Ike’s, named for its owner Ike Shehadeh, launched his first shop, a tiny take-out spot on 16th Street in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, in 2007. Its sizable sandwiches, whose recipes were originally based on ones Shehadeh used to eat while studying at UC Davis, quickly gained a cult reputation. The original store was selling up to 1,200 sandwiches a day, according to the New York Times, long lines were the norm, and the eatery was cited on many a “best sandwiches” list.
Ike’s now has over 20 locations and has been teasing the opening of a Berkeley shop for months. A signage application on the City of Berkeley’s Zoning Applications Board revealed the new location would be at 2172 Shattuck Ave., right near the Downtown Berkeley BART station.
Togo’s closed its Berkeley location a few months ago; it had been selling classic deli sandwiches in that spot since November 2013.
Ike’s Place is a much smaller operation than Togo’s, which boasts over 75 locations in the Bay Area alone. But Ike’s is now opening new locations at a rapid clip. Near Berkeley, there are two Ike’s in Oakland and one in Emeryville. In February, Shehadeh told the E’ville Eye: “Everywhere we’ve opened in the East Bay has shown us a lot of love and we feel there’s room for more.”
Each location has a few unique sandwiches, but they’ve all got cryptic names and abundant, creative fillings.
Special sandwiches at the Rockridge location, for example, include “I’m the 4th Toniey” (chicken fried steak, #Feastmode sauce, smoked gouda), “Don’t call me J.R.” (bacon, #Feastmode sauce, American cheese) and “Bebe Shopping Dontrell Willis” (vegan turkey, #Feastmode sauce, Havarti sauce).
It’s a hugely popular concept; most Ike’s locations garner high Yelp ratings and feature notoriously long lunch lines. According to the restaurant’s website, much of its popularity is due to its “goal to make you feel like the unique individual that you are.”
As at its Emeryville and Rockridge locations, the Berkeley location of Ike’s is likely to add a small optional surcharge to each order. The charge, according to signs at the registers, is to “help offset rising business expenses and offer additional employee benefits” such as “more competitive wages, affordable healthcare, paid sick leave and other great benefits.”
Shehadeh decided to add the surcharge instead of “secretly” raising prices. It will also, he believes, allow Ike’s to remain nimble in the face of increasing minimum wages throughout the Bay Area.
As of press time, Shehadeh was not available for comment.
Correction: This story was updated to reflect the fact that ToGo’s has several locations in the East Bay.
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