Philadelphia has the hoagie. New England calls it a grinder. And New Yorkers order a hero—basically the same stuffed-to-the-gills Italian-deli meat, cheese, and vegetable sandwich as the other two.
So where did the moniker come from? Supposedly in the 1930s, a New York Herald Tribune food writer commented that only a hero could finish off such a massive concoction. And the name stuck.
You don’t see as many signs for heroes anymore, now that the city has been infiltrated by so many Subways and other chain sandwich shops.
But one place the name survives is at Manganaro’s Heroboy on Ninth Avenue in the 40s. The photo above was taken there in the 1960s. That’s comedy duo Marty Allen and Steve Rossi holding the ends of a six-footer for a photo op.