One of the delightful consequences of falling behind in watching a beloved reality television series can be discovering that the “reality” has changed for the better.
Such was the case when I made it to Season 2, Episode 4 of Man Vs. Food, a guilty pleasure culinary program that chronicles Adam Richman’s (and, later, Casey Webb’s) attempts to conquer eating challenges across the country. This particular episode focuses on restaurants in the Bay Area and aired more than a decade ago, but up until now I was too busy reading or something to watch it.
Among the quirky establishments featured in the episode was Ike’s Place, where owner Ike Shehadeh had created an eclectic menu of sandwiches stuffed with the likes of mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and every cold cut known to man.
As a self-proclaimed sandwich connoisseur, I was captivated. And by “captivated,” I mean actively drooling on my keyboard as I watched Richman chow down on "The Kryptonite," a massive sub packed with roast beef, corned beef, pastrami, salami, turkey, bacon, ham, mozzarella sticks, jalapeño poppers, beer-battered onion rings, avocado, pesto, and pepper jack cheese.
Well, 10 years later, Ike's has gone national with the branded Ike's Love & Sandwiches and more than 40 shops. Since there's a new-ish location smack in the Heights, what better way to follow-up my delayed binge watch than to binge on his ridiculous sandwiches myself?
I began to make my way through the menu, discovering the "Michael Jordan" (meatballs, marinara, pepper jack cheese) as an early favorite as well as the "Andrew Luck" (chicken, bacon, garlic sauce, avocado, cheddar cheese)—Ike is a big sports fan. Believe it or not, these were among the relatively tamer selections, and soon I wanted to sample the extremes.
To get a sense of the opposite poles of Ike’s offerings, I compared what I considered the crown jewel of their plant-based sandwiches, the “Sometimes I’m A Vegetarian,” with one of the fattiest, animal-flesh heavy sandwiches, “The Matt Cain.”
The "Sometimes I’m A Vegetarian" is two slices of sourdough bookending artichoke hearts, mushrooms, pesto, provolone, lettuce, and avocado (plus extra avocado). With this sandwich at my side I would never need meat, because the creamy avocado, luxurious pesto, and salty provolone made up for anything I would've missed.
Later I tried the "Matt Cain," which opts for roast beef, beef salami, and turkey. The Cain is also liberally dressed in Godfather sauce, a creamy dijon mustard blend, and topped with provolone. And since more is always more when it comes to meat and cheese, I added bacon and mozzarella sticks. Maximum decadence.
One of my 2020 goals was to eat my way through Ike’s menu; however, after encountering this all-star offering, should I even try anything else?