How the hero sandwich got its name

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.

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16 Responses to “How the hero sandwich got its name”

  1. Bill S Says:

    “Hero” is derived from the Greek “Gyro,” a similarly pronounced word and a similar sandwich. See:

  2. In a City Hungry for Heroes … - City Room Blog - Says:

    […] question. Where have all the heroes gone? [Ephemeral New […]

  3. Kristen Says:

    Most of New England does not call it a grinder. It’s called a sub.

  4. Adriane David Paniagua, J.D. Says:

    I have only know this sandwich by it;s NYC name, “HERO”!.

    I have heard it called a “hoagie”, “bomber”, “sub”. But no matter where I have travelled or lived, I always refer to it as HERO!

    I have been chided in upstaste New York (Rochester, Buffalo, Albany) for referring to this sandwich as a HERO.

    As a bornh & bred New Yorker, I felt it was my god-annointed duty to educate these “upstaters” and inform them that the moniker they atteched to the “sub” was incorrect and the proper moniker was “HERO”!

    Needless to say, the “upstaters” did not take to kindly to a “city-slicker” coming upstate and telling them that their beloved “hoagies” were in fact “HEROES”!

    They did not budge and neither did I. In fact, just to piss them off, I would order a HERO with a New York City attitude; you know, “Yo, lemme git a HERO wit da works”!

    Yea, I showed them!!

  5. eric Says:

    And that in essence is why everyone hates new yorkerd

  6. laura voss Says:

    eric: Everybody hates Newyorkers?Funny its where all of the stars want to live, NYC is basiacally the hub of all bussiness trading,it has the smartest and talented work force then almost any U.S. city.If you can make it there you can make it anywhere Yeah that song was sung for NEWYORK ,not your crappy state.Believe me where ever you are from your one step behind a new yorker.

  7. Southern Gal... Says:

    Then why is it you all end up in Florida complaining about how New York is so much better?…. Stay in New York!! We love our slow life here in the South….

  8. fhsi Says:

    I remember the first time I saw one of Maganaro’s giant sandwiches as a kid, it made quite impression. There is another explanation about how the Hero Sandwich got it’s name that involves General Santa Anna (Of Alamo fame). Although most people consider this account largely fictional, it might be of interest.

  9. A hero is not always a sandwich | Marie E. Blossom Says:

    […] written using this pen name will be released. It’s about the consummate hero (a person, not a sandwich): John is strong, honorable, kind, and kicks ass when necessary. So far, the three books I’ve […]

  10. The Regional Italian and Submarine Sandwiches of America: New England and New York | affotd Says:

    […] time in the 1930’s, a New York food writer made a joke about the sandwich being so big that “you’d have to be a hero to eat it all” so New York decided they’d better go with that name instead of something first coined in […]

  11. 10 Mouthwatering Historical Facts About Hoagies - Mamiverse Says:

    […] Common lore credits Clementine Paddleworth with coining the term hero in a food column for the New York Herald Tribune in 1936. Saying the sandwich was so large “you had to be a hero to eat […]

  12. Frank Says:

    The west coast says, it’s a meat and cheese sandwich on a bun. Who cares what you call it. Throw some avocado and sprouts on on it and you have a gnarly sandwich dude!!

  13. Ben Says:

    By all accounts, this type of sandwich has been around for a great many years, consequently acquiring nicknames along the way. The actual name, “Hoagie”, became its “official” moniker in late Spring, 1954, as my group made a connection between our desire for a sub sandwich and what had happened the previous late night incident where an officer of the Camp Hill Police Dept, a Lt. Hoag, had chased a bunch of us kids just having a good time at a local park. It was past the park’s curfew hour, and the officer discharged his weapon and detained a few of the unfortunate ones. Camp Hill is a suburb of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Personally I was a distant observer along with my girlfriend. We all made a joke of the whole incident and decided to go to Castiglia’s Restaurant in Harrisburg and celebrate with a Hoagie in deference to the officer who had made a fool of himself the night before. Hence, the Hoagie” was born.

  14. Angelo Monteferrante Says:

    When ordering a sandwich at the Italian deli on Villa Ave in the Bronx if said the word hero, it was made with hot cherry peppers and you had to be a hero to it eat it. That was done 75 years ago.

  15. Wawa Sells 83-Million Hoagies Annually - South Florida Reporter Says:

    […] lore credits Clementine Paddleworth with coining the term hero in a food column for the New York Herald Tribune in 1936. Saying the sandwich was so large “you had to be a hero to eat […]

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