Monday, August 17, 2009

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.

Which Wich
(714) 953-9900
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)
25 Degrees - Huntington Beach


At 11:03 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

WOW. Amazing. That is all I can say! The sandwich is so stuffed and so artfully cut and designed. The curves of cheese and the veggies and meats near the middle are so tantalizing. Even at night!

Like you in the menu I would have picked the same veggies to go along with the sandwich :).

At 7:03 AM, Blogger Darlene said...

It looks amazing. There is also a Which Wich in San Diego which I haven't tried yet and now you've convinced me to save all my calories for "The Wicked."

As for Big Bang Theory, I second the Emmy!

At 8:07 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

Dang this place could give Banh Mi Che Cali a run for it's money.
Wondering if I can make it there & back @ lunchtime...hmmm

At 8:25 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Wholly sandwich looks more like a burrito. The lusting of an over filled sandwich is my kind of eat, most definitely.

At 8:26 AM, Anonymous Thomas St. John said...

This is someone who takes pride in his craft.

At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Jan in FV said...

wow, Next week I have jury duty in Santa Ana. Now, I'm looking forward to it!

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous JB said...

Elmomonster wrote:

"I am an Asian (I paid for it, damn it).


At 9:56 AM, Blogger KirkK said...

Hey Elmo - I'm not too impressed with Which Wich.... but I will say I fulfilled a fantasy... creating a Spam sandwich with Cheez Wiz! I finally got to say, "I'd like some whiz on my Spam"......

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Factory.JUnkie said...

awesome pic of the sandwich! I'd like to try it out...
and you included a note on the big bang theory..which is one of my favorite shows too! smart dialogue, great show.

At 11:19 AM, Blogger Melissa said...

It is a craft. And I think I'm in love with whoever crafted that beautiful, jaw-dropping monstrosity that you ordered. To say I am ridiculously impressed and now YEARNING to try this place would not be overstating things. AI love sandwiches. A whoooole lot. And I almost never pay for them because I know I can make them better at home. But this weekend, I am THERE.

At 12:14 PM, Blogger DanGarion said...

I was going to check them out soon after they opened but then I did something stupid and read the initial reviews on Yelp and decided I would get to it when I get to it. Now seeing your review restores hope in my checking them out. I might just have to do it tonight... If I convince my wife that the bread has better qualities then that of Togo's I just might be able to pass this suggestion off! Especially since out bank is right there and I know we need to make a ton of deposits for our business! Anyway um... That thing looks good and you need to remember to mention Togo's as much as you mention Subway and Quiznos, since the order of good chain sandwich places goes; 1. Togo's, 2. Quiznos, 3. All others, 4. Subway.

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Stanielsan said...

I'm not a big sandwhich kind of guy...well except for a Pastrami Dip at the Hat...but man, that sandwich sure looked good. I need to try it when I get back from my business trip in foodie desert Bedford, MA.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger erika said...

Tried this while on vacation in Carslbad the kids, the husband and I loved it. We also LOVE the BBT and hope that 'sheldon' wins an emmy.

At 5:08 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I'm glad you mentioned the veggies: because what I found out is that they use red bell pepper instead of green, which is always better!


Per Kirk's comment below (he is, as you may already know, the uber SD food blogger), his experience with Which Wich in SD wasn't as good as mine. So there may, perhaps, be some variance in quality.

And BBT! I actually went to the taping for the first episode of next season. I won't reveal any spoilers here though. But I can say, it's going to be a classic!


Banh Mi Che Cali is unbeatable in price, but I can't live on cheap banh mi alone!

Speaking of which: I was going to tell you and others that if you look at the coupon book you get in the mail (if you live in Tustin/Irvine), there is a Buy One Sandwich Get One Free offer, valid for Happy Hour and weekends.


Why didn't I think of that! It *DOES* look like a burrito!


A true statement. Though my sandwich maker was probably female!


Warning: It's quite a schlep from Downtown Santa Ana though. Santa Ana's a huge city! If you're serving at the Federal Building, Tommy Pastrami is excellent!


HAH! I'm proud of that joke too, even if it propagates the (true) stereotype.


I complete missed your review of it until now. My dining companion, brekkie_fan, got the SPAM sandwich and it was okay. The difference was that her wheat bread was not like my white bread...softer and not as crusty.

Factory Junkie,

BBT is great isn't it? It's dialogue is so smart, it's hard to quote! I was both surprised and quite proud of myself when I got the joke on the Heisenberg Principle.


