/’shrooms/peppers. That is, there was a lot of empty space the veggie medley would have filled out. In an ideal world, that void would have been filled by more steak and cheese – but I also understand these are tough financial times and steak is expensive.

    In any case, I enjoyed my flavorful sandwich – which comes with a spear of tart pickle and a choice of chips, fries or salad. Well played, Recoverers!

    – Rick Koster

    Scott’s Meats & Deli

    299 Flanders Road, East Lyme

    My feeling is, if a deli makes a good old-school turkey grinder, it’s a happy indication of how its other creations taste.

    My turkey grinder ($10.74 for a small, which is not to small) from Scott’s, which I ordered with provolone, lettuce, tomato and oil, was close to perfection. It all starts with the roll, of course, and its crispy crust covered the light and tasty interior. Each ingredient was fresh and delicious, led by the turkey, which was served in abundance.

    The whole thing was pretty tightly packed, so eating it wasn’t the messy experience other store-made sandwiches can be.

    Next time, I’ll try one of Scott’s specialty sandwiches. Check out this one: Scott’s Famous Prime Rib, with horseradish mayo, lettuce, tomato and provolone, or that version but done “Mark’s Way,” with sriracha mayo, pepperjack, lettuce and tomato.

    – Kristina Dorsey

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