By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Food historians say the modern sandwich emerged during the mid-1700s in England, when John Montague, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, demanded that plates of bread, cheese and meat be brought to him while he gambled over card games. In order to keep one hand free, he would clasp the ingredients with his bread and continue playing.
Other players caught on to the maneuver. And eventually so did the rest of the world, thus giving “sandwich” its name.
Montague today would need two hands and a few extra napkins to consume the loaded creations at Wich Addiction, a gourmet sandwich shop that launched in Sorrento Valley nearly seven years ago to the tune of house-roasted meats and crafty scratch-made condiments.
The eatery recently branched into Friars Mission Center in Mission Valley, ironically in direct eyeshot of Subway within that plaza’s food court.
But chef and co-owner Dyann Manning isn’t concerned. She knows, like everyone else, that when biting into a sandwich of processed turkey at Subway, for example, the flavor and quality hardly compares to turkey breasts that are baked and sliced onsite at Wich Addiction. Those same stark differences apply to all of the proteins used at the two eateries.
Manning is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. She runs Wich Addiction with her husband, Mark. The couple originally founded Devilicous, a food truck that earned them national publicity in 2011 when they became contestants on Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race.” Despite being eliminated in the competition, sales spiked, and they soon sold the business to open Wich Addiction in Sorrento Valley.
One of the carryovers from the early Devilicious days is the shrimp po’boy, which Manning calls “our $200,000 sandwich because it has sold like crazy over the past eight years.”
And rightfully so. Within the sandwich are tempura-battered shrimp of decent size, arranged snugly with garlicky pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and Sriracha aioli. The toasted French roll is discernibly buttered, as are the rolls and breads used for all other Wich Addiction’s sandwiches.
After being struck with indecision at the imposing wall menu listing nearly 20 sandwich choices, the two of us ended up also chomping into roasted turkey with jalapeno aioli and provolone cheese; steak with chimichurri; and the “three little pigs” featuring layers of applewood bacon, Virginia smoked ham, seared pork loin, and provolone. For that, the proteins were thoughtfully accented with lemon aioli, which cuts through the fatty essence of the fillings and practically refreshed our palates after every bite.
While encroaching on the turkey breast sandwich with its bravely spicy aioli and finely grilled sourdough, a couple of house-made lemonades rose to the occasion. One was flavored with pureed strawberries and the other was spiked judiciously with cucumbers and mint. You don’t need a hot, muggy day to gulp them down.
Manning pairs house-made chimichurri sauce to medium-rare hanger steak, resulting in an Argentinian tango of deep and zesty flavors. She cuts the lean meat into clean slices, which gives it a lush texture similar to filet mignon. I typically avoid steak sandwiches in restaurants because of those inevitable chewy spots. Yet right to the end, this had no gnarly roadblocks.
Two recent additions to the menu are a Southwest chicken salad, and a hot pastrami sandwich using a half-pound of the meat. We kicked off our visit with the former, which yielded a generous amount of faintly seasoned breast meat. The feisty chipotle ranch dressing served on the side gave rise to the corn, black beans, red peppers and cherry tomatoes contained within the salad.
Other noteworthy dressings include an oil-free concoction of lime, coconut, cilantro and fish sauce. It’s used on the Thai chicken salad. There is also a preserved lemon vinaigrette that takes Manning three months to make. Used normally on the spinach salad with seared salmon, we asked for a side portion to drizzle onto our turkey sandwich. We loved every drop.
Subsequent visits are in order for trying a host of other sandwiches that include hand-breaded fried chicken; seared salmon with maple Sriracha; pork belly banh mi; and shaved leg of lamb with raita and tomato chutney, which for its sheer uniqueness, is definitely next on my list.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of ‘Secret San Diego’ (ECW Press) and began his local writing career more than two decades ago as a staffer for the former San Diego Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com.