Friday, August 25, 2017

SUPERPRETZEL

Soft pretzels.  Not a staple of my life, but, I do have a few fond memories of buttery food court pretzels from Auntie Anne's.  But the "industry standard" for soft pretzels is SUPERPRETZEL.

I'm sure you have had them before.

But let me back up.  When I set out to write blog posts, I often do research into the product and company I'm reviewing.  I find fascinating things.  Like, the story behind SUPERPRETZEL.
Iconic Signage.
SUPERPRETZEL was started by a guy who bought a failing soft pretzel company from a bankruptcy auction in the 1970s. He named it SUPERPRETZEL because he liked Superman. And then he built J & J Snack Foods around this product line, which now includes basically all the snack foods you get at amusement parks, stadiums, and more, including Tio Pepe's Churros (which I've review), both Slush Puppie and Icee, another churro company (California Churro, an acquisition), funnel cakes, and more, 25 brands in total, mostly targeted at the food service industry, although SUPERPRETZEL is also sold in grocery stores (and Target, Amazon, etc). These are everywhere, I'm sure you recognize the sign above.
Branded Pretzel Warmer.
J & J Snack Foods takes an interesting approach to merchandizing, by providing the displays for all their sellers, including servicing and calibrating all the Slush Puppie machines, the churro warmers, etc.  They own the patent on the proprietary pretzel displays that have heaters built-in, allowing vendors to heat the pretzels from frozen without an oven.  Its interesting, right?  You'll see their signs everywhere, if you start looking.

Anyway.  SUPERPRETZEL.
"SUPERPRETZEL Soft Pretzel products are available for both foodservice and retail outlets in a variety of flavors, shapes and sizes. Delicious, nutritious and fun to eat, SUPERPRETZEL Soft Pretzels are great at home, school, sporting events, and theme parks. You can enjoy Americas Favorite Soft Pretzel just about anywhere!"
The most familiar of the products is a large, doughy, twisted, soft pretzel, served warm.  These come in regular, multigrain, and sweet cinnamon.  They also make bite sized, cheese filled, and pretzel dogs.  All are distributed frozen.
Soft Pretzels.
"SUPERPRETZEL Soft Pretzels are the classic baked snacks that fit any occasion. Whether it’s your birthday, Monday, or both, there’s no better way to celebrate snack time."

The pretzels are fine.  They aren't fresh made Auntie Annie's mall pretzels, so they aren't as soft, they aren't as doughy, and they certainly aren't coated in delicious butter.  They are about on par with standard table pretzels I had in Munich.

Standard shape, standard crust, decently soft.  No more, no less.
Soft Pretzel Bite
"Our twist on our classic SUPERPRETZEL Soft Pretzel was to untwist and shrink them down to bite-size. They’re the simple, dippable, dunkable snack sure to please any crowd."

I also tried the little bite sized pretzels.

I like the texture of crust, the pretzel had a nice chew to it, yet was still very soft inside.  I loved the giant salt crystals.  The form factor was better for dunking into dips, which, I'll be honest, is really the part of soft pretzels that I like.  They went great with fancy mustards and cheese dips.
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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Waffling Leftovers: Halloumi

Yup, another installment of waffling leftovers.

This time featuring an item commonly grilled: halloumi!  Except, well, leftover of course.
Waffled Leftover Halloumi Transformation.
This was a slam dunk, as are many items that are frequently grilled.  A waffle iron really does work just like a grill, in many ways.

Leftover Halloumi: Will it Waffle?  YES!
The Original: Seared Halloumi.
The original was slices of pan seared halloumi.

Crispy exterior, slightly squeaky, salty, melty cheese, delicious.  Standard, good, halloumi.
Waffling!
I threw it into the waffle iron, 350 degrees.

It looked great as it cooked, and didn't take long at all.

It extracted easily, no problems.
Waffled Halloumi.
This came out great.

