When your sandwiches cause long lines and neighborhood protests, you know you’re on to something.

Ike’s Place in San Francisco became a cult favorite, thus the lines, but supposedly the aroma of meats and other sandwich stuffs from the tiny kitchen bothered neighbors in the Castro area. But after months of news coverage and negotiations (and a move across the street), everyone’s supposedly happy and Ike’s is now expanding its empire with a couple of stores along the Peninsula and just last month a store near my workplace in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood.

Called Ike’s Lair on the East Bay, the popular sandwich shop offers up a condensed menu of its crazy-named sandwiches (things like “Menage a Trois,” “The Joker,” “Nacho Girl,” “Matt Cain,” and “Super Mario”). Just reading the menu can create long lines, so in a way it’s good the menu offerings here are fewer. Still, we’re talking about 20-plus options (with several vegan choices).

During its first week, you can imagine, the lines were long, partly because people wanted to check it out and partly because it’s a very tiny shop. On my first visit, the wait was 40 minutes, leaving me very little time to wolf down my sandwich during my lunch hour. But since then, the curiosity has died down (and probably people realized they couldn’t kill their hour of lunch standing in line) and wait times for me has ranged from 25 minutes to 5 minutes (when I take an early lunch and get there soon after the store opens at 11 a.m.).

Side note: Even during times when there isn’t a line, there’s still a bit of wait because the kitchen crew typically looks overwhelmed. Probably because the menu contains so many different varieties and combinations, it takes awhile to learn all the sandwiches. Plus, more than two people end up touching your sandwich as they try to make it go through an assembly line (that hasn’t really been perfected).

The Super Mario ($12.21) is the only sandwich sold full size (no half orders)

Ike’s sells its sandwiches in two sizes: half and full. The half, which measures 4 inches, seem to work out fine for me for lunch since it’s usually packed with a lot of ingredients. The sandwiches have a variety of ingredients, but I find that many of the sandwiches at the Oakland store is made of halal chicken.

For example, I got the Backstabber, which is made of halal chicken with artichoke hearts and Caesar dressing ($5.95 for half). The chicken can be on the dry side, so it helps that there’s a sauce, and every sandwiches come with the signature “dirty sauce,” which is like a garlic aioli. And trust me, you always want the dirty sauce.

Some of my discoveries during my visits in the first two weeks is I love Ike’s “Dutch crunch” roll. I started off ordering my sandwiches on wheat bread, but now I always go with the Dutch crunch, which has a crusty top that makes every sandwich great. I also love the pastrami sandwich, called the Paul Reubens ($5.95 for half). While the pastrami wasn’t as aromatic as I’ve found at other places, I liked the combination of home-made poppy seed cole slaw with French dressing and Swiss cheese.

The Backstabber is made of halal chicken and marinated artichoke hearts

Not every sandwich is a success. I found that the ones that didn’t work usually suffer from being too dry, like the Elvis Keith ($4.94 for half), which is halal chicken (again) with teriyaki wasabi mayo and Swiss. I expected more teriyaki sauce, but it was very minimal (that’s why you should always get the dirty sauce). Then the Super Mario, which is the only sandwich that you have to buy full size ($12.21), was tasty with meatballs sectioned off by mozzarella sticks, but there wasn’t enough marinara sauce to my liking.

Ike’s Lair isn’t just selling sandwiches, it’s selling sandwiches with an attitude (the fun kind). So even while not every sandwich is a winner, it’s still worth going through the menu to find a few delicious discoveries.

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps



Ike’s Lair, 2204 Broadway (near Grand Avenue), Oakland. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. More information from its Facebook page.

Several regulars like to get "extra" dirty sauce

The Paul Reubens is Ike's pastrami sandwich with cole slaw and French dressing

Inside the Elvis Keith with a very subtle teriyaki wasabi mayo

The sandwich station, at least two people work on your sandwich

9 Responses to Importing San Francisco Sammies and the Lines to Uptown

  1. Sandy says:

    YESSS!!! Quite possibly my favorite sandwich in SF…. not sure about the East Bay since Bakesale Betty’s is my ultimate sandwich but I guess I’ll have to check out the Lair and see!

    • Ben Ben says:

      I forgot to mention that Ike’s Lair is around the corner from Bakesale Betty’s second location. But Bakesale is only open there on Tuesdays. Anywho, Ike’s has an homage sandwich called “The Bakesale” and it’s a fried chicken sandwich with cole slaw. I don’t order it because I don’t like to eat deep-fried food, but the early word on Ike’s version is that it doesn’t really stand up to the original. So I think people will still go for Bakesale Betty for the fried chicken sandwich and to Ike’s for everything else.

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    I’ve gotten my Ike’s fix at the Stanford campus location. Crazy good sammies. Messy, but so good!

  3. vivienne says:

    wow 40 minutes wait for a sandwich! and what a bummer about the dry meat and not enough sauce! quite coincidently, this week i discovered a gourmet sandwich shop near my workplace…by the time i got there for lunch there was a long line and had to wait 20 minutes (which I thought was way too long!) yea must be coz the staff gotta remember the diff filling combos so takes their time to make them!

  4. foodhoe says:

    Your lunchtime options just keep getting better! The meatball sammie looks great, can’t you order extra sauce on the side?

    • Ben Ben says:

      Foodhoe, yeah, I think next time if I get the meatball sub I’m going to get some extra marinara sauce. I added dirty sauce, but it was too thick and not sauce-y enough for that messy meatball sub feel.

  5. hungry dog says:

    There’s an Ike’s near me (on Market) that I would like to try but the lines are so long, forget it!

    • Ben Ben says:

      HD, how late does your Ike open to? What’s nice is the one here opens till 7 p.m. so sometimes I might grab a sandwich for a quick simple dinner. And there’s totally no lines after work.