Kyle Whissel and guest host Todd Tolson check out this El Cajon landmark, The Grinder in El Cajon.
According to their website, “The Grinder has been at 2nd & Greenfield in El Cajon since 1963. The sandwiches today have the same flavor as when we opened our doors. Our menu has only changed by allowing more options for you to choose. We now offer a “Sandwich In a Bowl” for the carb counters. Any sandwich ingredients can be put on a bed of lettuce with your choice of oil and vinegar or Ranch dressing on the side.
Our online menu features photos and detailed descriptions of each sandwich. If you’d like to place an order in advance, we’re only a phone call away.”
Their address is:
1300 N. 2nd Street
El Cajon, CA 92021
You can call in an order at (619) 442-8444
See the full menu:
– Hey, I’m Todd Tolson, and I’m the pastor of Riverview Community Church here in East County. Today I get to be a guest host for East County Eats, and I’m standing outside of The Grinder. It’s an iconic sandwich shop here in El Cajon. Let’s go and check it out inside right now.
– [Kyle] East County Eats is all about showing you the coolest restaurants in and around East County. I’m Kyle Whissel with Whissel Realty and this is East County Eats. Todd, what’s happening, man?
– Hey, how are you?
– I’m glad to have you join us today.
– Thank you.
– So we’re here at The Grinder in El Cajon. Tell us a little bit about the sandwich shop.
– We started in 1963 with Pete DiGangi and he actually moved this building, it used to be a flower shop, from Spring Valley on to the location, and then he opened up July 3rd of ’63. My husband managed it for him in the ’70s and then into the ’80s, and then he and I got married, my husband, in 1986. We leased it from Pete in ’88. Pete passed away in ’94 and that’s when we bought the business.
– So, Margaret, what makes your guys’ sandwiches special?
– The TLC that we put into it. We slice fresh every day. Our bread comes in fresh every day, we get it from Gibaldi’s Italian bakery in Spring Valley. We make everything custom-ordered.
– And then, what sandwich are we going to make today? What is the one your guys are known for?
– Well, we’re actually known for the Combo, but we build in stages up to the Godfather, and we’ll be making the Godfather today. It’s got six different meats on it.
– What was the inspiration for that one?
– I don’t know, Pete just used to put everything on the sandwiches, and I think that it was trial and error and the Godfather’s got to be a lot of trial on it ’cause most people, a lot of times when people ask what’s on it, the look on their face is just immediate, but then after they eat it they go, “Oh wow, that was really good.”
– And, Todd, you grew up coming here.
– Well, I did. I mean, I remember coming here in high school when I was playing football, you guys used to cater a lot of our football events and then when I was going to college down the street, this was the place I can get a sandwich and could afford it, too. Sp I’m excited to dig into the Godfather today.
– Cool, well let’s go back in the kitchen. Let’s get to it.
– So we’re going to make the Godfather today. So what do we start now with over here?
– Well, she’s getting the meatball and the sausage that will go on the sandwich out, so she’s just kind of prepping what she’s going to do. Normally, somebody comes in, they’re listening for what the person is ordering. The person here is cutting the bread. Somebody else is going back and getting the meatballs and everything ready for them so that they can get it started and then they turn around and the stuff’s already there.
– Then you guys make your own meatballs?
– Yes, we do.
– What goes into your meatballs?
– Parsley flakes, black pepper, granulated garlic and salt.
– You guys go straight for it, beef and pork?
– Ground beef.
– All beef.
– All beef. We usually do about 60 pounds.
– Now where does the recipe for the meatballs come from? Is it, like, an older–
– Pete? Did he make it up? Or did that come from family heirloom or…?
– I think that it’s probably his mother’s recipe, but I don’t know for sure. But now she’s putting the cold pastrami on it right now and then the roast beef goes on it. We don’t put full layers of all the meats on. She’s putting our peppers and onions on it. Different people kind of put it together a little bit different just because of the ease of putting it on when other things are already on the sandwich. It’s a full layer of ham. A full layer of cheese. A full layer of salami. And then the rest of it is kind of like torn up on it, and then the meatball is chopped up on top of it. Our meatballs are about a three-inch diameter, but then we slice them up for the meatball sandwich and we chop them up for the Godfather.
– Alright, Todd, you ready?
– I’m ready, man, looks so good.
– This looks so good.
– Okay, I’m going to dive in! Mmm, that’s good.
– You’re going for round two?
– I’m just looking at this thing of beauty, it’s so good, it’s really good.
– So tell me about the sandwich.
– Well, you can literally taste every layer in this between the pastrami and the cheese and then the meatball’s just, you know, is sort of the dressing on top. I mean, and of course, I mean you can see the oil is just, it’s just really good.
– I love it. Well, guys, thank you so much for tuning in. This is our first episode of Everything East County. We want to keep the East County Eats flavor with it. If you guys are looking for an awesome place to come grab a sub here in East County, check it out, The Grinder in El Cajon, corner of 2nd and Greenfield. Awesome people. I mean, these have been here for 50-plus years, it’s pretty amazing in the restaurant industry. So you guys got to come check it out, see what it’s all about. If you guys enjoyed the episode, make sure to like it, comment, share it. More people can learn about these guys. Thanks so much for tuning in to Everything East County.