Crispy bits from where the waffle iron made contact, slightly melty, hot and fresh.

It was better than the original actually, and no degradation of quality from being a couple days old, and previously cooked.

Waffling halloumi success!
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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Air New Zealand, AKL-SFO, Business

Another day, another flight, right? This time, Air New Zealand, NZ 8, from Auckland to San Francisco, completing the journey that I started earlier that day aboard the exact same aircraft from Sydney to Auckland.

After a stint in the lounge in Auckland, it was time to fly, again.

The Experience

The aircraft was the same as on my previous flight, on both this trip and others, so I don't have much to say about that.  Service was friendly and attentive, the staff to passenger ratio was excellent, and the staff worked well together.  They really created a welcoming and warm environment, and made the flight as enjoyable as possible.
Seat 4k.
The seat was ok as an upright seat, comfortable but not amazingly so.  I again appreciated the slot to easily stash my laptop, and the ability to stow things under my ottoman even during takekoff and landing.

As a bed however, this remains one of the best I've experienced.  It does not slide down like most, and instead flips over.  The FAs convert the beds when you are ready to sleep, since they do involve so much setup.  A mattress pad is added, and the base really is incredibly stable, firm, and comfortable.  The seat is fairly narrow, but it wasn't a problem for me, and I was able to side sleep in both directions without problem.  A single blanket is provided, fairly thin and scratchy, so, that aspect of the bedding isn't great.  Pillows however are great, two large, fluffy pillows, and I was able to steal an extra from one of the vacant seats in our cabin, so it all really worked out wonderfully.

I'm glad I opted to take this route, rather than flying direct back from Sydney.  While I did have trouble sleeping at what felt like barely 9pm, that was clearly better than trying to do it 5 hours earlier like the direct flights from Sydney.  I absolutely can't fault the bed for my sleeping problems, nor my cabin-mates.  Everyone was shockingly quiet, and everyone went to bed immediately after dinner.  I've never seen a cabin turn around so quickly, and everyone stayed in bed quietly until breakfast.  Such great behavior.

The flight was bumpy however.  The seatbelt sign remained on nearly all night, and the bumps did make it difficult to sleep.  On the plus side, the cabin itself was quite stable, unlike the ridiculously bouncy upper deck on British Airways.

So, even though it adds a layover, I'll likely opt to do this route for future journeys back from Sydney (unless of course I have the opportunity to use the Qantas First lounge in Sydney, as it trumps all else!)

Food & Drink

Standard pre-takeoff sparking wine, juice, and still water were offered, and I asked for sparkling (not on the tray that my FA came through with), but she brought one no question.  Before we took off, we were also asked what we'd like for our post-takeoff drinks, so they could have those ready to go quickly once we were airborne.
Seasoned Cashews, Riesling, Sparkling Water.
For my post-takeoff drink I selected the "low alcohol riesling", and asked for a small pour.  I didn't like it, so I'm glad I only asked for a little.

It came with a little bowl of spiced cashews, much like my previous flight with spiced almonds.  These however I didn't really like, the cashews were bitter, and the spicing just not a blend I like, and they were stone cold.

I was offered the full bottle of sparkling water along with the pre-poured glass, which I really appreciated, since I knew I'd easily drink it all, and it was better to not need to ask for constant refills.

Dinner

Dinner Menu.
Dinner was a three course menu, with two choices for starter, 4 choices for main, and 3 desserts.  The menu was waiting at our seats when we boarded.  It was as follows:

To begin:
  • Smoked snapper brandade with poached prawns, preserved citron salsa verde, and pinenuts
  • Prosciutto with radicchio salad, asparagus, grilled artichokes, and blue cheese
From the bakery:
Oatmeal honey rolls, garlic bread, spelt seeded and traditional bread

Mains:
  • Pulled barbecue beef brisket burger with Swiss cheese, pickles, tomato chipotle sauce, red cabbage poppy seed slaw, and crispy wedges.
  • Roasted chicken breast with roasted cauliflower and currant couscous, green olive tapenade salsa, and broccolini.
  • Blackened salmon with citrus labneh, saffron mash, edamame, and steamed spinach.
  • Butternut squash, roasted corn, and chili soup with toasted pumpkin seed pesto and warm paratha.
To finish:
  • Coconut cream tart with mango jelly and passionfruit cream
  • Gourmet dessert of gingernut ice cream with dark chocolate sauce and ginger wafer
  • A selection of New Zealand cheese served with plum and tamarillo chutney and cracker selection
Mid-flight snacks:
  • Ask your flight attendant for a warmed panini with bacon, caramelised onions and barbecue sauce
  • Help yourself from our range of snacks available throughout the flight.
Neither starter sounded great to me, but I was excited by the mains, remembering Ojan's actually delicious burger on a previous Air New Zealand flight.  I was tempted by the squash and corn soup with paratha, because I like all those things, but, really, there was no question.  It had to be the burger.

Our main dinner orders were taken soon after takeoff.  I was surprised by how much variety there was in the orders around me.  I didn't hear anyone ask for the soup, but the distribution of burgers, chicken, and salmon seemed uniform.

The starters were both chilled, and offered from the trolley, along with additional drinks, and a bread basket.
Starter: Prawns.
"Smoked snapper brandade with poached prawns, preserved citron salsa verde, and pinenuts."

I did not like like this.

The prawns were rubbery.  The brandade was fishy.

On the plus side, the citron salsa verde was really flavorful and fresh, and it was beautifully plated with pine nuts and herbs on top.  But tasty it was not.
Bakery: Garlic Bread.
The bread basket didn't really look exciting, but the garlic bread smelt so good that I decided to try it.

The bread I think was sourdough (boo) and it was strangely spongy.   Not good.  But the butter and garlic were tasty and it was served warm.

The bread basket made several more passes throughout dinner service, but I didn't try any more.  The other breads were served with little bottles of olive oil or butter on the side.

The gluten-free passenger near me was provided a sealed package of crackers instead of bread.
Wine: Pinot Noir.
Since I didn't like the riesling, I moved on to red wine, because I knew it would go better with my burger as well.

This was a big improvement, and really a nice wine.  Not tanic, no bite to it, just really nice.
Perrier Water.
Interestingly, the sparkling water provided at meal service was different from the post-takeoff water.  That was "kiwi blue" in plastic bottles, and this was Perrier, in a can.  And again, I was offered the entire can, a nice touch.
Entree: Burger.
"Pulled barbecue beef brisket burger with Swiss cheese, pickles, tomato chipotle sauce, red cabbage poppy seed slaw, and crispy wedges."

The lag between our starters and mains seemed excessive (and for me was a full 40 minutes), but the staff was clearly busy preparing all the dishes, and delivering them one by one to diners.

When it finally arrived, my heart sank.  This was clearly nothing like the amazing burger Ojan had before.

The wedges were far from "crispy" as advertised.  They were soggy.  Mushy and soggy.  The seasoning was good, and I ate them, but, they really weren't good, no better than any random grocery store oven fries that someone cooked in a microwave.

The other side dish was slaw.  Now that I had hope for, as I love slaw.  It was ... meh.  The cabbage was crisp, so that was actually surprising, it clearly hadn't been mixed up hours before.  The poppy seed was very strong.  It was very dressed, but, not overdressed.  But ... there just wasn't much flavor to it.

The bun was excessive.  There was sooo much bun compared to fillings.  Sure, the filling was meager, but the bun itself was ridiculously thick.  It was toasted on the inside, and warm, but, it tasted stale, and it was kinda hard.  Bread on airplanes, sigh.  The black and white sesame seeds coating it were good though?
The Burger: Inside.
The slice of swiss cheese inside was entirely unmelted.  Boo.  There were 2 pickles, both fine.

