The Wich You’ve Been Waiting For
Some restaurants are about great food. Fine dining, exquisite wines, ambiance, and often much glitter and glam. These are the places the wealthy flock to. But what if you two took two chefs who were classically trained in the kitchen, had them fall in love, and plunked them down in Whitefish, Montana?
“The longer that we’re here, the more you see that community is so important to a small business.”
Then you’d end up with something like Wich Haus, a gourmet, high-end sandwich shop, restaurant, and picnic-inspired backyard—all dedicated to great food, delicious drinks, and finding joy in the moments we share at a table with our favorite people.
“The longer that we’re here, the more you see that community is so important to a small business,” says Ellie Heyman, sitting with her husband Orion, a fellow chef and business partner.
From the outside, Ellie and Orion lived the culinary dream several years ago. They met at the Culinary Arts Institute in Napa Valley, California, in 2011. By the following year, they worked in the same high-end kitchen before moving to New York City and entering the arena of high-pressure, high-stakes cuisine for the next three years. But it wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle, and soon they were eyeing another relocation; this time to Montana, where Orion’s family lives.
“We knew we wanted to end up in Montana,” Orion told the Flathead Beacon. Eventually, they fell in love with the vibrant community of Whitefish and moved there in 2019—purchasing the Wich House from then-owners Jamie Minster and Jason Selby.
“Fine dining is great; there’s a lot of awesome technique, the food’s awesome, but it’s a little exclusive,” Orion told us. “And after a while, you kind of get tired of cooking exclusively for very wealthy people or people that can only afford this like once a year. And we wanted to bring that quality and that just deliciousness to something that was more the everyman.”
“After a while, you kind of get tired of cooking exclusively for very wealthy people or people that can only afford this like once a year. And we wanted to bring that quality and that just deliciousness to something that was more the everyman.”
They made their moves slowly, with great care. With an eye on creating a warm, inviting outdoor space for their busy months, they expanded the backyard, added frozen custard, and gave the menu their own personal flair, ensuring they used local, farm-to-table ingredients. The result? A menu as fresh, complex, and irresistibly delicious as anything you might find at a high-end city restaurant. With offerings like their flavorful and much-lauded fried chicken sandwich with rhubarb hot sauce, roast beef with “Caesar” mayo and crispy potatoes, the asparagus hoagie, and roast pork with tarragon…the sandwich options—while not endless—are certainly tempting enough for almost any palate, and complimented with side salads (beet, chickpea, potato), soups, pickles, and even homemade potato chips. Their bread and buns are made in-house (and also available for sale), from sourdough to hoagie buns to a wide and mouthwatering selection of featured specialty breads that they offer from time to time, such as smoked onion sourdough with sharp cheddar cheese and black pepper, and cranberry-walnut loaf.
“I would describe the philosophy and style as very approachable and casual, but refined,” says Orion Heyman, “if I were to try to sum it up in just a few words.”
So far, it’s been a recipe for success, with customers heaping praise on the couple’s business, lauding it as “extraordinary,” “fresh, creative, and fun,” “fantastic!” and “unbelievably awesome food.” But it’s not just the food (although it’s a big draw) bringing customers in. It’s about how this gem of a sandwich shop has not just fostered but encouraged a sense of community in the town. Their backyard is something of a destination for picnicking, drinks, and even a stage featuring live music from local musicians. Last year, Wich Haus even featured a concert series. It’s a family- and dog-friendly space handed over to the simple joys of enjoying good company, good food, and making the most of a moment.
“It’s not just about eating a meal”
“It’s not just about eating a meal,” says Ellie. “Some of the best experiences of our lives have been at a table when we see those glimmers of a full table, of family members who are getting together for a family reunion, celebrating a birthday, or an anniversary. Or even just two friends catching up, spending two hours over a bottle of wine. In our restaurant, those moments are what makes it incredibly fulfilling.”
For the Heymans, food is only part of the joy of owning a restaurant. They’re looking to find ways to bring people together and support their community, whether through a featured musician, a wine or beer tasting, or even an author signing. They contribute to a thriving community filled with art, people, and good times.
“For all the mistakes that we’ve made and for all the challenges—and there are so many little things—when you have those images of seeing people connecting, that’s when it makes it rewarding.”
And now they actually have the opportunity to be part of a community in a way they couldn’t before. However they slice it, with Wich Haus, they have the best of both worlds: the upscale food quality and the kind of community-oriented, laid-back style of living (at least during the off-season) they’ve never had the chance to experience.
“Being in a resort town, you do have the intensity,” says Ellie. “It’s here. For four months you have a line out the door for four months straight. And then, after the summer, it definitely slows way down, and you’re able to take a breath. And we’ve maybe never had that opportunity before.”
Check out the incredible menu for Wich Haus for your next visit.
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