Ike’s takes the Long Beach sandwich scene to the heavyweights (including tons of vegan options)

A NorCal sandwich shop legend has officially arrived as Ike’s Love & Sandwiches opens its eighth shop in SoCal, bringing Long Beach its famed and massive sandwiches (along with some exclusives that offer homage to the local culture).

If there is anything to say about Ike’s, which opened in the Bixby Village Plaza near Pacific Coast Highway and Seventh Street just south of Cal State Long Beach, it’s that it has an inherent allergy to minimalism. (Also of note, it sits among decadent dessert shop Afters Ice Cream and the vastly underrated Uncle Fung Borneo Eatery, making this little shopping center a growing center for great, quick food.)

Found by born’n’raised San Franciscan Ike Shehadeh in 2007, Ike’s originally opened with 46 different sandwiches and he didn’t sell a single one. According to legend, he stood outside his shop in a Winnie the Pooh costume trying to pawn off free offerings and not a single person took him up.

Things slightly changed after that.

Ike’s sandwiches eschew simplicity in the name of Have It All. Each creation—named after an assortment of creators, celebrities, cartoon characters, and other bits of human randomness—filled with a heavy set of ingredients, including one of the city’s largest offerings of vegan meats, including vegan chicken, vegan meatballs, vegan turkey, and overall vegan happiness.

Some have mozzarella sticks, like the Super Mario, a meatball sammie with, well, mozzy sticks. Some have jalapeño poppers, like the Jessica Rabbit, which pairs vegan chicken with poppers, ranch, and buffalo sauce. And they use these as toppings, not as an appetizer. Creative decadence, to say the least, all shoved between sliced bread that’s baked in house. (My suggestion? Their Dutch crust bread, a wonderfully crackly white bread that gives a little crunch to each bite.)

Then there’s off-menu additions and options that are seemingly endless when you realize the scope of it all.

For one, there’s Ike’s Dirty Secret Sauce (which hasn’t changed since 2007), a creamy, garlic-is-the-star aioli that can be slathered onto any sandwich upon request.

Ike's "Nate Dogg" sandwich, an exclusive to its Long Beach location, is filled with fried chicken, habañero BBQ sauce, and cheese. Photo by Brian Addison.

Ike’s “Nate Dogg” sandwich, an exclusive to its Long Beach location, is filled with fried chicken, habañero BBQ sauce, and American cheese. Photo by Brian Addison.

Then you’ll notice the numbers of the sandwiches, seemingly in no particular order.

Though there’s plenty of wit: the Long Beach native Tony Gwynn is appropriately sandwich #19, honoring the jersey number of the famed Padre player, while the Long Beach exclusive Nate Dogg sandwich is #213, an homage to the name of the 213 trio that was Nate, Snoop, and Warren G. (It gets even wittier when you “upgrade” things. Take, for example, the #6, dubbed the Hot Momma. Halal chicken—the staple chicken throughout the menu—is slathered with buffalo sauce, ranch, and provolone cheese. If you upgrade that halal to fried chicken, it becomes the Mrs. Robinson. Tip of the hat, Ike. Tip. Of. The. Hat.)

There are over 500 sandwich combos that can be made as long as the ingredients are there.

And yes, there are Long Beach “exclusives,” like the Dirtbags (a decent stack of pastrami, purple cabbage slaw, their habañero BBQ sauce, jalapeños, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomato) and the aforementioned Nate Dogg (fried chicken slathered in the same BBQ sauce mentioned with American cheese, lettuce, and tomato).

If that hasn’t made you feel that Ike’s is pushing the slice bread boundary, look no further than the $30 Kryptonite sandwich. It starts off with bacon and avocado. Simple enough but it needs more meat, particularly ham and pastrami. And some roast beef and salami. And some turkey. Those need to be balanced with some form of veggies, in the form of jalapeño poppers and onion rings. And while we’re sticking the fried options, let’s have some mozzy sticks. But add some regular cheese like Pepper Jack because why not? Throw on some pesto and voila: The Kryptonite.

But in all frankness, just get two different sandwiches over the Kryptonite because they’ll not only taste better but take you down two of Ike’s endless roads of sandwich heaven.

Ike’s Love & Sandwiches is located at 5745 E Pacific Coast Highway.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food to politics to urban transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 12 nominations and an additional win for Best Political Commentary. Born in Big Bear, he has lived in Long Beach since college. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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