Ever wonder what a Tim Lincecum-inspired dirty sandwich might taste like? The folks at just-opened Ike’s Place in San Mateo know and are ready to serve it along with 299 other creatively inspired sandwiches.
“Mainly, I love to eat. In 2008 I actually ate 1,000 sandwiches and so there were a lot of combos I made. So the ones I wanted to eat twice or three times were the ones that I kept on the menu,” said owner Ike Shehadeh.
Now, Ike’s offers 300 sandwiches smeared with its dirty secret sauce and topped with everything from mozzarella sticks to halal chicken and gluten free to vegan options. The menu is colored with quirky combo names like Holy Name Panthers, Hot Momma Huda, Matt Cain, Stupid Eggplant Sandwich, Menage A Trois and Pastrami-Charmed Life.
The popular shop began its soft opening at 680 E. Third Ave. on Thursday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and plans on enticing customers from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. after its grand opening in a few weeks.
This is the 15th Ike’s restaurant and although it began on 16th Street in San Francisco in 2007, Shehadeh said he was living in San Mateo at the time and initially planned on the first location being nearby.
“The first Ike’s was going to be in San Mateo on 25th [Avenue], but the deal ended up not going through. So I’ve been looking for a long time in San Mateo,” Shehadeh said.
The chain sandwich stores took off after Shehadeh was featured on the TV show Man vs. Food in 2009, said Ike’s Place General Manager Jill Mizono.
“It’s accelerated pretty quickly since the first opening of Ike’s on 16th in 2007 because of the notoriety that occurred several years ago … he was featured on Man vs. Food a few times and consequentially people flocked to the stores,” Mizono said.
Dedicated customers ordered their favorite sandwiches at the new spot within a few hours of it opening on Thursday and with parking already tight at the corner location, long lines may ensue.
Ike’s, a 7-Eleven, a Laundromat and four other restaurants share about 25 parking spaces at the corner of Third Avenue and Delaware Street at the eastern edge of downtown and off Highway 101.
Marcus Clarke, San Mateo’s economic development director, said parking is an issue throughout downtown and part of the solution will be educating employees to park off site.
Mizono said employees will be parking elsewhere and the style of Ike’s is set up for quick turnover.
“We’re not here as a restaurant for sit-down. Basically our business model has been the grab-and-go. You can place your order, you can typically do that online through your iPhone or Android … we’re all about rotating people through the stores because of the amount of foot traffic people receive,” Mizono said.
Adolfo Perez, whose family owns Claudia’s Pastes & Empanadas nearby, said the highway draws a lot of traffic and parking can be difficult to navigate. But Perez said he’s looking forward to the new neighbor bringing in more foot traffic.
Mizono and Shehadeh said they’re confident customers will come and Ike’s motto is to provide quality food prepared with care.
“I believe that the culture of the business that’s been created, the fun environment, the creativity in the sandwich making, the generous portions that you may not find in an ordinary sandwich place, provides that meal that people feel like they’ve received a great value for their money. In addition, we offer a vegan, vegetarian and even gluten-free options for those who have dietary restrictions,” Mizono said.
Anyone with dietary restrictions will have to stay away from Ike’s eating contest open to a select few during its grand opening. The winner receives up to two free sandwiches a week for a year, Shehadeh said. But the task isn’t easy, the champion must be the first to finish a “Kryptonite,” a $26 monstrosity packed with avocado, bacon, beer-battered onion rings, extra pepper jack, ham, mozzarella sticks, pastrami, pesto, roast beef, salami, stuffed jalapeno poppers and turkey.
Shehadeh said he’s looking forward to being near San Mateo’s busy downtown and wants to open sites in Burlingame, Menlo Park and another in Palo Alto to replace the recent closing of its Stanford University campus location.
Ian Holmes and Harshitha Ramesh used to patronize the Stanford location and said they were thrilled to hear one was opening in San Mateo. Within an hour of Ike’s serving on Third Avenue, the duo were contentedly eating some of their favorite concoctions.
Ramesh said one of the things that brings her back to Ike’s is the variety of vegetarian options she can’t find at most other sandwich locations.
Holmes said being a regular has its perks.
“I love that they have a secret menu. It really feels like your hometown sandwich shop,” Holmes said.
Shehadeh said each store is so special is deserves a sandwich combo of its own and although he’s yet to decide what San Mateo’s will be made of or named after, one thing’s for sure, you won’t be able to find it at any other location.
“I want you to feel like, you’re in San Francisco and you have to drive to San Mateo to get that sandwich, that’s how good I want it to be,” Shehadeh said. “The fun part is I really love the reception we’ve been getting in all the cities we open in. It’s been fun and challenging and going into new markets and seeing how we can become part of the community.”
For more information about Ike’s and to find out when it will officially host its grand opening at 680 E. Third Ave. in San Mateo, visit IlikeIkesPlace.com.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106