Also inside was pulled beef.  It was chewy and not tasty, so I didn't mind the fact that there wasn't nearly enough for the large bun, but as you can see here, there really was not much filling in this thing.  The beef wasn't bbq itself, but bbq sauce was served on the side.  It had some strange spicing to it, but wasn't bad.

So, not a very good dish.  I didn't want the bun or beef at all.  I made a lettuce wrap with the slaw, pickles, unmelted cheese, and some bbq sauce, but it wasn't that great.  And the wedges, meh.

Meh, meh, meh.
Dessert: Coconut Cream Tart.
"Coconut cream tart with mango jelly and passionfruit cream."

For dessert, I selected the tart rather than the ice cream on this flight, since I wasn't really into the ice cream on the previous flight.

It wasn't quite what I was expecting in a tart, but, since I don't generally like tart shells, I welcomed this.  It looked like cheesecake.

The crust was a compressed crumb, slightly sweet, fine.  The majority of the tart I guess was coconut cream?  It didn't taste very strongly of coconut, and was a firm consistency, not a pudding or cream as expected.  It wasn't bad exactly, but, it wasn't at all what I'd describe as coconut cream.

On top was a thin layer of "mango jelly", sweet mango gel.  It was fine.

On the side was the passionfruit cream, sweet whipped cream with flavors of passionfruit, sprinkled with coconut.

Overall, no element of this was particularly good nor bad, but they did combined fairly well.  Coconut, passion fruit, mango, cream ... still, I did wish it was actually creamier.

My gluten-free neighbor had a special dessert as well, some kind of cake.
Decaf Coffee, Chocolate.
With my dessert I opted for decaf coffee, served in a sturdy mug, not bad, but not great.  It came with a chocolate on the side.   These same chocolates were available throughout the rest of the flight in the galley to help yourself to, along with chips, granola bars, and fruit.

Breakfast

Air New Zealand does not allow you to fill out a breakfast card and streamline the breakfast experience, which is one mark against them.  While sometimes perhaps I'd like to change my mind, I much prefer not having to get up a little earlier for breakfast service, particularly in this direction.

Thus, breakfast service began with our orders being taken.
Breakfast Menu.
The menu read:

Sleep in breakfast:
Before going to sleep, please advise your flight attendant you wish to sleep-in and we will wake you as late as possible and offer fruit, yoghurt, cereal, bakery, and a beverage of your choice.

Wake-up drinks:
Get yourself started with a beetroot, pear, and blackcurrant energizer juice.

From the pantry:
  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Plain Greek yoghurt or fruit yoghurt
  • Berry cereal
  • Toasted meusli
From the bakery:
  • Crossants and danish
  • Vogel's or fruit toast with your choice of marmalade, strawberry jam, Vegemite, Marmite
From the stove:
  • Omelette filled with sundried tomato and spinach mornay, roasted tomato, and piccata ham.
  • Scrambled eggs with skillet fried hash potatoes, soft onions, and pastrami with toasted muffin.
  • Banana, maple, and linseed waffles, with blueberry compote and vanilla bean yoghurt served with vanilla syrup.
  • Warm panini with bacon, caramelized onions, green tomato, and jalapeno relish and barbecue sauce.
2 hours before landing, the cabin sprung to life, our beds were converted back into seats, and warm towels were offered.  A few minutes later, orange juice and the "wake-up" drink were offered, and our hot breakfast orders were taken.

The entree was the hardest part of this meal for me.  I always go for the "sweet breakfast carb" item, waffles, french toast, pancakes.  But I knew on my previous Air New Zealand breakfast flights, that these just didn't work out (like the thin flavorless cinnamon hotcakes and the lukewarm soggy french toast.  And I knew that Ojan's warm bacon roll on a previous flight turned out to be great, but it had cheese, and this did not.

