A tiny sandwich shop in Medford packs big flavor into its sandwiches.

A tiny sandwich shop in Medford packs big flavor into its sandwiches.

I've passed Luigi's Italian Sandwiches, at 1619 N. Riverside Ave., countless times, usually saying to myself, "I should try that place sometime."

I then continue to drive and forget about the restaurant until the next time I pass it.

Finally I said to myself, "Why can't sometime be now?"

The tiny red and green building boasts that it is "Home to the world famous Garbage Grinder," a name that is both a little frightening and absolutely intriguing.

Seating at the restaurant is at a premium. Inside, a bar runs along the left side of the room. Overturned trash cans with stool cushions attached serve as clever seating. There is seating for five people at the bar, but the space can probably support only three people comfortably. Out front are two tables that can seat two each.

Hot sandwiches are the main focus of Luigi's menu, with many options of oven-cooked grinders — half of which are variations on the Garbage Grinder — along with cheese steaks, pastramis and more. There is also a selection of cold hoagies and simple sandwiches for children. The sandwiches are available in 6-, 8- and 12-inch sizes.

Due to its "world famous" status, I decided to tackle the Garbage Grinder. The sandwich includes a staggering list of ingredients: salami, ham, pepperoni, cheddar and mozzarella cheese, pickles, bell pepper, tomato, onions, olive oil, salt and Luigi's "secret sauce."

The Garbage Grinder comes in an "ultimate" version, which features everything in the original sandwich, plus Italian sausage, cooked mushrooms and black olives. Jalapenos and pepperoncinis can be added to any sandwich free of charge. I was intrigued by ultimate option and ordered an 8-incher for $7.75, with both types of hot peppers. I made it a meal with a bag of chips for 95 cents and a can of soda for $1.25.

While waiting for my sandwich, I noticed a map of the United States and Canada with pins in it and a headline asking patrons where they came from to try the Garbage Grinder. While the majority of the pins were focused in Washington, Oregon and California, a healthy number of pins spread across the map to its very edges. A note says they started this particular map on Feb. 10.

When my sandwich arrived, it truly was packed to the gills. It was served open, and I had difficulty at first closing it. It was loaded with onions, which I normally don't get on my sandwiches, but I kept them in the spirit of the sandwich's acclaim.

My first bite had me hooked. Everything on the sandwich complemented each other, even the dreaded onions. It was messy and required a large number of napkins to clean my hands, but not before I ate every morsel that fell from the sandwich.

Luigi's is an easy place to pass by, but a decision to stop will not disappoint. They have earned a repeat customer with me.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

-Ian Hand