The Wenzel, and The Meaning of Life

New Haven cuisine might be known for its reputation of the nation’s best pizza and the original hamburger, but the single food item that has characterized my college experience more than anything else is the Wenzel, from Alpha Delta’s pizza on Elm street. Though there will always be a special place in my heart for the $3 bacon/egg/cheese sandwich at Gourmet Heaven, the $5 lunch specials at any of the Thai restaurants on Chapel street, the mash-potato & garlic special from BAR Pizza on Crown street, $4 falafel and baba ganoush at Mamoun’s, and the $5 burrito cart on Elm & York, none of these connote the same fanatical devotion of the Wenzel.

What is a Wenzel, you ask?  The above picture doesn’t do it justice.  You won’t find it printed on the menu if you go to Alpha Delta’s. But it far outsells any other item, upwards of 200 wenzels a night on the weekend. It’s a grinder sandwich of chicken cutlet, lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayo, and hot sauce, toasted to perfection. Try it with garlic bread, or ranch on the side, or bleu cheese, or bacon. Or all of those things. My vegetarian friends insist that fish wenzels or fried eggplant wenzels are also phenomenal, although to me, abandoning the classic Wenzel is blasphemy.

The sandwich was named after Eric Wenzel ‘04, who always requested it as a special order at Alpha Delta’s. In the decade since, the Wenzel sandwich has become a staple of late night snacking on campus.  To me, no long-lasting study session or late night of socializing is complete until wenzel o’clock. (Fortunately, Alpha Delta’s is open until 4 am on the weekends). It is always a moment of great pride when I introduce a friend to the Wenzel for the first time, watching their eyes roll upward in a spiritual revelation of yumminess.

The wenzel craze is now expanding with the introduction of the One Button Wenzel app, where students can place an order for pick-up or delivery with a single click of their smartphones. A team of student designers put the app together as part of the Yale College Council App Contest, competing against new Bluebook apps, with methods of synchronizing and utilizing the information for course selection, and Roammeo, which aggregates data about events and locations to map out your whole schedule.

One Button Wenzel did not win the design competition, but it has immediately garnered the most use among students on campus.  For me, though, I actually enjoy the two block pilgrimage from central campus to Alpha Delta’s pizza even more than the immediate gratification of Wenzels delivered to my door.  And while I still encourage you to try out the critically-acclaimed Pepe’s Pizza next time you visit New Haven, don’t miss the chance to discover the real taste of student life in a Wenzel.