Is There a Difference Between Hoagies, Heroes, Subs, and Grinders?

updated Dec 2, 2022
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(Image credit: Brent Hofacker)

Layer some meat, maybe some cheese, a spread, and your favorite toppings between two slices of bread and you’ve got yourself a sandwich. Swap that bread for a long, thick roll (the longer, the better) and you’ve got something else entirely. This isn’t just a sandwich — it’s something far greater.

As for what it’s called, however, that’s a whole other thing. Hoagie, sub, grinder — what’s the deal with all these names for a fairly straightforward food?

What name do you know this sandwich by?

Depending on where you live, you may know this long, packed sandwich as a sub, hoagie, hero, or grinder. Or perhaps there’s even another name you know it by: a blimp, zeppelin, torpedo, spuckie, bomber, or Dagwood, maybe? While these names refer to the same general type of sandwich, they each have their own distinct origins and nuances that set them apart.


Growing up in northern New Jersey, I knew these sandwiches — piled high with meat, cheese, fixings, and dressing — by one name: a sub. Served on a long Italian roll anywhere from six inches to six feet, this sub sandwich is named for its resemblance to a submarine.

“Sub” is probably the most widely used name for this type of cold sandwich. Whether you’re in the north, south, east coast, west coast, or midwest, you’ve probably used this term before. (Or at the very least, you’ve heard of it.)


Going to college in Pennsylvania taught me that people from Philadelphia and South Jersey are adamant about calling this sandwich a “hoagie.” Like a sub, hoagies are also served cold, but have a stronger association with Italian-Ameican culture.

There are several theories surrounding the origin of this sandwich’s name. One of my favorites is that these sandwiches got their name from popularity among the Italian immigrants who worked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, once known as Hog Island. These workers were known as “hoggies,” which eventually morphed into “hoagies.”


This sandwich variation hails from New York City, and is seemingly the most versatile. It uses a range of different fillings that span beyond meat and cheese, and can be served warm or cold.

One fun explanation is that the name implies the heroic effort needed to actually eat this sandwich.


This sandwich variation is well-known among New Englanders, and can be served warm or cold. Instead of cold cuts and cheese, you might also find grinders filled with meatballs and sauce or sliced chicken breast.

One theory is that these long sandwiches got their name because they require so much grinding or chewing.

What do you call this type of sandwich?