This is the Place
Great Ciao 'Wich and Wings — But They Don't Know 'Wich End is 'Wich
I had driven past 'Wich Works several times without stopping, mainly because it just wasn't convenient to find my way around the parking lot it's in, which is broken into segments, and there are islands in the road that prevent you from turning directly in. When I finally went in, it was with my kids, between soccer games on a Saturday afternoon. We had some time to kill, so it seemed perfect. The experience, however, was anything but.
Upon entering, I was greeted by two things that did not seem to jive: stark whiteness, and a cluster of photographs of stock cars. I wasn't sure what the correlation was with the cars or racing and sandwiches. The tables were clean, and there was almost a sterile feeling, like I was in a hospital cafeteria. But then my eyes strayed to the counter, and there was a blast of color from a pretty wide variety of chips available, their sign board, which had a lot of items on it, and their beverage bar on the left, and a mini fridge with bottled drinks on the right, all in front of a diner-like pickup window. In all, the mix was unusual, but not necessarily in a bad way. It just left me with questions.
At the register, a woman waited on us, answering questions as best she could, but the majority of her answers consisted of, "I'm not sure," or "I haven't tried that one." They had a kids menu, but the only thing on it was a PB&J or a grilled cheese, so my youngest wanted a grownup sandwich. And I couldn't blame him. But they did have a pretty broad selection, including several sandwiches with fish, and a Ciao 'Wich, which had ham, capicola, prosciutto and mortadella, with a balsamic glaze. That was exciting. And my older daughter wanted the same, so I asked how big the large was, thinking that she and I could split one, because the large was only $2 more. (Significant, because the price range was a little steep.) The girl waiting on us said it was 12 inches, so that was great. We all ordered, I paid, and was surprised when the credit-card receipt said the name of the misnamed pizza-and-delicatezza place next door, Toscano. (Misnamed, because the signage indicated a family pizza place, but it's actually white linen and prices that the average family wouldn't want to do with five children, outside of a special occasion.)
So we got out drink cups and went to the beverage bar, only to find out that the ice machine was empty. I told the girl who took our order, and she smiled and half-laughed sort of impishly, and said, "Yeah, I know. Sorry." Then nothing. We waited for a few minutes to see if anyone was going to do anything about it, then my older daughter just started filling hers, saying that she was tired of standing there waiting. So we all filled our cups and got cold drinks sans ice.
We sat at a table large enough for me an all my kids, which a lot of fast food-type sandwich places can't do without moving tables, and waited. And waited. And then we waited some more. I didn't check my watch when we sat down, but it was 15 minutes after we were all starting to wonder where our food was when it finally arrived. (That's 15 minutes following the wait at the iceless ice machine, and the time it took for us to become anxious. So it might have been as much as 30 minutes all told.) But arrive it did.
First words out of my mouth: "That’s not 12 inches."
The girl who took our order was bringing them to our table, and she said, "What?" I said, "You said that the large is 12 inches. That's not 12 inches." She said, "Really?" I said, "Yes. At most, that's eight inches." She said, "Oh. I guess they must have cut it down for some reason." Then she was going to leave. So I stopped her and said, "So I paid for 12 inches but only got eight?" She said, "I don't know why they did that." I said, "But I paid for 12 and only got eight?" She said, "That's not enough?" I said, "No, not for both of us. But I paid for 12." She said, "Would you like another one? We can make you another one." I said, "OK." And went up to the register with her. I said I wanted to have enough of the Ciao for my daughter and I, and she started entering stuff into the register. I didn't say anything, because I noticed earlier that they had a printer in the back that ran out orders. Then she told me a total. I said, "What?" She said, "That's 50 percent off. That's all I can do without a manager here." I said, "So you want me to give you more money when I didn't get what I paid for the first time?" Her eyes got a little wide this time, as she finally seemed to understand what I had been getting at back at the table. Then she said, "Do you want it?" I said, "No. You already ripped me off once, why in the world would I give you more money after that?" Aside from that, I didn't have another 30 minutes to wait for another sandwich, because we had to get back to another soccer game. So I went back to the table, sat down, and told my daughter that, if she was still hungry after, we could go to a drive-thru on the way back, because I knew that I would be. What I didn't notice until then was that the girl had followed me to the table. She said, "When the manager gets here, I could send him over." I said, "No, thanks. We don't have any more time to sit around and wait."
So now, finally, I got to take a real look at the food. Our sandwiches were sitting on sheets of wax paper inside silver bowls that were shaped sort of like toilet bowls. I can't think of anything else to describe it. Either that, or they were supposed to look like something that a genie would come out of if you rubbed its side long enough. So I took the paper out of mine and, just to prove I wasn't insane, laid my Leatherman next to the sandwich (left), opened to the eight-inch ruler, and took a picture. It was almost exactly eight inches. Ah, well. I guess the management must think that consumers are stupid. The worst thing about all this, is that the sandwich was really good. The blend of flavors from the Italian meats was more layered and complex than the average Italian sub. The spices, the different levels of smokiness, the cheese and the intense tart-sweetness of the balsamic glaze is exceptional. They also had my favorite type of potato chip: jalapeno.
Sometime during my meal, the manager showed up. He had a small basin of ice that he poured into the ice machine. (Probably enough for three or four customers.) The girl spoke to him and, a few minutes later, she brought over a six-inch Ciao Wich, which she said was on the house. But the manager never came over. Granted, I said that I didn't need to speak to him, but it seemed a bit odd, particularly since I said that I would make due without more of the Ciao, as well. Not sure what to make of it, but the overall experience was a bit perplexing, from the décor to the empty ice machine and the time it took to deliver our order, all when they were not very busy.
I'll go back for the second visit. But, even if the food is good, if the customer is a secondary consideration, it's still not worth it. I am a big believer in exercising the democratic power of the dollar (in the words of Milton Friedman) and, unless the service makes a drastic improvement, my dollars will be going someplace else.
My second visit to 'Wich Works was not much better — if at all. They still don't seem to know 'wich end is 'wich.
On my previous visit, I saw some served an order of what looked like Buffalo Wings. So I decided to find that on the menu. But it was nowhere to be seen. I read through all the side items, looked to see if there was a section for appetizers, but came up empty. So, finally, I asked the woman who was at the register, and she pointed it out under the hot sandwiches. I said, "No, it wasn't a sandwich. It was wings." She nodded, smiling at me like I was off my rocker, then I read the description on the board, which said how many wings came with each side order, and that it came with carrot sticks and bleu-cheese dressing. Oh. I was a little annoyed, but ordered it, specified that I wanted it spicy, got a soda to go along with it.
This time, there was ice in the ice machine, which was a plus. Then I sat down and waited. And, once again, was surprised at how long it took to be served. I understand that most places say that wings take 12 minutes to cook, but that doesn't explain the 20-plus minute wait. Again, I wished that I had checked my watch, particularly when service was so slow last time. But I didn't think it was necessary, when I was there alone, not with four of my kids. Live and learn.
When my food was brought out, it was in a Styrofoam clam shell, not one of the genie bowls that had been used last time. That was a little disappointing, but not as much as when I actually opened it.
First words out of my mouth: "Where’s the bleu cheese?"
The girl who brought it out said, "What?" I said, "The menu board said it comes with bleu-cheese dressing." She looked up at it, then yelled back through the diner window, "What's the sauce?" I couldn't tell what the response was, but she turned to me and said, "That's the spicy sauce." That wasn't what I asked. I could have guessed that it was a spicy sauce by looking at it; I wanted to know why I wasn't served what was on the menu board. So I asked if there was bleu cheese coming. She shrugged and walked away. I was so shocked, I just sat there, my mouth open, wondering where they managed to find their help staff. It doesn't take a genius to know that you don't just walk away from a customer who is asking a question about what was just served. This lack of professionalism and basic knowledge can all be laid down to one thing: lack of training. Clearly, the manager is not doing much in terms of employee training — in any area. I was sitting at a table right next to the register, and watched her walk down the hall beside the counter and not come back out again the entire time I was there. No one else came in to order, so I can guess at why she was gone.
Finally, I decided to start eating.
First words out of my mouth after my first bite: "No flavor whatsoever."
The wings were coated with a thin, orange sauce that really didn't seem to lend itself to any kind of flavor other than maybe salt. But she had said that the spicy sauce was on the side, so I have the next wing a good dousing in it, with absolutely no expectations of anything worthy of note. But I was wrong.
First words out of my mouth after my second bite: "Wow. That's good."
The spicy sauce is not just Louisiana sauce and butter, which too many places do. The flavors were layered, and had heat. Licking the sauce off my fingers warmed my lips, and I knew that, by the end, I would be sweating. I love that. It's hot, but it's not just heat for the sake of heat, there is genuinely good flavor. Too many restaurants serve wings that are nothing special. But the wings at 'Wich Works are excellent.
Too bad they can't seem to make what comes out on my plate — or Styrofoam clamshell, in this case — match what's on the menu board. Or train their employees to know what is supposed to be served … or how to even perform the fundamentals of good customer service — or common courtesy. So I guess I won't be going back. A good Italian and good wings don't make up for the total lack of service.
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noun. Slang. A person who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet.