WHICH WICH - 928 Main Street

Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, April 22, 2010 4 comments

Over the past several years, advances in technology and the accessibility of media have led to a remarkable democratization of information for today’s consumer. It comes as no surprise then that a similar revolution is taking place in the food services industry. I’m talking, of course, about Which Wich.

Which Wich serves all sorts of different sandwiches (or “wiches”) for standard Columbia prices, along with chips and cookies. However, what makes this place noteworthy is that the customer designs their sandwich completely. You walk in, grab a pen, and fill out a menu card with what you want on your “wich," picking everything from the bread to the meat to the condiments to the sauce(s).

Basically, what Subway started, Which Wich has Emirel-ed up another notch. This is a sandwich shop, through and through, but at Which Wich you are the chef. Sounds simple, right? Well my friends, it can get pretty hairy if you’re not careful. Can we really be trusted with this much say in what goes on our sandwiches? Were restaurants not designed to take some of this power out of our Prometheus-like grasp and place it in the more responsible hands of our local entrepreneurs? For example, if given the option of ranch or 1000 island on my sandwich, what – besides my own willpower, which is sort of like having a blind man with a cane show up to a whoop-ass contest – is to stop me from drowning my entrĂ©e in both? When given this much latitude, would I use it for good, or end up destroying myself? Today, Knasty and I went to find out.

We showed up well after 1pm, thus avoiding the lunch crowd that normally fills the place to the brim (Note – given WW’s proximity to campus, this may have been a chronological error in judgment, as our “scenery” was noticeably depleted and Knasty lamented on the considerable lack of co-ed talent for his viewing pleasure). There was no line, so I casually looked over my options on the menu cards. Turkey, roast beef, chicken, or all of the above? Peanut Butter and Banana (known as “The Elvis”)? Powdered Sugar and Ham (known as the “Monte Christo”)? It was like a sensory overload – I couldn’t make a decision. Finally, out of desperation to have the whole thing be done with, I opted for their black bean patty.

Really? Black Bean Patty? That’s what I chose? This is the crap I’m talking about – I had so much to pick from, I spent so much time weighing my options, that I experienced classic paralysis by analysis and ended up choosing something that I would never in my right mind select. Luckily, the Black bean patty basically tastes like a whopper jr. patty from burger king, so everything turned out okay. However, I am a little scared to think what I’ll come up with next time.

In all seriousness, WW makes a really solid meal. The portions are perfect (7 inch sub rolls in white or wheat) and the staff does a great job of stuffing what is often an absurd amount of toppings into a tightly packed sandwich. Then, they use these special toaster ovens to get it to you warm and crispy. I have tried several variations of meats and veggies and have always been pleased. In fact, Tank claims (though I don’t believe it) to have tried over 40 different sandwiches in the short time that this place has been open. However, if anyone can back up to such a bold statement, its him.

Here is an insider's tip for the next time you go – opt for the homemade chips. While they have all the usual chip suspects (baked lays, regular, Doritos, etc.) WW also offers homemade “Wich Chips” that are lightly seasoned with black pepper. They are thicker than normal potato chips, feature ridges, and are easily the best offered in town. A perfect compliment to any sandwich.

Really there are just two criticisms, and they are minor. First, the place looks like the inside of an apple computer. If you’ve never been there, this probably makes no sense, but if you have then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Second, it is no more than 55 degrees inside this place at any given time. This is a welcome characteristic to some lunchmen like Tank, who I may rename the Polar Bear, but for normal warm blooded patrons like Rabbit, its borderline unbearable. Had there been seating available outside, I’d have taken advantage in a heartbeat.

All in all, this is a really sound choice and welcome addition to the South Main area. If you get a wich, chips and a drink you’re looking at about 8 bucks total, which compares favorably to most places in town. And, if you go at the right time, there’s plenty to see while you eat.


Tio's Mexican Cafe - 921 Sumter Street

Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, April 8, 2010 0 comments

Its spring time in Columbia, which means the Lunchmen are naturally taking longer, leisurely lunches again to enjoy the sunshine before our mid-days return to those sweltering, "famously hot" times when good air conditioning becomes the only requirement for a successful lunch. On days like these, why not go sit across from the Horseshoe and enjoy some Mexican fare? Not being able to come up with a good reason, we did just that.

Tio's moved from its location Main Street a couple of years ago to a much larger, appealing location around the block. The Sumter Street location has a bar, ample seating, and a lot of window space. The bar seems to be rocking some very decent happy hour prices - something we will investigate further come softball season. They've also got a dedicated parking lot guarded by a man in a chair who will only let down the rope he is holding if you are going to Tio's. Don't trifle with this man.

Rabbit, The Publican and I grabbed a table in the front of the restaurant to enjoy being on campus - it lets Rabbit and The Publican bask in the memories of their glory days. Lunch service at Tio's is notoriously slow, and today was no exception. We had multiple waitresses trying, rather unsuccessfully, to figure out our order and bring it to the table. In another setting, this might have bothered me, but not today. With the festive colors, fiesta decor, and sunlight spilling into the restaurant, I was able to slip into island time for a little while, decompress, and chuckle at the bumps in Tio's execution.

The food at Tio's is not going to blow you away, so don't go expecting to be wowed. After all, their website advertises the "best margarita in town," not the best Mexican food. However, there are some things about Tio's that have helped the restaurant develop a cult following. First, they have some pretty delicious salsa, and they offer a wide array of hot sauces for those of you that are inclined to be bold, or even reckless, with the heat. Second, the Mexican Pizza is a classic college hang-over tool. Third, and perhaps most significant, is the Wet Burrito. The name might not be too appetizing and it is not the prettiest of foods (see pic), but it is a tasty, filling creation that I have religiously ordered on every trip to Tio's since 2005. Try it out with some hot sauce and be prepare to write off the afternoon.

Tio's is not a bad lunch call if you are around campus and can't find parking for some of the other venues. If you go in expecting decent, standard Mexican fare at a relaxed pace, you won't be disappointed.

- Tank

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Rabbit, Tank, and The Publican are three dudes just trying to get through the work week here in Columbia. Rabbit is a Columbia native, Tank is from Charleston, and The Publican hails from Greenville. Rabbit's favorite lunch spot is the No Name Deli on Elmwood, where you may find him putting down a grilled chicken salad and a side of vinegar pasta. The Publican usually wants to find food to cure his all-too-common hangovers. Tank claims no favorite lunch spot - he lives for the thrill of the hunt.