Which Wich - Santa Ana
My first summer job as a teen was at an ice cream and sandwich shop in Fullerton. They didn't let me handle the deep fryer or the burger grill. And apparently, my arms were too scrawny to scoop ice cream. I was, instead, put in charge of the sandwich station, which in retrospect, was probably the most important job there.
Think about it: the burger guy made only one type of sandwich. But me? I was responsible for more than half the menu. Different breads, meats from three distinct species of animal -- not counting tuna and egg salad.
I had in my repertoire at least four kinds of cheeses, vegetables, sauces, a toaster, a microwave, and a big honking, serrated knife to cut my finished masterpieces in half before serving.
Though seemingly simple, I'd argue that proper sandwich assembly is a craft. It's perhaps not as difficult as smithing, but the results are usually more delicious.
And I'm not the only one to think so. Alton Brown once said: "to some it’s a couple of pieces of bread with something shoved between. To others, a sandwich is a sublime balance of flavor and texture born as much of technique as ingredient."
Sheldon Cooper, from The Big Bang Theory (my favorite sitcom at the moment), would also agree with this assessment.
Watch below what the finicky physicist had to say about a sandwich that has "the right ingredients, but in the wrong order":
If I had it under my authority to award Emmys, I would give it to that show (did I mention it's my favorite?); but if there were a prize for the craft of sandwich assembly, I would bequeath it to whoever made my sandwich at Which Wich in Santa Ana, the only branch in Orange County of a nationwide chain that looks poised to take a piece of the loaf away from Subway and Quiznos.
In my opinion, and judging by the sandwich I had, Subway and Quiznos ain't got nothin' on it.
My sandwich, called "The Wicked' was perfectly put-together from good quality components, and, this part is most important: encased in a hollowed out, crunchy French loaf with a crust that crackled like the best Little Saigon banh mi baguette.
Being a fan of the Vietnamese sandwich, Which Wich's already impressed with the bread. But "The Wicked" also contained five meats. Yes. Count 'em: FIVE.
With turkey, ham, roast beef, pepperoni and bacon, it's like a club sandwich with a few extra members. And three of them are from that most wonderful, magical animal: the pig.
But first, about the place. Which Wich has an efficient and ingenious ordering system and a list of 50 sandwiches in all. Some of the notables include a SPAM sandwich, a Cuban, a Monte Cristo, and even an "Elvis Wich", with peanut butter, honey and banana.
When you decide what type of sandwich you want, (even if you order "The Wicked" like I did) you are instructed to take a brown paper bag from a receptacle labeled with the type of sandwich you chose. Then, on the bag, you mark off your bread, cheese, veggies, sauce, and spicing preferences with a red Sharpie. Finally, you scribble your name and pay the flat price of $5.25 ($6.25 for "The Wicked").
With "The Wicked", the extra dollar also entitles you to three cheeses. From a list of seven, I opted for Swiss, Provolone, and Pepper Jack. As I filled in my choices, I thought to myself, "What the hell am I doing? I already have five kinds of meat. Do I really need three kinds of cheeses?"
I decided I did, because:
1) I am an American (already pudgy).
2) I am an Asian (I paid for it, damn it).
Next were my mustard and mayo options. I got culinarily wise and chose the Dijon mustard and the horseradish mayonnaise to cut through the layers of protein and cheese. I could've opted to do the fat free mayo, but hypocrisy does not belong in a sandwich.
A few minutes after I handed my order to the cashier, the finished product was bagged in the same sack I marked up. See, didn't I say the ordering system was genius?
But the real achievement is the resulting sandwich itself. Like an architect conceptualizing the rambling requests of a madman, the sandwich maker constructed from my scribbles a sandwich worthy of I.M. Pei, or his sandwich-making equivalent.
The cross section cut above shows it in all its glory: the veggies are strategically centered in the middle so as not to dampen the precious crispness of the bread, which is further protected by layered rings of the meats and cheeses. In every bite, the sauces intermingled, asserting itself through the sweet and porky clout.
This was a better class of sandwich made by a better class of sandwich maker than I ever was or could be.
1945 E 17th St
Santa Ana, CA 92705-8603
To read DanGarion's review on
this very same Which Wich
To read Kirk's review on
a Which Wich store in Hillcrest (San Diego)
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