In the end, I asked for advice between the two.  My FA said the panini was small, so she'd recommend the waffles.  I asked if the waffles were crispy, and she no, they were soft.  Hmm.  I wanted crispy.  And I also wasn't excited by the idea of "vanilla bean yoghurt" rather than something like whipped cream.  A I would prefer my waffles without banana and linseed, thank you very much.  But I was worried the panini would be more spongy stale bread with flabby bacon.

My FA came to my rescue, "Why don't you have both?  We have plenty of the panini," she said. I told her I knew I couldn't finish both, but she reassured me that it would go to waste, and I should just get both.  So, I did.
From the Pantry: Mango Yoghurt.
The "pantry" items were offered from the trolly, with fruit salad (contained melons so I skipped), mango or plain yogurt, and two types of cereal (lightly toasted muesli or Light 'N Toasty with Berries), plus tea and coffee.  Interestingly, no other drinks, including water, were offered.

Since I had ordered two hot entrees, I planed to skip this selection, but I asked if the yoghurt was creamy or runny, and if it was tart, and I was told that it was very creamy, lovely, and highly recommended.  Plus, the fruit flavor of the day was mango.  So I asked for a very small scoop.

It was ... ok.  Just yoghurt.  Not like the creamy amazing yoghurt in the Air New Zealand lounge in the Syndey airport.  Not like the super rich, full fat yoghurts I remembered from the grocery stores in Sydney.  Just yoghurt.  Slightly sweet, not runny, and with a decent swirl of mango, but, really, just yoghurt.

I also opted for regular coffee.  It wasn't very good, fairly lukewarm, and watery.  Speaking of water, I wanted water!
Danish.
After the first round, the "bakery" was offered, a bread basket with croissants, danishes, raisin toast,  and "vogel's".  Jam, marmite, and vegemite were on the side.

While I don't normally go for the baked goods on flights, I remembered quite enjoying the danish on a previous flight, so, I went for it, even though I had no idea what kind it was.

It was ... good, in a non-traditional sort of way.  It was clearly not a fresh baked good.  It was crispy on top and a bit soggy inside, from the heating method (it was served warm).  It was flaky and layered, but greasy.  The filling was I think perhaps rhubarb and cream cheese?  I'm still not entirely sure.  But it was fruity, a bit sweet, a bit tart, and also a bit creamy.

I know this doesn't sound great, and it wasn't amazing, but, it was satisfying in its own way, and actually my favorite thing from the entire meal.

My gluten-free neighbor had an entire custom tray, with an individually wrapped blueberry muffin, an individually wrapped loaf of some sort, and a package of gluten-free cereal.
From the Stove: Waffles.
"Banana, maple, and linseed waffles, with blueberry compote and vanilla bean yoghurt served with vanilla syrup."

The waffles came first.  3 triangles of waffle, topped with blueberry compote and vanilla bean yoghurt, with a little pot of vanilla syrup on the side.  The presentation was lovely.

But ... the waffles?  Yeah, as I feared, not tasty.  They were soggy and mushy.  I didn't taste banana, linseed, or maple.

The blueberry compote was fascinating.  It did have a couple berries, but was mostly little cubes (!) of blue gel.  I expected more of a sauce, and, um, not strange little cubes.  Interesting, but not particularly tasty.

The vanilla bean yoghurt was thin runny style.  Good for a sauce, but not particularly good.

The only aspect of this dish that was good was the vanilla syrup, and not just because it was served in a cute little pot on the side.  It was sweet, sticky, and very flavorful.  If only I had something to put it on.
From the Stove: Breakfast Panini.
"Warm panini with bacon, caramelized onions, green tomato, and jalapeno relish and barbecue sauce."

My very attentive FA came over after a bit to ask if I'd like my panini at that point.  I was honestly stuffed already.  Yoghurt, a full danish, and about half the waffles were all I needed, particularly as my confused body thought it was way early for breakfast anyway.  But ... curiosity won out.

