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A New Grind 

A sandwich by any other name

Depending on where you grew up, the quintessential meal on a bun is called a grinder, a hoagie, or a sub (submarine). In the Big Apple, these sandwiches are affectionately named heroes. On the Gulf Coast they are poor boys; however, note that in New Orleans a "po' boy" is loaded with fried oysters. In some places ethnicity is cited: Miamians order a Cuban sandwich while those in Maine chow down on the Italian sandwich. In other regions, the sandwiches are named for their shape. For example, in some parts of eastern Pennsylvania these sandwiches are called zeps, short for zeppelin, while other regions refer to them as bombers or torpedoes.Historically, local delis in the small communities of the north and New England made sub sandwiches. Then national franchises such as Subway came along and seeded these shops across the nation. In the past 10 years Charlotte has had a proliferation of "sub" franchises: Jersey Mike's, Blimpie Subs & Salads, Quizno's, Firehouse Subs, and Bellacino's Pizza & Grinders.

Kevin Liggett is the owner of the 90-seat Rudino's Pizza & Grinders, which opened six months ago in Atherton Mill in the space formerly occupied by Pastis. Rudino's is a franchise from the Raleigh-Durham area and has eight locations there. Liggett says the first one opened seven years ago, and he was the manager of the first two locations. He noted the store is similar to two nationally franchised "pizza and grinder" operations headquartered in Michigan. Liggett, a native of Michigan, explains his take on the regional difference of the sandwiches. "A grinder is a hot sandwich while a submarine is a cold sandwich." Simple enough.

On the surface, these types of sandwiches may seem to be the same thing. They are all on oblong rolls, typically stuffed with cold cuts, perhaps sausage, a mellow cheese, chopped iceberg lettuce, thin slices of tomatoes, and pickles. Often the difference lies in the ingredients. Philly cheese steak lovers will tell you their beloved sandwich is not a grinder. For others, how the roll is sliced is key. In southern New York state, for example, folks order a "wedge" since a wedge shape is cut out of the roll rather than slicing the roll lengthwise.

Restaurants in college towns usually have some brief explanation on their menus like this one in Charlottesville, VA: "I have different names, so call me Grinder, Submarine, Hero, Wedge, Poor Boy or whatever, you'll love me by any name."

But back to Rudino's -- the setting is in Atherton Mill, a beautifully refurbished textile plant built in 1893. Exposed rafters, brick walls, hardwood floors and ceilings are part of that charm. The interior of Rudino's is bright with loads of windows. One wall has a series of murals painted by Charlotte Simpson depicting scenes from the early 1900s of a pastoral Latta Park, the Edward Dilworth Latta home on East Boulevard (where the Greek Orthodox church now stands), downtown Tryon Street, and the original trolley. Outside is a comfortable covered patio. Several months ago the aluminum trolley barn, perpendicular to Rudino's site, was removed and the trolley track area was landscaped. Now while dining on Rudino's patio you can watch Vespas come and go from the dealership across the trolley tracks on West Worthington. Or you can watch a game on television.

Diners order at the front, but the food is delivered to the table. Drinks are also "serve yourself" fountain style. The bread for the sandwiches and the dough for the pizza are made from scratch at the store throughout the day. Rudino's offers 32 grinders including six "lite" sandwiches that are made on 18-inch buns, which can be ordered whole or half. The sandwiches are good here. The steak sandwich ($5.65) oozes with warm cheese while the house specialty ($5.55) is big and hot, stuffed with flavorful ham and salami, a scattering of sausage, and thin slices of onions, green peppers and tomatoes.

Liggett describes his pizza as "northern style with the toppings on top of the cheese," and notes his pizza is not the New York "fold "em to eat "em" kind. Having been raised on the classic New York styled pizza baked in a coal-fired oven, I have to admit I am still a professed lover of New York style pizza; however, I can and do appreciate the fresh tasting dough of Rudino's pizzas.

At lunch a $6.75 buffet is offered, which includes tax, all you can eat pizza and all you can drink soda.

Liggett told me he plans to open 10 such shops in Charlotte. Other grinder/hoagie/sub franchisee owners have told me similar plans. If this is all true, I expect the term submarine to take on a whole new meaning.

Rudino's Pizza & Grinders, 2000 South Boulevard, 704-333-3124. Hours: Monday through Thursday 11am until 9pm; Friday and Saturday 11am until 10pm and Sunday 11:30am until 8pm. Free delivery (beginning in September) with a $10 minimum order and within a two mile radius which includes all of downtown. Amex, Visa, MC.Tidbits After 36 years as the North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, Jim Graham has produced a cookbook: Jim Graham's Farm Family Cookbook for City Folks: A Taste of North Carolina's Heritage. The 500 recipes were gathered from farm families across the state. All proceeds go to the James A. Graham Endowment at NC State University and the North Carolina Extension and Community Association. The book, which will cost $19.95, will be available in most bookstores in September or can be ordered directly from Alexander Books: http://abooks.com/cookbook or 800-472-0438.

The College of Charleston and Johnson & Wales University in Charleston will sponsor a conference March 20 through 22, 2003 on "Carolina Low Country and Caribbean Cuisines." Inquires should be directed to Jeffrey Pilcher, Department of History, The Citadel, Charleston, SC 29409.

Do you have a restaurant tip, compliment, complaint? Do you know of a restaurant which has opened, closed, or should be reviewed? Does your restaurant or shop have news, menu changes, new additions to staff or building, upcoming cuisine or wine events? You can fax this information, at least 12 days in advance of event date, to Tidbits: 704-944-3605, or leave voice mail: 704-522-8334, ext. 136.

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Speaking of Cuisine_feature.html, Rudino's Pizza & Grinders

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