First of all, The 'Wich Doctor is more than just an ordinary sandwich shop. Let's get that out of the way first, because while the name contains half of the word "sandwich," this place has a whole lot more to offer than a cold-cut trio or a tuna salad on wheat with provolone.
Envision a fat slab of succulent pork belly hiding under a delicate sunny-side up egg, runny yolk just waiting to infiltrate layers of shaved cabbage, tomatoes, and buttery, toasted bread ($10). Or how about a simple yet vibrant Margherita pie with a crisp and slightly charred crust, lightly painted with San Marzano tomato sauce and topped with fresh mozzarella and basil ($12). Sure, this sounds like something we've seen before — pizza and sandwiches go hand in hand — but this places offers much more.
Hidden just a couple hundred feet off the main drag of Folly Beach's Center Street, from the outside the 'Wich Doctor is a little house that's attached to a larger building next door. Inside, vibrant colors accent a mix of rustic tables and chairs, lively reggae jams play in the background, and a spunky owner, Krista Hines, eagerly tells you about the day's offerings. The laid-back atmosphere makes you feel as if you've stumbled across a Jamaican rum shack on the beach.
Hines will tell you about the weekly grilled cheese special, this time a juicy shaved-cumin-rubbed pork with housemade pico de gallo and guacamole, oozing with queso fresco ($8.50), or the pizza sauce they make in-house by squeezing San Marzano tomatoes by hand. But on the menu you will spot a wide array of culturally influenced dishes. The groovy jerk pork ($9), tender and spicy, plays well with the plantains; the Caribbean flavors really dance in your mouth. On the other side of the world, the Korean barbecue and kimchee ($9) has a different kind of punch with barbecue-marinated sirloin, funky kimchee, and slightly tart pickled cucumber.
The Hanoi Hoagie ($8.50) is the piece de resistance, a crusty bun topped with juicy slices of lemongrass beef, julienned carrots, fresh cilantro, and nuoc cham (a Vietnamese condiment made with citrus and fish sauce), which creates a huge flavor bomb.
And it should, as there is history behind this style of cooking. Chef and co-owner Jeff Butler spent more than seven years working with the late "Mama" Rose Durden at Carolina's. A teacher, friend, and mentor to many, Durden was known for integrating Asian cuisine with Charleston's fusion of French, Caribbean, and African influences. Butler melds her influence with finesse, giving us the chance to experience the legacy of one of Charleston's finest.
But it's not just the sandwiches that carry all these wonderful flavors. Each and every Thursday, Butler concocts a new noodle dish. On a recent visit, I cleared a plate of rigatoni topped with big chunks of capicola, crimini mushrooms, chopped onion, spinach, and a zesty tomato sauce with chili and mint. The spicy kick of the dish was counterbalanced by the cool mint, setting the bar high for future creations, which might include the likes of pho and ramen.
But we are forgetting the pizza, which deserves its own accolades. The Creole Crawfish ($13), described as having a Creole tomato base topped with andouille, peppers, onions, provolone, and pickled okra, was immediately intriguing, but, to my disappointment, it is no longer available. How it wasn't the most popular pie in the place is a mystery to me. Instead, the white clam ($13) had to suffice. This pizza comes with a garlic butter base topped with creamy ricotta, parmesan, thin slices of lemon, an Italian parsley garnish, and clams, of course. On first bite, the lemon slice overwhelmed the clam and ricotta favors, but once removed, the pizza had just the right amount of zesty lemon. At last, the pizza was a clear winner.
Beyond the pizza, pasta, and sandwiches are the fresh-baked desserts and ample selection of natural sodas ($2.50). The lime basil white chocolate chip cookies and the moist butter-pecan cake are both killer. The restaurant has a few beers to choose from such as Natural Light and PBR, but if these aren't suitable, feel free to bring in your own beer. Yes, you can BYOB.
The husband-and-wife duo running this little place are characters. Don't be surprised if you walk in late one night and find them killing time by having their own little dance party. But don't worry, they'll see you, everyone will laugh, the music will change, drinks will be poured, and they'll make you feel right at home. Mama would be proud.