The ordering system at Which Wich -- you build your sandwich one ingredient at a time on a multiple-choice form -- is clever and efficient. It's an impressive way to empower customers.
It's also an invitation for disaster, one I accepted last night at the NorthPark food court.
The visit to Which Wich was prompted by a conversation here at City of Ate headquarters, about how easy the chain made it to order nightmare condiment combinations like avocado and mayo, and what it might be like to eat a sandwich like that.
That avo-mayo pairing was all I had in mind at first, but pretty quickly at the counter I realized Which Wich allowed for bastardization of a much greater magnitude. There were egg sandwiches, and the shrimp seemed promising, but then -- on the "Classics" menu, of all places -- I found the Monte Cristo: turkey, ham and grape jelly topped with powdered sugar. Even without further tinkering, that might be an appetite killer, but the bottom of the order form blows it all right open. I found the bubbles for avocado and mayo, and filled in both. I added lettuce, tomato and mushrooms too, to give the sandwich some body, and then Cheez Whiz to give it some... fake orange color, I guess.
There was something right, and maybe a little Irish, about the green, white and orange of the avocado, mayo and Cheez Whiz, and as I handed over the bag where I'd written my order, and saw it clipped on a line for the sandwich maker, I wondered how hard I'd have to fight to defend my right to a sandwich with the condiment tricolor.
Turns out, not very hard at all. It wasn't much of a surprise either, but as I watched the woman making my mess of a sandwich, it was clear I was the only one tuned in to appreciate what she was creating. At one point I thought I saw her look up at my order and shake her head, but the gesture carried more of a "Here we go, another damn sandwich" air than anything specific to my order.
Writing it all down, instead of facing someone and stringing together words like "avocado" and "Cheez Whiz" out loud, made the order much simpler, and it occurred to me it probably goes about the same way when you're robbing a bank.
My sandwich maker wrapped up my order and put it in a big, and because she did not look like somene interested in discussing, gosh, all the crazy sandwich orders people must come up with, I just took the bag and grabbed a table.
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First impression: it didn't look like something I'd normally want to eat. But I was starving, and the sandwich was in my hands, so there was no question how this would go. In that mess of flavor, the grape jelly came out of the gates strong, followed in short order by the mayo, the cheese, and the powdered sugar. The avocado was easily overpowered by the other condiments. Exactly one bite -- some uncovered ham sticking out the side of the bun -- tasted at all like meat, but otherwise it was a succession of bites I'd immediately wish I hadn't taken, even as I convinced myself the next one would be better.
The low point came when, mopping up some grape jelly with a stray scrap of turkey, I happened to look up and catch a middle-aged woman in a bright purple coat glancing down at my table, walking past with a daughter who looked like she'd just come from basketball practice. The moment was quick, but the woman clearly registered the disgust I thought I might catch from the sandwich maker. Now that I'd eaten nearly the whole thing, of course, it was a moot point. I felt like it might be worth saying, hey, avocado and mayo wouldn't be all that bad if you just hold the jelly.
Instead I grabbed a napkin, wiped the Cheez Whiz and powdered sugar off my face, and finished off the sandwich with one last bite.