Mention grinders to an older Navy veteran, generally brings to mind the large parade ground we marched around in Bootcamp. But “grinder” also means a particular type of sandwich. In Southern California, while there are different names: submarine sandwiches, hoagies, and grinders, there are some places that are vastly different than the franchises that pop up everywhere. And in El Cajon, California, not far from my home, is an institution 50 years in the making, The Grinder.
I actually only stopped in Thursday night at the request of my son, a Vocational Nurse working the evening shift, for a sub specifically made there. It might have been my first visit though I have lived in the area twenty years. After a long workday and a long, rainy evening commute, but I would drive an extra few miles for a sandwich.
It was not a fancy place. A video game table of the sort I had not seen in thirty years was against the wall. On the walls, were Navy-themed art, a Bible quote, articles on the history of this deli, a plaque honoring fifty years, and pictures of local kids. But the one I noted just before ordering was the image of the late Chief John Finn, Medal of Honor recipient (Pearl Harbor) on the wall. The kids working there know whose picture it is. San Diego County is a military community, and El Cajon in the part known as “East County” is home to a large population of veterans going back to the Second World War.
“where do we eat and what show do we go to?”
On date night, quickly planned, even the retired Senior Chief’s understanding wife may have felt a grinder was sub-expectations. The mall was packed with Friday-night families. As it turned out, a little pastry and coffee with live music at a coffee house we like was perfect. We knew the music and lyrics; the acoustics were okay, and probably because the band and their fans are all about the same ages, they concluded at a reasonable hour on a Friday night. 7:30 is almost bedtime.
So much for foodies partying into the wee hours (7:30PM)