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Fall, football and tailgating mean it's time for an overstuffed sandwich on a roll

And, just like that, it’s fall! Whatever mixed emotions you have about summer ending, if you’re a football fan, this may be the most wonderful time of the year.
This May 2022 photo shows a submarine sandwich being prepared in New York. The overstuffed sandwich on a roll has layers of meats, cheese, condiments and so on. (Cheyenne Cohen via AP)

And, just like that, it’s fall! Whatever mixed emotions you have about summer ending, if you’re a football fan, this may be the most wonderful time of the year.

And while many of us will be hosting game-day watch parties, the diehards are not sitting in front of the television — they’re tailgating.

The subject of tailgating food can be a very personal matter. For some people, it’s “go big or go home," with feasts complete with grills, crock pots and warming trays. For others, it’s just a light pre-game gathering with some take-out burgers and a cooler of drinks.

The star of many a tailgate is a submarine, or sub, sandwich. Or, depending where you're from, you might call it a grinder, hoagie, hero, po' boy, spukie or Italian sandwich. Old comic strip fans might call it a Dagwood.

Whatever the name, we’re talking about an overstuffed sandwich on a roll, composed of layers of meats, cheese, condiments and so on. And while it's easy to pick up at a local sandwich joint, if you want to give your friends and family a treat, why not hit the deli, stock up on your favorite fillings and make your own? (Dressing recipe below.)


Making a fabulous sub requires minimal kitchen skills. It’s all about the ingredients, and a few smart finishing touches.

The classic deli sub tends to be Italian in nature, including the meats, cheeses and some other deli staples. Favorite grinder meats in our house include sopresetta, ham, prosciutto, mortadella and various types of salami. Turkey is another option, as is roast beef.

Lots of choices in cheeses, but my favorite is provolone, with its smooth texture and light sharpness. American cheese, cheddar, Swiss, Munster, fontina and Havarti are also fine choices.

The meats and cheeses should be sliced thinly but piled high. This is not a moment for restraint.

Regarding the bread, you gotta go for the roll. This is a full sandwich, and it needs a large, sturdy roll to hold it all together. You might find rolls actually labeled sub rolls, but also look for Portuguese rolls, hoagie rolls, grinder rolls, hero rolls or Italian rolls. In New York, they sometimes call these kinds of subs wedges, so you might see rolls labeled wedge rolls.

But you can’t have a sub with just meats and cheeses – it’s the add-ons that make the sandwich.

Some of my favorite extras include roasted red peppers, store-bought or homemade, sliced tomatoes, finely shredded lettuce, pepperoncini and thinly sliced onion. All of those are a must.

Play around with other jarred condiments, like chopped Calabrian peppers, anything with chopped olives (think muffuletta spread or tapenade), or Giardiniera. You might even find some condiments with names like hoagie spread.

Mayonnaise and mustard are always good options. Sometimes, I swap in a spicy mayo or another sauce or spread. Try remoulade sauce, chipotle mayo or sriracha mayo as variations.


What I think makes a deli sub a deli sub is the garlicky, oregano-flecked red wine vinaigrette or “juice” that gets sprinkled on the fillings. All of the best delis, especially Italian delis, have their version of this oil and vinegar dressing, and that combined with the other condiments of your choice turn your sandwich into a masterpiece.

(If you’ve been to a Jersey Mike’s, you’ve probably been offered the option of juice on your sub. Always say yes.)

Now, like tailgating, subs, too, come down to personal and in some cases regional tastes. One person’s perfect grinder might cause another to shake their head. But that’s the story of food! Imagine the joy of going on an overstuffed-sandwich tour of the U.S. and homing in on the ideal, perfect sub. Or, maybe… maybe there’s no such thing as the perfect sub, but the search would be a very good time.


Make these sandwiches just before heading out to the tailgate. The condiments and “juice” can make the bread soggy fairly quickly. If you want to assemble the sandwiches on site, that is another idea. Or, make the subs, but bring the juice in a separate container and sprinkle it on the hoagies just before eating.

Sub Sandwich “Juice” (Dressing):

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 deli rolls

1 cup shredded romaine lettuce

Thinly sliced ham

Sliced salami

Thinly sliced prosciutto

Sliced provolone

Sliced mortadella


Spicy brown mustard

Roasted red peppers, store-bought or homemade

Sliced tomatoes


Thinly sliced onion

Make the dressing: in a small container combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Place the shredded lettuce in a small bowl, drizzle over half of the dressing and toss to combine. Reserve the rest of the dressing.

Start stacking the sandwich! You can layer up the meats, cheese, vegetables, and condiments any way you like. Save the rest of dressing to drizzle over the top of your sandwich filling before you put the top half of the roll on. Open very wide, and eat!


Katie Workman writes regularly about food for The Associated Press. She has written two cookbooks focused on family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at She can be reached at [email protected].


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Katie Workman, The Associated Press