NorCal shop with a cult following brings love, sandwiches to Costa Mesa
Life in the city of Costa Mesa has gotten a little bit lovelier now that Ike’s is in town.
Locals Friday celebrated the grand opening of Ike’s Love and Sandwiches, a San Francisco Bay Area phenomenon with a cult following that began expanding five years ago and has quickly established a fan base in Southern California.
“It’s literally anything you want on a sandwich — we don’t say no,” namesake owner Ike Shehadeh said of the business concept Friday. “We don’t have many basic sandwiches. It’s basically a sandwich you cannot make at home.”
Ike’s features a dizzying array of options for carnivores, vegetarians, vegans and gluten free eaters, even offering halal menu items with intriguing names like “Backstabber,” “Name of the Girl I’m Dating” and “Hollywould’s SF Cheesesteak.” Aside from offerings custom created for an individual store, Shehadeh said employees can make any sandwich anywhere.
“Just say the name and the number,” he advised.
Sandwiched between storefronts in Costa Mesa Courtyard off Newport Boulevard, the new location is the chain’s 83rd location and the fourth in Orange County — stores in Newport Beach, Fountain Valley and Tustin opened in 2016 — but it certainly won’t be the last, assures Chief Executive Michael Goldberg.
“One of our plans going into 2022 was to really grow the Orange County market. We put our real estate team out to close all the gaps [there], so we’re eyeing other locations,” Goldberg said Friday, hinting at talks in Huntington Beach, Orange and Westminster.
Ramping up to Friday’s grand opening, the Costa Mesa Ike’s held a soft opening on Jan. 3 to give team members a chance to train in real time and get accustomed to the menu, which can feature about 40 or 50 creations.
Two special items were specially created by Shehadeh for the new store. The “Crazy Chicken” is fried and served on a signature Dutch roll with Ike’s Loco Chicken Sauce and pepper jack cheese. A vegetarian version of the same sandwich, the Lou Brown, can also be made vegan.
Shehadeh said fans and foodies will visit new locations just to try the site-specific offerings, which has spurred an investigation into a smartphone app that would let diners catalog their consumption.
The look and feel of the business have evolved over time from the early days when Shehadeh, a San Francisco-area native, first hung a shingle in the city’s Castro District in 2007, selling a wide array of items under the name “Ike’s Place.”
Quickly, the sandwiches became the draw and the subjects upon which food critics preferred to opine and customers lined up around the block for carryout service. A dispute over the permitted uses of the space sparked a closure of the San Francisco storefront in 2010.
The business was resurrected two years later with the new moniker Ike’s Love and Sandwiches to reflect the esprit de corps that had developed among the loyal employees and patronage, and now has locations in six states.
“It’s not ‘Sandwiches and Love’ — the love is the first thing,” he said Friday. “We’re serving love, we’re just doing it through a sandwich.”
Ike’s is also known for celebrity-named sandwiches. Inspired by meetings with Northern California notables, Shehadeh has created the Steph Curry (turkey, barbecue sauce and provolone) for the Golden State Warriors superstar and the Madison Bumgarner (steak, barbecue sauce, light habanero and pepper jack) for the former Giants pitcher turned Arizona Diamondback.
He is looking to replicate the process in SoCal and is open to other collaborations.
“I want to do something with Aaron Donald, but he doesn’t have my number, Shehadeh teased of the L.A. Rams lineman. “Tell him to call me.”
To help get Costa Mesa customers going at Friday’s opening, the store gave free sandwiches to the first 50 visitors and offered $6 sandwiches throughout the day to patrons who lined up around the building to place their orders.
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