And I'm glad it did.  The panini, although not what I was originally wanting (aka, no melty cheese), was actually quite good, in a fast-food kind of way.

The bun had grill marks, but was actually soft, and reminded me of asian steamed buns, just, mega sized.  It was slightly sweet I think, or perhaps my palette was still just sweet from spoonfuls of vanilla syrup.  Good, in a really strange way, not a good fresh bun obviously, but, good.

The bacon was a big jumble of chewy, flabby bacon that I could care less about, and removed pretty quickly from the sandwich.

The onions were soft, sweet, and caramelized, and quite tasty.

But what made this sandwich fantastic was the spreads.  The jalapeno relish was actually quite flavorful.  Not spicy exactly, but really flavorful.

And the barbecue sauce, not the same as I had with my pulled beef burger.  It was actually served in a package fast-food style, which was striking given how well plated everything else was throughout.  But maybe this is a famous New Zealand barbecue sauce?  If not, it should be.  I loved it.  It was sweet and tangy, and I instantly wanted some McDonald's fries to dunk in it (I always dunk my fries at McDonald's in both bbq and sweet and sour sauce, and this was a perfect blend of those flavors in one!)

Once I removed the bacon, and just loaded my bun up with tons and tons of jalapeno relish and barbecue sauce, this was really, really satisfying.  Savory, a bit spicy, and very comforting.  I shocked myself by finishing it, particularly given that it was the last thing I had.

Next time, I'd totally order this as my main in the evening, as I think it was the same item available as a "midnight snack".
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Monday, August 21, 2017

Ike's Place

Ike's is a small-ish chain of sandwich shops, that started in San Francisco (yes, by Ike), in 2007.  To say it has been successful is an understatement.  In only 10 years, they have expanded to 36 locations throughout the state (and I think Arizona?).

The original SF location was on 16th Street, but it had to shut down after 5 years when the lease expired, and a renewal was not offered (which created LOTS of angry San Franciscans).  Ike's moved to a temporary home in the Castro, literally, inside a bakery, and then got into trouble because it is a chain now, and that was breaking some kind of rules.  Finally, they have a new place on Polk Street, which is where I visited.

Now, you might realize that I've probably never (?) reviewed a sandwich before.  I don't generally really like sandwiches.  But ... Ike's has such acclaim, and such an interesting menu, that I finally had to try it.

Oh, and they have a birthday club, where you get a free sandwich on your birthday.  You know I can't resist a birthday freebie.

Setting

Entire Shop.
The shop is fairly narrow, with not much seating.

You order at a register at the entrance, sandwiches are prepped in the small kitchen in the middle, there is a soda fountain on the side, and several high top tables for two.  There is one single lower table with 3 chairs.  I imagine when it gets busy, finding a seat is hard, or I suspect most people take their sandwiches to go, although, the neighborhood isn't really one where you want to just go eat outside.

There is no bathroom.  But they do have a hand sanitizer pump to clean your hands somewhat.
Menu.
The menu is ... daunting to say the least.  More than 50 sandwiches (even when they first opened, they had 46!).  And, they mostly all sound amazing.

Sandwiches are named after celebrities, places, and concepts, so you have to read all the details to know what is in your sandwich.  No option to order just "a turkey sandwich", although I'm sure you could do that.  The closest you can get to a normal named sandwich is the Paul Reubens, which is a play on a reuben with pastrami, purple slaw, french dressing, and swiss (yeah, I said closest, if you were expecting corned beef not pastrami, sauerkraut instead of slaw, and Russian instead of French, you'd be sad).  Many involve fried items, including onion rings, jalapeño poppers, mozzarella sticks, and even mac and cheese.  All have some kind of sauces.  These are not light sandwiches.

Each location also has location specific specials, and each day also has two specials (on a separate menu).  And of course, you can modify your sandwich in a slew of ways.

