Sunday, July 28, 2013

[EID Feature] Crunch in! Two Detroiters open Chip 'n Wich inside Midland Mall

This post was originally published on May 6, 2013*
Barbecue chicken sandwich from Chip 'n Wich. All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

Have you ever put potato chips on your sandwich before? Of course you have. Because it's awesome.

Chip 'n Wich is built on the idea that potato chips are even better on sandwiches than just relegated to the side of them. Partners Jonathan Neely and Craig Jones both love to put chips on their sandwiches – and are themselves huge proponents of the art of 'wiching (Joey Tribbiani would approve).

They began developing the concept for Chip 'n Wich about three years ago, working on branding and menus while looking for a space suited for their particular style of sandwiches. Now, this Tuesday, they are celebrating a soft opening of Chip 'n Wich inside the Midland Mall. Which, okay, Midland – it's smack-dab in the middle of Michigan, which is every bit exactly what it sounds like. But an opportunity presented itself that these Detroit boys couldn't pass up, and they couldn't be more thrilled about it. "It's a dream come true," Jonathan says with a huge smile, and I absolutely believe him.

Chip 'n Wich isn't just any old sandwich shop, and not just because they put chips on them. Jonathan and Craig are both professionally-trained chefs with years of industry experience. They are passionate about supporting the local foods movement and local farmers – of which there are plenty out there in the Michiganian Heartland, including a great farmers market open Wednesdays and Saturdays through the end of October right there in downtown Midland.

Each sandwich is paired with its own potato chip flavor (there are five sandwiches for this initial run, with eight planned once they open permanently). The chips are all fried fresh in their kitchen, then tossed in their house-made seasonings. Jonathan and Craig create all of the different potato chip flavors themselves, and plan on offering a whole variety to customers – you can get the chips they selected to pair with their sandwiches, are you can go rogue and mix-and-match your own flavors, which might include peanut butter…or bacon…or peanut butter AND bacon. You'll also find more "traditional" potato chip flavors, like their twist on sour cream and onion, and all of the flavors are made with fresh herbs from local farmers.

Almost everything on the sandwiches at Chip 'n Wich is made in-house, including their own aioli (oh yes, these are the kinds of sandwiches that have aioli – not mayo) and Craig's own signature BBQ sauce, Craig's Jones'en Barbecue. At a test-run held on Sunday, they served barbecue chicken sandwiches dressed in this sauce topped with caramelized onions, bacon, cilantro ranchero chipotle chips, and also bacon, on two thick pieces of Texas toast slathered in butter and grilled up nice and toasty. Along with this, they served Faygo Red Pop floats – the ubiquitous soda with a color for a flavor. It's a Detroit thing, y'all.

See, you can take the boys out of Detroit but you can never take Detroit out of the boys: in addition to offering several different sandwiches, they'll also be offering ice cream floats made with century-old iconic Detroit brands Faygo and Vernor's, and using Ray's Ice Cream, one of metro Detroit's favorite locally-made premium ice creams.

The boys in front of their soon-to-be new home inside the Midland Mall.

This Tuesday, you can either "crunch in" or "crunch out" – meaning you can either opt for the more adventurous chips inside the sandwich, or ease into the concept by getting the chips on the side. No judgment. "At the end of the day, it's just good, fun food," Jonathan says. "It's something you can be interacting with."

After sitting in for their test run and having the chance to talk to Jonathan and Craig about their concept and respective culinary backgrounds, I have to say: I'm all crunched in.

If you're out in Midland on Tuesday, be sure to check these guys out. If not, keep an eye out for them – once a permanent location is secured, it's only a matter of time before Chip 'n Wich becomes one of Michigan's favorite sandwiches and before we start seeing Chip 'n Wich brand potato chips and Craig's Jones'en Barbecue on store shelves McClure's-style.

*So yeah, this was written as part of my appearance on an episode of the Food Network's Food Court Wars which originally aired on Sunday, July 28 at 8:00 p.m. which was a secret. TEE-HEE-HEE, FOOLED YOU!!! Aaaaand that's why I was in Midland a couple of months ago. And, of course, Nikki's Boys won, as should be expected.