Words by Liam O'Brien
D’Angelo’s and Jimmy John’s can take a seat. There is a new sandwich king in the Boston area, one that provides customers with a sandwich-crafting experience that they have yet to undergo.
While a trip to Which Wich in Somerville might require the adventure of switching from the Green Line to the Orange Line on the subway, the journey is undoubtedly worth the hassle. The burgeoning outdoor shopping center in which it is located, Assembly Row, is currently emerging as a hotspot for condominium purchases due to its easy access to Boston, with new complexes sprouting up seemingly monthly. However, I think the presence of Which Wich is the real attraction to living in this neighborhood.
Named the No. 1 Fastest-Growing Chain in the U.S. and Canada by Chain Store Guide in 2010, Which Wich’s unique concept of sandwich customization has allowed it to blossom from its original location in Dallas, Texas to 431 storefronts worldwide. Posted on the right side of the restaurant is a board guiding customers in their quest for a taste explosion. Customers can choose from 10 different “bags” as they begin to customize their sandwich. Each bag contains a different category for each sandwich. Among the options are Turkey, Ham and Pork, Beef, Chicken, Seafood, Vegetarian, Italian, “Serious Eats,” “Classics,” and breakfast-themed eats.
Each category aside from “Serious Eats” contains five different sandwiches to choose from. A sucker for the salty Italian sliced meats, I naturally chose the “Grinder,” which included genoa salami, pepperoni, and capicola. Smacked with the brilliant aromas of freshly-baked breads and flavorful meats that filled the restaurant, I then ventured into the most enjoyable portion of the experience aside from the actual eating of the sandwich: the personalization of your meal.
Ten different paper bags, one from each category of sandwich, line the wall underneath the board. Each bag contains a list of the sandwiches offered and a multitude of boxes allowing customers to customize the size of the sub, whether it is toasted or not, and every single ingredient that lands on it. Using the red Sharpie that was provided, I chose a medium-sized sub (10.5 inches) on a wheat roll. Preferring a cold sandwich, I opted against having it toasted.
Then, I proceeded to take advantage of the ability to pile my sub high with an avalanche of different tastes. For my spreads and sauces, I checked off the boxes alongside the hot pepper mix, hummus, and olive salad. I capitalized on the vast collection of vegetables offered, tossing on some lettuce, spinach, jalapeños, banana peppers, olives, pickles, bell peppers, and cucumbers. I then added some oil and oregano before deciding to sprinkle on some crunchy onion strings for good measure.
Despite the flurry of people awaiting their orders, I was served in a remarkably timely manner—and luckily enough, as my eyes could hardly handle the allure of peeking at others’ plates. Instantly, I could tell that the sandwich was crafted by some experienced hands. Although I doused the order with a deluge of items, it was served in a compact manner. Thick slices of pepperoni aligned the perimeter of the concoction, giving way to a heavenly array of vegetables and sauces.
The sandwich was cut in a peculiar manner, sliced in a shape of a cliff which oddly resembled the side of StuVi2 facing the Charles River. However, I fought my way through it, and the first bite of the sandwich was one of utter bliss. The savoriness of the meat compared with the zing of the jalapeños and banana peppers walloped me, freezing myself in thought as I relished in the flavor. The favorable aspect of stacking my sandwich with a variety of components was that each bite brought a different taste. One munch of the hot pepper mix would make my eyes water, and the next bite of hummus and olive salad combined with pepperoni would cool my taste buds in a satisfactory manner.
The X-factor separating this particular sandwich from the regular crop was the oil that lined the inside of the roll. It packed flavor into nearly every bite, providing a delicious blanket for the meat. The bread absorbed the oil in the process, softening and making each bite effortless. While some sub shops serve brick-like rolls that destroy the roof of your mouth, Which Wich avoids this downfall by handing customers the gift of oiling up their sandwiches.
Another crucial facet of the sandwich was the portion of meat placed on the roll. Enter the Subway location on Commonwealth Ave., and you will be lucky if they grace the sandwich with more than one piece of salami. Which Wich blows the fear of not receiving a solid return on your investment out of the water. Every inch of the sandwich was flushed with plentiful protein, supplying customers with the amount of sustenance necessary to avoid becoming hungry an hour after the meal.
Similar to the manner in which the ingredients of a burrito collide to form one last power punch at the conclusion of the portion, the last bite of the sandwich was arguably the best. It packed in a vast quantity of meat, assisted by the flavors of each sauce, the oil, and the taste of oregano, providing a fitting, explosively-flavorful end to the roll.