Orion and Ellie Heyman have worked at fine-dining establishments from Napa Valley to New York City, but a few years into their successful cooking careers they realized they wanted something different. So they headed to the Rocky Mountains looking for just that.
“We got a lot of great experience working in fine dining,” Orion said. “But we wanted to cook for everyone.”
Now they’re doing just that at Wich Haus in Whitefish, a gourmet sandwich shop that opened in 2018 and was taken over by the couple in 2019. Since they purchased the business on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Woodland Place, it has quickly become a local favorite thanks to its quality sandwiches and unique salads.
Orion and Ellie met in 2011 at the Culinary Arts Institute in Napa Valley, California. After graduating in 2012, the couple stayed in California for a bit before heading east to New York City, where they worked for three years. While New York’s fast-paced culinary scene gave the couple invaluable experience, it was also exhausting, so they left and spent time south of the border, cooking in some of Mexico City’s finest restaurants for experience, before moving to Missoula to be closer to Orion’s family.
In Missoula, the couple started a catering business that they ran for a year before heading to Chicago for another year to gain more experience. But the Heymans were once again pulled back west, this time to Whitefish, a community that they had grown to like when running the catering business in Missoula.
As luck would have it, the owners of the Wich Haus were looking to get out of the business and put it up for sale. After years of working in the fast-paced and somewhat stuffy world of fine dining, a sandwich shop seemed like the perfect fit for the Heymans. They purchased the business, got to work revamping the menu and opened in the spring of 2019. In the initial days of running the restaurant, they rarely ever left it. In fact, early on, they lived upstairs so they were never far from work (They’ve since moved down the street).
One of the restaurant’s driving principles has been to use fresh, local ingredients whenever possible. They frequently butcher their own meat and use everything they get: the meat itself is used for sandwiches while bones and other leftovers are used for soups and au jus. They also use local grains to bake breads for every sandwich; Ellie normally bakes between 230 and 270 rolls a day. And they pickle and preserve vegetables whenever they are in season to use later in the year when it’s harder to get local ingredients.
“There is just an abundance of great local products here and we want to show them off,” Ellie said, adding that the menu can change frequently, depending on what’s in season. “We aim to have something new on the menu every week.”
The fruits of their labor include the tasty Roasted Flathead Pork Sandwich. The sandwich features Farm-to-Market Pork that was brined for three days and slow roasted, roasted garlic mayonnaise, shiitake mushrooms, and local lettuce that has been preserved (giving it sauerkraut-like texture but a fresh flavor), on top of a freshly baked hoagie roll. The sandwich is served with chips or a salad, such as the always popular beet salad. Ellie said the beet salad combined with the pork sandwich reflects the central and eastern European flavors they love to cook with.
Orion and Ellie said the sandwiches they serve are a step above what you’ll find at most delis but won’t break the bank. More than a year into the journey of owning a restaurant, making good food accessible is still one of their driving principles.
“Good food should be available to everyone,” Orion said.
Description: Farm-to-Market Pork brined for three days and slow roasted, roasted garlic mayonnaise, shiitake mushrooms, and preserved local lettuce on a freshly baked hoagie roll.
Location: 105 Wisconsin Ave., Whitefish