For the first five years of its existence, Sandwhich operated out of a cramped space in the back corner of The Courtyard, a cluster of shops off Franklin Street that you weren't likely to stumble across unless you were looking for it. That didn't prevent the sandwich shop from earning a stellar local reputation that has since spread nationally. Bon Appétit magazine has singled out its Niman Ranch lamb tagine sandwich for praise, and last year Vanity Fair listed the Moroccan-spiced meatloaf on grilled sourdough as one of America's best sandwiches.
It came as no surprise, then, when owner-chef Hicham "Hich" Elbetri and his ex-wife and partner, Janet, moved their restaurant in April to snazzier digs down the street. Roomier, too, with a patio overlooking Franklin Street.
Nor was it surprising, really, that the French Culinary Institute-trained Elbetri would take the move as a chance to spread his culinary wings a bit. When Sandwhich reopened, its dinner menu had expanded to include a tempting selection of appetizers, entrees and sides.
I stopped in a few weeks ago for a sampling of the new offerings. My expectations were high, and the food - a salad of prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and perfectly ripe North Carolina peaches; a bourride of Mediterranean yellow snapper and clams in a rich, garlicky, saffron-gold broth; rotisserie-roasted Ashley Farms chicken, succulent under a well-seasoned skin; and an entree presentation of that glorious lamb tagine - did not disappoint.
Sadly, those tantalizing tastes of what Elbetri can do when he's not confined to working between two slices of bread will have to do for now. Turns out Sandwhich's reputation is so strong that most customers are already craving a sandwich when they walk in the door. Sales of the dinner menu were disappointing, and it has been discontinued.
"We just didn't realize how strong the Sandwhich brand is," says Janet Elbetri. "Someday we may be able to open a full-service restaurant, but this is not it."
In the meantime, you can still get the rotisserie chicken in the evening, as well an assortment of first-rated sides ranging from roasted beet salad to homemade potato chips. Occasionally, the chef might be inspired to offer an entree special.
And the sandwiches, I'm happy to report, are as good as ever.