Ike’s Place Brings a Touch of Sandwich Heaven to Isla Vista

Nora Xue/Staff Photographer

Joanne Rhee
Staff Writer

Ike’s Place, a chain of popular Bay Area sandwich restaurants, opened its doors on Saturday, April 16 for everyone to enjoy. Ike, the infamous founder and face of the franchise, made a special appearance for the grand opening and handed customers their sandwiches.

Upon entering, you’re immediately greeted with bright colors and the smell. The smell is indescribable, but it’s everything that a good sandwich shop should smell like. The decor, which is bright and bold, features green tables, yellow walls and a blue pillar. Frankly, the colors aren’t as loud as the music, which could benefit from being a turned down a little.

If you decide to eat at Ike’s, make sure you plan to spend up to an hour there. Although the employees are friendly and enthusiastic, service was slow. When I arrived, the line was at the door. It took 30 minutes to get to the front of the line, and I could see why. The staff was personable, and weren’t there just to take your order. They really focused on the gift of human interaction.

It took me another 10 minutes to get my food. Forty minutes after stepping foot into Ike’s, it took a lot of self-control to make it back to my table and not scarf everything down on the spot.

The first sandwich I ordered was #565: Smack-Off. This is an Isla Vista-exclusive sandwich with pastrami, roast beef, “Gauchoooo sauce” and Swiss cheese. The cashier assured me that it was his favorite sandwich and recommended it on the French roll though Ike’s offers three other bread options: Dutch Crunch, SF Sourdough and whole wheat.

I don’t know if it was the fact that I was very hungry, but the sandwich brought me into pure ecstasy. My mind was racing from the overwhelming flavors and elements of the sandwich. Everything hits you at once. The meats were not salty at all. The pastrami was red and perfectly seasoned. It was firm, yet it fell apart easily in my mouth. The roast beef was similar, but the flavor wasn’t as strong as it could have been. The marriage between the two meats provided the perfect blend in texture and flavor. It also came with something they called “Gauchoooo sauce.” What is “Gauchoooo sauce?” Whatever it was, it brought everything together. It was a creamy white sauce that reminded me of a lighter Caesar salad dressing without the cheese, but with garlic. I definitely recommend it with the tomato and lettuce. Both bring a nice contrast. The lettuce provides a cool crisp crunch and subtle sweetness to the sandwich. To be honest, I totally forgot the Swiss existed in the sandwich; it didn’t stand out.

Because of their extensive vegetarian and vegan menu, I decided to try #246: James & the Giant Peach. This sandwich includes vegan fried chicken, yellow BBQ sauce and cheddar cheese.

When you unwrap the sandwich, you can definitely smell the savory sweetness of the BBQ sauce. This is also the first element that you taste when taking a bite. The sauce punches your tongue with its decadent, creamy, sweet, garlicky and savory ingredients. It has more depth than your traditional BBQ sauce. The fried chicken element was more of a crumb-breaded fried chicken versus a buttermilk or panko breading outside. Because of the sauce, the breading slides right off to reveal a typical vegan chicken. The texture is like a McDonald’s chicken nugget, and it’s pretty flat like one. It tastes like any other meatless chicken product. The menu didn’t specify if the cheese was vegan, but I assume it is. The texture was leathery, similar to fruit leather products. The texture reminded me of cheese on a leftover pizza that was left in the oven too long after reheating it. It just broke apart differently and didn’t have the same sharp, great flavor of typical cheddar. However, the sauce did a great job of bringing together all the ingredients into a flavorful masterpiece.

I got both sandwiches on the French roll and was delighted with the bread. The bread is firm, chewy and has great flavor. Both of the sandwiches are definitely “drippy” sandwiches. The sauce pools slightly at the bottom of the paper. I was impressed that the bread didn’t get soggy while I ate. In fact, the bread stayed intact and made for great leftovers the next day.

Each sandwich also comes with a caramel apple lollipop. They’re what you expect: slightly sticky caramel exterior and sour hard apple flavored interior.

Ike’s definitely lived up to all its hype in terms of flavor. To be honest, I was never really that big of a sandwich fan, but Ike’s has converted me with its excellent flavor, quality and staff.

If you have an hour to spare for a meal, definitely stop by Ike’s Place at 6530 Seville Road. They’re open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.