Meat options include halal chicken or fried chicken, deli sliced turkey, roast beef, pastrami, ham, and salami, bacon, meatballs, and thin sliced rib-eye.  However, vegetarians, and vegans, have nearly as many options to pick from, and they aren't just hummus and sprouts.  The fried chicken is replaced with vegan breaded chicken.  There is vegan steak, turkey, and even bacon and meatball equivalents.  You can also opt for breaded fried eggplant, or yes, hummus, if you don't go for the fake proteins.  There is vegan cheese and vegan aioli offered.  Sandwiches that aren't vegan by design, but can be made vegan, have a marking on the menu.

Dutch crunch is the standard bread offering ("World Famous", they say, and about 70% of people opt for it), but you can also select from french, sourdough, whole wheat, or gluten free bread.  All the breads are huge grinder rolls, not sliced bread, and only in one, very large, size.

All sandwiches come with lettuce, tomato, and Dirty Sauce by default.  The "Dirty Sauce" is Ike's secret ingredient, a garlic aioli (normally mayo based, but they also make an egg-free vegan version), that they toast right into the bread, on both sides, under your cheese and meat choices.  And then they add another layer after toasting.  Um, yeah, these aren't light sandwiches.

You can also add red onion, pickles, banana peppers, and jalapeños for free.

On top of that, there are lots of other add-ons, like spinach or cucumbers (for $1), avocado or bacon ($2.50), cheese ($1.50), mushrooms ($2), any of the sauces ($1-2, depending on the sauce), double meat ($2), halal chicken (instead of fried, $1), or, for the really crazy, beer battered onion rings or beer battered zucchini ($3), stuffed jalapeño poppers or mozzarella sticks ($3.50).

I was fatigued just reading the menu.  But when I realized that I'd be happy with any of at least 10 different choices, that actually made it easier.  It seemed hard to go wrong.  Interestingly, everything I wanted was vegetarian.  I think mostly because I was excited by the fake chicken and turkey, since I don't like the real stuff.

In the end, I narrowed down to a handful: 1) The "Danny Glover" with BBQ Sauce, Cheddar, and Vegan Breaded Chicken, 2) The "Handsome Owl" with Swiss, Teriyaki, Vegan Breaded Chicken, and Wasabi Mayo, 3) The "Chased & Confused (SF Exclusive)" with Bacon, Flaming Hot Cheetos, Ranch, Red Pesto, Stuffed Jalapeño Poppers, 4) The "Pee Wee" with French Dressing, Home Made Poppy Seed Coleslaw, Swiss, Vegan Turkey, or either of the weekend specials, "The Love Shaq" or "The Turner", both featuring, uh, mac and cheese (the former with american/bacon/dirty sauce, the later with bbq/honey mustard/honey).

I ruled out the mac and cheese options, and the Chased & Confused (although, really, Flaming Hot Cheetos and stuffed jalapeño poppers inside a sandwich did seem ... tempting).  And from there, I kinda made my own sandwich, using the Danny Glover as the base because I really wanted bbq and the vegan breaded chicken, subbing in a few things from the Handsome Owl, and adding in something from Pee Wee.  When you can't decide, just, make it your own?
Assembly Area.
Sandwiches are all made to order, and, they take time.  At least 10 minutes.  Because, well, there is a lot going on in each.

Each sandwich runs through the toaster, open faced, to crunch up the bread, bake in the Dirty Sauce, melt the cheese, and warm the meat.  Then there are many toppings and sauces to add.  When your order is ready, "Order Up!" is called, and you walk up to get it.  I was a bit surprised by the lack of system, no number given, no name, and everyone sorta just had to figure out when it was their turn.  Maybe they get more formal about the process when busier?

Food

Besides sandwiches, Ike's offers bagged chips (Zapp's chips, with all their innovative flavors I've reviewed before) and a couple bars/cookies.  That's it.  No other sides, not even the slaw they make for the sandwiches, nor the onion rings, poppers, or mozzarella sticks as an appetizer.  They are all about the sandwiches.
Wrapped Up ... with Lollipops!
When my order was ready, I was asked if I wanted caramel apple or blue razz lollipops.  I had no idea it came with lollipops, but, that was awesome.

