Who should be delivering the sandwiches personally but Ike Shehadeh himself, clearly relieved to finally take down the "Coming Soon" banner and start serving his world-renowned sandwiches. In fact, in the 20 minutes I was there, I saw him hug at least a dozen customers.
If you're not familiar with Ike's Place, you will be. After all, this is a place that was evicted from its original location on 16th Street in San Francisco for essentially being too popular. Sure enough, for today's opening, and with only a Facebook posting as an announcement, the crowds turned out in droves.
I ordered a sandwich called the Matt Cain—the San Francisco Giants have a heavy presence at Ike's—and chatted with Ike a little bit about why he chose to open in Santa Rosa. Turns out his girlfriend is from Sonoma County, and in addition to his residence above the original Ike's Place in San Francisco, he now has a downtown apartment here in Santa Rosa.
So what's unique to the Santa Rosa spot? Customers will notice the local touches on the sandwich menu—the 'Luther Burbank,' the 'Charles Schulz,' the 'Deep Throat,' the 'Natalie Wood'—but in actuality, those are mainstay creations of Ike's Place that have simply been given localized names.
What's truly new are a few of Ike's sandwiches that are making their debut here in Santa Rosa. There's the 'Adam Richman,' which Ike and Adam designed on Man vs. Food: "It's a fried chicken cordon bleu, ham, honey, pesto, avocado. I really like that one," says Ike. Also new is the curiously named 'Don't F with Elvis Kieth' ("Elvis Kieth," misspelling and all, was Ike's high school nickname), the 'Huda and the Jillyfish,' the 'Dan Marino,' and the 'Scogee the Caveman.'
The sandwiches at Ike's aren't cheap—I ordered two sandwiches, and was surprised to have to fish for more than a $20 in my wallet. But holy shit, my sandwich was good. Hours later, while telling a friend about how delicious it was, I realized that I could still taste it. That's love.
"My lease is here for 20 years," Ike told me, after giving me a hearty opening-day hug. "So we'll be here."
Ike's Place, 1780 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa.