I have often (though perhaps unfairly) lamented the lack of good food on-campus. Although Palo Alto is but a bike ride away, the Stanford Bubble traps me to dining halls, Subway, Olive’s, Treehouse, and the like. The latest buzz in campus eateries, however, is the opening of Ike’s Place in Huang Engineering Center.
If you’re unfamiliar with it, Ike’s Place began in San Francisco as a sandwich shop on an unsuspecting city block. Soon, lines began to wrap around the building with hungry customers anxious to taste the freshly-baked bread and “dirty sauce.” Offering over 100 sandwiches with silly names such as “Backstabber,” “Napoleon Complex,” and “[Name of Girl I’m Dating]”*, Ike’s Place has become a neighborhood staple with its own rabid fan base, even if it maybe isn’t supposed to be there.
Likely attracted by the glitz and glamour of our new Engineering Quad, Ike’s Place lies in the heart of the excitement on the main floor of the octagon in the middle of the quad. By the current decorations, you might never know as there isn’t even a sign to indicate its presence. What might tip you off, however, is the long line of what appear to be mostly graduate students. Although it has been open for no longer than maybe a week, business was still strong when I dropped by around 1, hoping to miss the main mealtime madness.
I ordered a “Dana Scully” on Dutch crunch, which comes packed with “Breaded Eggplant, French Dressing, Avacado, and Smoked Gouda,” and also got a bag of Funky Fusion Dirty Chips on the side. The sandwich certainly lived up to reputation with thick, dense bread and an odd but convincing mix of ingredients all smothered in sauce. The Dutch crunch is the rumored king of breads at Ike’s, but when the bread is baked to order, I’m sure you can’t go wrong with any choice. What’s more suspicious is the cashier’s claim that Dutch crunch was invented in the Bay Area, contradicting the authoritative claim of Wikipedia that it does have true Dutch roots. Regardless, you can’t not like a sandwich like this.
Even better was the demeanor of the service. As I have already mentioned, the cashier was friendly, casual, and helpful in getting the order for my two friends and me put together. Ike himself delivered sandwiches to the diners, running around, calling out names, and adding caramel apple pops to finish. Compared to the often apathetic attitude of staff at other on-campus eateries, it was refreshing to have some real human interaction.
So Ike’s Place should be a hit, right? Two factors could be potential hitches for prospective diners, largely composed of busy faculty and class-ridden students, one of which I can dismiss and the other which remains to be seen.
First, cost. Currently, this Ike’s Place offers only half-sandwiches instead of full sandwiches. Although the bag of chips is a nice throw-in, the meal might leave you only half-full. What’s worse, you’ll pay the cost of a full lunch, with prices hovering somewhere between $6-8, which is squarely on-par with larger entrees at other spots around campus. On this, I offer simple advice: accept that you need to pay for what you get. Sure, you can get yourself 12 inches of sandwich at Subway, but no matter how you stuff it, that sub won’t be this fresh, this creative, or this tasty.
Second, and more crucially, time. After getting in line around 1:10, I didn’t get to the front of the line until 1:45, and I didn’t get food until around 2. Granted, this fits nicely into Stanford’s 50 minute class schedule, but too often have I been rushing to grab food between classes and meetings to be able to set aside time to stand in line like this. Given that the majority of the student body wasn’t on-campus today, it might be well-nigh impossible to grab a sandwich on the go. Even today, people were dropping out of the line as it barely seemed like things were moving. On this, I offer a simple observation: it’s their culture. When I got to the register, I had a pleasant chat with the cashier. On their website, Ike’s Place warns us that wait times can be long because the bread is baked fresh. We’ll see how they decide to deal with our Cardinal brand of traffic.
So, if you’re around campus now for Honors College, SoCo, or any other calling, I highly recommend a trip to Ike’s Place within the next week before the onslaught comes. And if you’re not around, figure out when the gaps in your afternoon schedule allow you to drop by. Buy into the hype: you’ll like it.
*square brackets included. According to the cashier, you can order either literally by saying “Name of Girl I’m Dating” or giving an actual name, accurate or not. As my friend George pointed out, however, you might be in trouble if your girlfriend’s name is “Bill Walsh” or another menu item…