Be sure to check your local coupon books for a BOGO offer. It's valid on the weekends! And also, I didn't mention it in the review, but I noticed that the wheat bread is softer, a more standard loaf. If you like banh mi, and I know you do, try the white!


I am repeating myself now, but be sure to look for a coupon in local coupon books they send in the mail. Which Wich has got one in there!

Funny enough, I've never tried Togo's!


It would be appropriate if there were a Which Wich in Massachusetts, the state of the Salem Witch trials, if purely for the pun!


I'm rooting for Jim Parsons too. He's cracked me up since that FedEx commercial where he plays the lazy son.

Interesting factoid related to Quiznos, since we're talking sandwiches: that's Jim Parsons in this Quiznos ad.

At 11:24 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said... bell peppers also cost more than green bell peppers at my supermarket! Which is also why red bell peppers are better :).

Interestingly my word verification is "eationy".

At 5:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tried the wicked at Wich yesterday. Absolutely awful. First off the taste was so salty from the bacon you couldn't taste anything else. The biggest problem was it took 20 mins to make it and it wasn't even busy. Never again!

At 5:53 AM, Blogger the essayist said...

OK, maybe you got me! In deed, it looks good! If my husband need a fix, we'll go there! Maybe you would have other restaurant ideas for me. Would you reply to my "help! Veg-restaurant in CA?!" post on my blog...
Thank you! and Great blog!

At 8:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I went there last night and got a Wicked with a bunch of stuff on it and it was great! Price is good for the size, and it had just the right amount of everything.

Sandwich was ready in less then 10 minutes. Review to follow on my site.

At 7:30 PM, Blogger Bill said...

I'm still drooling. Why doesn't a sandwich taste good at home when made with better quality ingredients versus a a shop?

At 9:40 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Ate here based on Elmo's recomendation. It was awesome. I had the super meat 3 cheese thing. Meaty tangy, spicy. Really good sandwich!

Hope they last. I feel its in a bad location and wasnt to busy for lunchtime at 12:00 PM when I was there

At 1:59 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

That sandwich looks delicious! I don't usually crave sandwiches, but I would try that one.
The sandwiches that usually make my mouth water are bann mi or just about any sandwich from here:

But I don't do Suckway or Jimmy John's or Quiznos...A sandwich really has to be something for me to eat it.

At 10:55 AM, Blogger brekkie_fan said...

Thanks again for sharing! I think you may have (finally) broken my unfortunate sandwich adolescence.

At 8:14 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


How weird, it's like the word verification knows!!

And yep, that's what I said when I saw the red bell peppers: nice touch, cuz those ain't cheap!


Aw. Well that's no good. 20 minutes is longer than I waited for my last Kogi burrito! So I can understand why you wouldn't be happy with that.

It took us less than 5 minutes to get our sandwich. And I believe there were three people ahead of us. Good thing too. My lunch hour is exactly that: an hour.

the essayist,

I've got some suggestions! I like your project! Quite sneaky, yet genius!


Waiting to hear what you have to say about it! And also your pictures! I want to see if they are consistent in the artistry that they demonstrated in my sandwich!


You got me! If I could make this sandwich at home, I would...except the problem is that I'd end up with too many ingredients that would just sit around when I run out of the other ingredients. It's like the hot dog and bun conundrum.


Well there ya go folks! Which Wich gets a DD stamp of approval! There was a full house at noon when we were there last Friday. I guess it may be an end-of-the-week treat for most?


Now Pot Belly is a chain I'd welcome, if just for the name! But funny enough I tried Jimmy Johns when I was in Wichita. I can't remember if I liked it, only that it was slightly better than Subway, which at the time, was good enough. Because, again, I was in Wichita.


Actually, I believe this was probably the first "American" sub-type sandwich I've had in place like this in a while. I've consumed almost exclusively banh mis for the past few months. You know, because of the recession and all. *wink*.

At 7:36 PM, Blogger imjustatree said...

holy eff, that is one good lookin sandwich. i thought this place sounded familiar after seeing your link to kirk's post. the way of ordering is pretty cool, and i think it's a pretty fair price too.

At 8:41 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


By the looks of the different sandwiches we got, it seems we are luckier to have a better Which Wich here in OC than in SD. At least for now!

At 12:52 PM, Anonymous James said...

I'm happy to see that Which Wich has made its way to socal! I had one of those sandwiches in Austin and was won over IMMEDIATELY. Why has it taken this long for American sandwiches to be a worthwhile meal?


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