Which Wich has taken two of society’s greatest loves — a Do It Yourself mentality and a quality sandwich — and married them to create a new way of sandwiching: whichever way you please.
This “Superior Sandwiches” eatery takes a win for customer input in the sandwiching process. After pushing through the glass doors, you will see a row of hanging bins to your left that offer a number of labeled options. Each bin holds a stack of brown paper bags with your options printed right on them: classic, chicken, turkey, vegetarian, Italian, ham, beef, or seafood. Select a bag, pick up a red sharpie, write your name at the top, and mark off the combination you want.
This process bypasses the awkward confusion of gawking at a menu board while the worker taps his foot, impatient with your patience. At Which Wich, you can stare at the paper bags for as long as you wish, and nobody will huff at you. In fact, the customers behind you might be taking as long as you are, and saying things like: “Okay, do I want the chicken, or the Italian? Oh, I don’t know, the classics are good, too. How do normal people do this?” I pick the chicken bag, and with my sharpie I fill in the bubble next to chicken- pesto, completing the first of 12 decisions total. I choose the lettucewich, though do not lament if you are not a fan of iceberg lettuce — you can get a regular sub on white, wheat, or in a spinach wrap. Next I choose my cheese, sauce, onions, peppers, veggies, mayos, mustards, dressings, spices, and whether or not I want to make it a meal. At the end of the bag, I have requested a chicken pesto lettucewich with swiss, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, sauerkraut, mushrooms, oil, and vinegar, and a cup for water, all for $6.50.
I hand my bag to the worker. He rings me up and clips my bag to a pulley system above the sandwich building counter. The workers behind him shuffle into action and begin to sandwich.
The space feels open and bright, with a yellow color scheme, high ceilings, and floor-to-ceiling windows at the front. The metallic accent pieces are reminiscent of the industrial style Harrisonburg loves, but different enough that the decor is interesting. On the walls hang yellow circles celebrating local universities: James Madison, Bridgewater, and Eastern Mennonite. In the middle of JMU territory, Which Wich acknowledges our existence with a large, regal lion — brownie point earned. In the corner near the window, child-sized tables sit next to a bookshelf full of classics; “Hop on Pop” catches my eye.
Which Wich caters to families and business casuals, attracting a wide mix during the lunch rush. Some order take-out. Some stay and chat for half an hour. Some settle in the outdoor seating. Meanwhile, the workers crank out the subs with smiles that match the happy yellow glow of the eatery.
“Chicken Pesto for Leslie,” someone calls. Close enough. I retrieve my lettucewich from the counter and return to my table. The wich comes wrapped in paper and foil in the bag I ordered with. If you order a lettucewich, keep the paper on and peel it back before each bite. Otherwise, you might struggle to hold everything together. My wich is large in circumference, requiring many bites to get through the whole thing.
I am glad I did not bring a hot date with me, as the oil and vinegar drip over my hands, as the tomatoes and sauerkraut fall out of my wich, and I struggle to remember where Which Wich keeps their napkins. Lettucewiches are messy, but I finish feeling refreshed and encouraged by the sheer proportion of vegetables I have consumed.
To experience this DIY sandwich concept for yourself, you can find Which Wich sandwiched between Buffalo Wild Wings and Dunkin Donuts off University Boulevard, open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Which ‘wich will you choose?