It came wrapped up in two layers of paper wrap, one which actually held the sandwich and was sliced in half, and a full size extra wrapper, even though I indicated that I'd be eating there.  There isn't really a dine-in option for how it is served (e.g. no plate, no basket, etc), but if you eat there, they don't give you a paper bag to put it in.

I was surprised by how massive it was.  Length-wise, I think it was probably 10", but it was the girth that was dramatic.  Like a San Francisco super burrito, this thing isn't really meant to be eaten by one normal human.  Particularly one that plans to go out to dessert on the way home.  You can easily split one with someone, particularly if you have a bag of chips alongside, and go out for dessert after.  Or, if you don't need all that junk food in your life, a half is still a pretty serious undertaking.  I saw many people leaving with their extra half wrapped up in the paper wrapper, which, makes that seem a lot more convenient even for dine-in customers, now that I think about it.
Danny Glover on Dutch Crunch (Modified). $11.11 + $1.50.
"BBQ Sauce, Cheddar, Vegan Breaded Chicken" - Cheddar + Swiss + Tomato/Red Onion/Pickles/Dirty Sauce.
It came sliced in half, which was necessary to pick it up.  Just a half really was a full sandwich.  Check out the girth!

My order was the Danny Glover, but I made a few substitutions.  I ordered this because I wanted BBQ sauce, but, I like swiss more than cheddar, so, subbed out my cheese.  I accepted the standard tomatoes and dirty sauce, added the optional free pickles and red onions, and asked to have their well known purple slaw in place of the standard lettuce ($1.50 extra, which I was informed of at the time).  The bread choice was obviously dutch crunch, toasted.

I was surprised to open up my sandwich and find ... lettuce, the item I had subbed out for the slaw.  I had the slaw too, but, I also had lettuce, tons of it.  Very generic shredded iceberg, not particularly fresh.  My fellow dining companion noted that it took away from his sandwich experience having that much lettuce.  I removed most of it from my half.  Also generic?  The tomatoes.  Not particularly ripe, not particularly good.  I removed those too.  I think the red onion might have been left out, I never found it.

What I did find was BBQ sauce.  Tons of BBQ sauce.  It was seeping out one whole side.  It overwhelmed all other flavors.  And it wasn't possible to really remove it.  I like BBQ, which is why I ordered it, but, I actually didn't end up liking the flavor of it, even if it wasn't saturated in it, it was too sweet for my taste.

But now for the good parts.

The vegan breaded chicken was actually good.  A nice texture.  The breading was a bit soggy amongst all the other sandwich elements, but, besides that, I liked it.  Far more than regular chicken.  I'd gladly get it again.  There was a lot of it, full size thick "chicken" strips, well distributed throughout.  Most bites had a full bite of the chicken.

The swiss was nicely melted on, and again, covered the whole thing.  I loved the pickles.  Just classic dill chips, but, I really liked the crunch and flavor they added.  The slaw added a bit more crunch too, more than the lettuce, and I'm glad I added it (and, wished I had it instead, as I asked).  It was creamy slaw though, so that, plus the dirty sauce, was a fair amount of mayo-y sauces.  I did love the dirty sauce though, and, who am I kidding, I'm a mayo girl.

The dutch crunch was pretty standard dutch crunch, crunchy on top, fresh enough, nicely toasted.

Overall, this was a mixed bag.  The poor assembly that over BBQ'ed it definitely ruined it though.  I could just remove the lettuce and tomato, but, the BBQ overruled everything else.  That said, the other components were good, so I'd gladly give Ike's another chance, with another person assembling my sandwich.  I just wouldn't get BBQ, lettuce, or tomato.
Ike's Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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