For the love of sandwiches
Ike's Place is all about spreading the love — on sourdough rolls, Dutch crunch, gluten-free bread ...
In the noontime line at Ike's Place at Stanford University, a line that curves around the spacious, light-filled Forbes Family Cafe of the Jen-Hsuan Huang School of Engineering, you'll have plenty of time to eavesdrop on conversations such as:
"I just figured out I don't have to go to class anymore."
"Dude! Next quarter I only have two classes!"
Aha! Now we know why elite students have 40 minutes to spend waiting for sandwiches. At least they're getting the best.
Soon, so will Burlingame, downtown San Jose near San Jose State University and Santa Rosa Community College, where new Ike's Places are scheduled to open. Ike Shehadeh is all about spreading the love.
His sandwiches are behemoths, but you can get a half-sandwich, which still comes with your choice of fruit or a bag of Dirty's All-Natural Potato Chips, and a perfect little caramel-apple lollipop. Build your own or choose a local hero like John Elway (turkey, bacon and Swiss cheese).
Vegetarians flock to flavor festivals such as the Chelsea Clinton ($6.96 half, $9.99 full), with vegan turkey, French dressing, avocado and smoked gouda. There are 16 vegan combinations. Vegan Chelsea employs sesame dressing and vegan soy cheese.
Ike Shehadeh has been featured on the Travel Channel and drawn customers from as far away as Siberia to his original store in San Francisco. That store has moved once, and is about to move again, into a 3,000-foot space, which is seven times its original size. Now he has 71 "phenomenal" employees, half of whom have been with him over a year, a long time in this business. The second store is just off U.S. 101 in a Redwood Shores office park, with, Shehadeh notes, 500 free parking spaces. By March he expects to employ 150 people.
Ike originally wanted to open a full-serve restaurant, but didn't have the money for it. So, he says, "I changed all my recipes into sandwiches." His goal with a sandwich is that you take a bite, "and hit as many taste buds as possible."
Bread choices include Dutch crunch, French, sourdough roll and gluten-free. Whatever your bread, keep in mind that it is slathered in fresh ingredients and Ike's Secret Dirty Sauce. The Huang complex offers lots of comfortable seating indoors and out, but if your lunch hour is not unlimited, just try to eat soon.
You have to wonder, does waiting 40 minutes for a sandwich cause you to overrate the experience? Um, no.
No. 85, the Super Mario ($7.97 half, $11.11 full), is spectacular. Warm all-beef meatballs nuzzle with thick, chewy mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce. Regular condiments are lettuce, tomato, pickles and peppers but you are free to subtract. Or add, for example, grilled mushrooms.
Ike's uses halal chicken. Instead of the usual hunk of dry chicken breast, the chicken is shredded. It's still moist and tender, but marries much better with all the other ingredients.
No. 7, Pizzle ($5.95 half/$8.98 full), is chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese and ranch dressing. Which doesn't sound all that special, but it is.
No. 111, Menage a Trois ($6.96, $11.11), features halal chicken, honey, honey mustard, barbecue sauce, pepper Jack, Swiss and smoked gouda. It is a fabulous mess.
Ike's was invited to Stanford, helped design the space, and opened Sept. 1.
Note to the non-Stanford community: Maps are nearly non-existent. The bike shop at Tressider Union has a map on the wall, and the clerk there very kindly gave me a map to take, even highlighting directions to Ike's. Which happens to be very close to the parking lot off Via Ortega, which runs 75 cents per half hour.
Here is the good news: Parking is free after 4 p.m., and starting in January, the Stanford Ike's will be open Saturdays and possibly Sundays.
Jen-Hsun Huang School of Engineering Center,
Hours: Weekday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Credit cards: yes
Parking: lot at Via Ortega and Panama Street
Outdoor dining: yes
Party facilities: no
Noise level: fine
Bathroom cleanliness: very good