If you snooze, you lose!
Subway has been teasing us with the possibility of vegan sandwiches for the past five years. Somehow, those sandwiches hit their test markets and then quietly vanish, never to be seen again. The only vegan offering Subway has in markets outside Canada continues to be the “veggie delight” – not that there’s anything very delightful about a few sad, limp veggies on a sad, soggy bun.
In the meantime, the sandwich chain Which Wich has been rapidly expanding. (There’s currently seven locations in Charlotte, with an eighth coming soon to the Overstreet Mall uptown). From the start Which Wich has been vegetarian-friendly, offering such items as vegetarian black bean patties, “Caprese” sandwiches (tomatoes + pesto and mozzarella), and artichoke hearts with provolone and parmesan. Vegan selections were a bit slimmer, but at least they were interesting – tomato with generous amounts of avocado; hummus and veggies. True, a vegan had to eat the wiches in a lettuce wrap or as a salad, since the bread wasn’t vegan. However, add-on options were many and varied – from the standard spinach, tomato, cucumbers and pickles to hot pepper mix, olive salad, dried cranberries, and artichoke hearts.
Now Which Wich is aggressively reaching out to the vegan consumer.
I contacted Which Wich to get clarification on their new vegan items, since some of the information in their stores and on the “vegan” page of their website appeared to be contradictory. I’m pleased to say, I received a response within several business hours! Lindsay, the customer service rep, couldn’t have been more helpful, answering every question and even emailing ingredient lists.
First, Lindsay explained: “The vegan products are a bit confusing because we’re going through a transition.”
Bread: “Our white bread IS vegan. This has just happened in the last few months and it has not been updated on our website. I was waiting to be certain that all the ‘old’ non-vegan bread had been flushed through the system before posting it on our website, and I recently received confirmation from our supply chain department that that is the case. We will be updating our website soon.”
I’m not a big fan of white bread, but Which Wich’s white bread is good, with flavor and texture. Order your sandwich as a Hotwich, and it will get nicely crunchy.
(Note: Since I spoke to Lindsay, the vegan page of the Which Wich website has been updated to include white bread.)
Black Bean Patties: At the Ballantyne Which Wich I frequent, the black bean patty was labeled as “vegan” on the bag. But Which Wich’s online nutritional information said the patties contained milk and eggs!
Lindsay explained: “The black bean patty we have in most of the system is not vegan. It is a Morningstar product. But, we are testing a vegan product in 4 markets, and have plans to roll it out to the entire system in the coming months.” She then verified that Charlotte was a test market for Which Wich’s vegan products!
Living in Charlotte, I’m pretty much black beaned out. (The black bean burger is the usual token vegetarian/vegan offering in restaurants here). But, I HAD to try it. With spinach, tomatoes, black olives, onions, and hot pepper mix. Some avocado would have been great on it as well.
And it was good. Very good. Taste is EXCELLENT, with a hint of smoky chipotle flavor. The dairy and eggs are not missed. Eggs are usually added to black bean burgers as a binder, to keep the patties from crumbling. However, Which Wich breaks up the patties anyway to distribute them evenly over the sandwich bun, so crumbling patties are not an issue here. This is a sandwich that would easily appeal to vegans, vegetarians, AND omnivores.
Beyond Meat Chicken: Yes, you read this right. Charlotteans can now order a vegan chicken sandwich at a fast-casual restaurant. Right now it’s available in test markets only, but Lindsay said Which Wich would be rolling out vegan chicken to all their restaurants this fall!
In case you’re not familiar with Beyond Meat, it’s a brand of faux chicken strips that are non-GMO, gluten free, and kosher. People tend to love ’em or hate ’em. If you love ’em, great, you will also love them in Which Wich sandwiches. If you don’t love ’em (I tend to be “meh” myself), I’d say try one of Which Wich’s vegan chicken sandwiches anyway. Once the strips are loaded onto a sandwich and smothered with yummy toppings, you’ll forget all your reservations about taste and texture. Two of my favorite ways to eat a vegan chicken Which Wich: with buffalo sauce and veggies, or with balsamic vinaigrette, salad veggies, hot pepper mix, olive salad, and a sprinkle of oregano and crushed red pepper flakes.
I predict most vegetarians and vegans will be wild with joy over having such a filling, substantial option. (And it is substantial – Which Wich is not stingy at all with the chicken strips.) I also predict it will become popular among the growing number of reducetarians – it’s a nice, unintimidating way to try your first faux meat.
Now, a few words about ordering …
Which Wich is set up a bit differently than a Subway. You walk in and choose a brown bag from the wall (as a vegetarian/vegan, your bag is #6). You take a marker and write your name across the top, then choose what kind of Wich you want – black bean patty, vegan chicken, or avocado. Remember, the black bean patty isn’t vegan everywhere yet! Then you choose white or wheat bread (remember, only the white is vegan). Or, for $1 more, you could choose to wrap your sandwich in a lettuce leaf. Then you choose the size – 7″ ($5.60), 10.5″($8.10), or 14″($10.75). And would you like your Wich hot or cold?
Then you continue on to choose your dressings, toppings, and spices. I do wish all the choices on the #6 bag were vegetarian – the bacon that’s listed isn’t veggie bacon and the sriracha sauce has fish (although the bottles I buy from the grocery are vegan). And it would be nice if vegan options were marked. However, you can pretty much use your own judgement – obviously the cheese isn’t vegan, the mayo isn’t vegan, anything with the word “honey” isn’t vegan, ranch and thousand island isn’t vegan, and caramelized onions and crispy onion straws might be a bit iffy (and, indeed, are not listed on the “vegan” page.
Note: If you want a salad instead of a sandwich, grab Bag #10.
You then pay for your order, drop off your bag, and wait for the hidden sandwich people to make it. In a way, this is great – customers aren’t sneezing into the food and you can sit down and relax while you wait on your food. It’s also bad, though – you can’t say, “Please add a little more of this,” or “I only want a little tiny bit of that.” And sometimes, the sandwich makers will forget an ingredient.
Overall, though, I’m very pleased with the vegan options Which Wich offers and the overall quality. If you live in test market Charlotte, test out these sandwiches if you haven’t already! And if you live elsewhere, drop an email to Which Wich telling them how excited you are about the new vegan offerings and that you hope these options will be in your local Which Wich soon.
Frugal Vegan Tip: Join the “Good Vibes” club and get a “freebie” for signing up. The freebie varies by your “favorite location.” I chose the Ballantyne location, so my freebie was a 32 oz. soda; a friend who chose a different location got a free cookie (not a good freebie for vegans). You’ll also get some coupons during the year and, it’s rumored, a free small Wich on your birthday.