Once you take your first bite into one of the signature subs at Ike’s Love and Sandwiches, each baked with the cult-favorite “Ike’s Dirty Secret Sauce,” you’ll understand why this Bay Area–based chain is stealing the hearts of food lovers from the Bay Area to Santa Barbara.
The chain’s founder, Ike Shehadeh, said the store’s opening at State and Mission streets is one of the most fulfilling feelings he could experience, as he grew up loving Santa Barbara and dreamed of living here. On May 20, during the grand opening, Shehadeh was in town to manage the store, take pictures with fans, and work alongside the staff, slapping together subs for hungry customers. (His Isla Vista store, which opened in 2016, quickly closed in April, reportedly over a lease dispute.)
Ike’s built a wildly popular following in the Bay Area, as evidenced in the countless customers who will line the streets during Ike’s business hours. With more than 500 sandwich combinations available — including meat, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options — the possibilities are effectively endless, inspiring consumers to go out of their comfort zone and indulge in the eclectic menu.
In the spirit of creativity, each Ike’s sandwich is christened with its own name. There’s the “Michael Jordan” (beef meatballs and marinara), the “James and the Giant Peach” (vegan fried chicken and Ike’s yellow barbeque sauce), the “Sometimes I’m a Vegetarian” (marinated artichoke hearts and pesto), and the “Shrek” (mushrooms, pesto, ranch, and Provolone). As I read through the menu in a busy lunch line, I chuckled at the witty names and their coinciding ingredients.
The twists don’t stop there. Each Ike’s location sells regionally specific subs, making each store one of a kind. Santa Barbara’s spot features a vegetarian option named “Romeo’s Juliet,” with Ike’s Neon Orange Delicious Sauce, spinach, lettuce, tomato, and Pepper Jack, and “Counting Blue Cars,” with fried chicken, Ike’s Neon Orange Delicious Sauce, and Pepper Jack.
The latter was developed by Shehadeh himself. “One of the bands that I really liked in the ’90s or early 2000s was Dishwalla, and they formed in Santa Barbara,” he explained. “I remember it was New Year’s Eve six years ago, and I threw a party in my apartment, which was above Ike’s at the time in San Francisco, and we had all these sandwiches. And that song comes on right before midnight and then somebody put it on repeat like eight times. … That song specifically had an impact on my life.”
The sandwich shop also puts a premium on service, as patrons are immediately greeted with warm smiles and friendly conversation when ordering. “We filter the whole business through love, appreciation, and respect,” said Shehadeh. “The environment of Ike’s, the food and style, the combinations, the celebrities that eat there, the fans that talk about us so much … it all allows for such a great work environment.”
1936 State St., loveandsandwiches.com