I dunno about you, but when I was in college, I felt lucky to snag a plain green salad or limp slice of pizza for lunch on campus.
How times have changed.
At Stanford University in Palo Alto, students and faculty can indulge in a branch of Ike’s Place — yes, the famous San Francisco sandwich shop that’s been vilified and venerated of late.
Why such buzz over a sandwich shop?
You see, Owner Ike Shehadeh’s monster-size sandwiches smeared generously with his addicting Secret Dirty Sauce (a creamy concoction loaded with garlic) grew so popular that never-ending lines formed day and night on the sidewalk at his original location in San Francisco’s Castro district — much to the dismay of residents. Customers rallied for their sammies. Neighbors fought for peace and quiet. In the end, Shehadeh was forced to move to a new location in San Francisco — right around the corner from the original one.
But all is good in the world of Ike. He’s become a darling of Yelp and was even featured on the Travel Channel. He also just opened a branch in Redwood Shores, and plans to open soon in Santa Rosa and in San Jose, near San Jose State University.
Since it opened last year in the new, light-filled Jen-Hsuan Huang School of Engineering, Ike’s Place hasn’t drawn any similar trials and tribulations in Palo Alto, just long lines of hungry students and faculty, including star Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck, whose hand I got to shake last Friday afternoon when he was picking up a sandwich and I was there eating with two friends.
When we arrived at 11:30 a.m., there were probably a dozen people already in line. By the time we left an hour later, the queue had grown to nearly three times that.
Yes, all that for sandwiches. But what sandwiches they are with wacky names such as the “Bill Walsh” (turkey, avocado, Havarti), the “Ex-Boyfriend” (salami, bacon, avocado, cheddar), the “Terman-ator” (vegan breaded chicken, marinara and provolone) and the “MILF” (halal chicken breast, stuffed jalapeno poppers, Franks red hot and ranch dressing).
Choose your choice of freshly baked bread. There’s even a gluten-free one available. There also are plenty of vegetarian and vegan sandwich choices. All sandwiches come with your choice of fruit (a fresh apple or banana) or bag of chips. Unlike the San Francisco location, the Stanford one offers light eaters the option of a half sandwich. Prices range from $4.94 to $6.96 for a half or $7.97 to $19.91 for a whole. Also, unlike the San Francisco branch, the Stanford one is open every day.
After paying at the counter, it takes about 10 minutes or so to get your sandwiches as they are made to order.
Grab a seat inside or outside — as well as a stack of napkins because these sandwiches are a true hot mess. And I mean that in the best of ways.
The toasted bread is still warm when the sandwich is presented to you, which is a very nice touch. Unwrap the brown paper to find a sandwich that can barely contain itself. All the condiments and Secret Dirty Sauce guarantee one creamy, messy bite, too.
My friend Mike couldn’t resist his usual — the “Tony Soprano,” a sweet-smoky blend of ham, turkey, salami, provolone and Italian dressing. My friend Pam chose a half order of the “Favorite Sesame Street Character,” a crunchy mix of cucumbers, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cream cheese and pesto. Yours truly opted for the “Spiffy Tiffy,” a bodacious gut buster of tender white meat chicken, mushrooms inexplicably mixed with mayo, Provolone, pepper Jack, avocado and a thick, chunky pesto sauce. It didn’t have that mass-produced chain ”taste” of so many other sandwich joints. Instead, it tasted fresh, with perky herbs and garlic. It was one mighty filling, satisfying and caloric sandwich.
Another nice touch is the caramel-coated candy apple lollipop tucked inside each sandwich bag.
It’s enough to make me want to go back to college again.
Another Awesome Sandwich Shop: The Sentinel in San Francisco