By Lafayette C. Hight Jr.
In different parts of the country, these sandwiches are known as hoagies, submarines, bombers, heros, wedges, cosmos, zeps, and spuckies.
But in Monrovia, they’re just grinders. And Gene has a knack for making them.
I’ve driven past Gene’s Grinders nearly a hundred times over the years and I finally got the chance to step inside.
The menu is incredibly simple and straightforward. With the exception of french fries, potato chips and beverages, grinders are all that they do.
It was a hot grinder that I opted for – one of a half-dozen offerings that include a roast beef dip, meatball and kielbasa varieties – pastrami, and an order of $1.50 french fries.
It’s a good thing I chose the $5.50 small sandwich, because when it arrived it was much larger than I expected, at nearly 12 inches.
I can’t imagine how big the large grinders are, but I was impressed at how lightning-fast my grinder was prepared.
Now, in Los Angeles, there is a sandwich stand, not too far from the corner of Pico and Olympic boulevards, that serves pastrami that is so greasy, that if you were to place the wrapped sandwich on a copy of this newspaper, both would be soaked in about 45 seconds.
I’m so glad Gene’s isn’t that type of place.
The pastrami sandwich – which is different than the pastrami dip that is also offered – is prepared with lettuce, tomato, cheese and the meat was very lean.
All of their small sandwiches fall into the $4 to $5.75 range, while the large sandwiches are between $5 and $7.50.
Now, the one thing that I got from Gene’s. that I didn’t expect, was a lesson in horse racing.
The placemats list the Santa Anita Park schedule, there are about 900 photos of different horses and races on the walls. A pair of horseshoes hang not too far from the door, and one of the many tidbits of information I picked up is that Sunday Silence and Easy Goer were the horses battling for the triple crown in 1989.
For a moment, after I first walked in, I though the restaurant was owned by the folks at the racetrack, as a kind of off-campus Frontrunner Restaurant.
But, I now know that Gene, who works in the kitchen regularly, is just a horse racing aficionado.
On my next visit I plan to try one of the cold sandwiches, like salami or tuna. Or maybe on a Friday, I’ll try the sandwich of the day: Italian sausage.
Gene’s Grinders is located at 800 S. Myrtle Ave. in Monrovia. For information, call (626) 358-8016.