The Which Wich sandwich shop chain opened its first Washington, D.C. area location last month in Ballston, and diners are grabbing their markers and bags to answer the difficult question the restaurant poses: With 50+ options, which seem infinitely customizable, which sandwich would you like?
The process of ordering at Which Wich is unconventional, but effective. First, diners determine which of a dozen different categories will satisfy their needs. Sandwiches are grouped together mostly by meat – turkey, ham and pork, beef, chicken, seafood, vegetarian, and Italian (deli meats likes salami and pepperoni) – with special sections for classic sandwiches, creations with comfort-food in mind, breakfast eats, kid-focused bites, and takes on “The Wicked” house signature sandwich. Customers then grab a narrow paper bag from a display in front of the counter that corresponds to that category, and select one of its five or six listed recipes. So if one were to grab the “chicken” bag, the choice would be amongst plain chicken, buffalo chicken, chicken pesto, chicken and ham, and teriyaki chicken.
But at this point, the decision-making has only just begun. With the markers provided at the counter, diners place check marks next to a bevy of options printed on the bag until their ideal sandwich is made. Will they have extra meat, or tack on some bacon? Will they have white or wheat bread, and will that bread be the standard loaf or the “skinny” variety with only the crunchy crust? Will their sandwich be toasted or not? How big will it be – 7, 10.5, or 14 inches? And, will it be a sandwich at all? (A bowl option makes any of the sandwich recipes into a salad with shredded iceberg lettuce or spinach). Then come the toppings, at more than 50 in all, which include a variety of cheeses, sauces, vegetables, and more.
When the daunting deliberations are made, the diner signs his or her name and presents the bag to the cashier to find out the damage. Sandwiches alone range in price from a $6 seven-inch to the $10 14-inch, and an extra $2.50 can make them into meals with the addition of a drink and a bag of chips. There are additional charges for certain topping requests, as well as for “The Wicked.” From there, the bag is clipped to a metal line and slides down the assembly line until the sandwich is made, placed into the bag, and presented with a call of the orderer’s name. It’s an uncommon way to order a sandwich, but it’s easy and it works. Beyond the ease of ordering from this fast-casual and take-away spot is the quality of the food itself. The sandwiches are manageable. They aren’t served on chewy, domed sub loafs, but flatter rolls with a crisp crust, made only a bit crispier and warmer with toasting. They aren’t overstuffed with toppings falling out at every opportunity – not unless a large number of toppings has been selected beyond the sandwich recipe.
The Wicked is an attention-grabber not just for its name, but for the number of meats and cheeses that go into making this sandwich. Five meats in all – turkey, ham, roast beef, pepperoni, and bacon – are layered in reasonable portions onto the sub, which comes with the choice of three cheeses from the house selection – cheddar, feta, provolone, mozzarella, even Cheez Whiz, and the list goes on. The meats make a savory backdrop, with the slight spice of pepperoni and the crunchiness of bacon standing out, easily accented by any cheese or topping selected.
The “Classics” and “Comforts” menu sections feature some of the more intriguing Which Wich creations. The BLT, with crispy bacon crumbles and shredded iceberg lettuce, is good, and boosted by the choice of four different mayonnaises, including a tangy horseradish variety, to dress the sandwich. The Elvis Wich, named for the late singer with a penchant for such sandwiches, brings together peanut butter and banana slices, with just a hint of sweetness from honey and saltiness from bacon playing against one another. Creamy hand-dipped milkshakes, in flavors like vanilla and chocolate but also Oreo, are an added treat offered by this sandwich spot.
Diners can enjoy a have-it-your-way menu with cheap prices here, once they get the hang of the Which Wich way of sandwich-making.
Which Wich is located at 4300 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. For more information, call 703-566-0058 or visit whichwich.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Friday: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday: 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.