Fresno is the final frontier, at least when it comes to these three chain restaurants.
The three restaurants – a Korean-style fried chicken restaurant and two sandwich shops – all have multiple locations in Southern and Northern California. They’re all planning new restaurants in Fresno, though they won’t open for many months.
Two are going to The Square at Campus Pointe next to Fresno State and the third is open in north Fresno.
Here’s what we know about them.
Ike’s Love & Sandwiches
This sandwich chain with a twist is taking over the former Beach Hut Deli space at The Square at Campus Pointe and a location in north Fresno, next to Starbucks at Palm and Herndon avenues. The Campus Point location is scheduled to open sometime before the end of the year, says Ike Shehadeh Mission.
He’s the founder, the namesake and the dude depicted in the logo with the shaved head and the little soul patch on his chin.
Every restaurant owner claims their place is something different, but this one might actually live up to that statement. The first Ike’s in San Francisco was written up in the New York Times after attracting an eviction notice, inspired in part by complaints from neighbors about the huge lines forming outside.
Ike’s also has a giant sandwich called The Kryptonite that was featured on the TV show “Man v. Food.” It includes six kinds of meat, jalapeno poppers, mozzarella sticks, onion rings and two avocados.
It serves four people typically, but there will be a Kryptonite-eating contest at the grand opening. The winner gets free sandwiches for a year.
Even when it comes to the more normal sandwiches, Shehadeh tries to create flavor combinations you wouldn’t normally find elsewhere.
“We’re like the Ben & Jerry’s of sandwiches, the Apple of sandwiches,” he said. “I want to do things you wouldn’t do at home.”
That means, for example, you’ll find a ménage à trois sandwich with three sauces (honey, honey mustard and barbecue), chicken and three cheeses.
The sandwich bread – like the San Francisco-style sourdough and a rustic Dutch crunch – is baked until just before it’s finished. When you order any sandwich, Ike’s Dirty Secret Sauce is brushed onto the bread and it’s finished baking so that the sauce seeps into the bread. The sauce has about 20 different spices and tastes something like garlic bread, Shehadeh said.
Each restaurant has two or three sandwiches inspired by its location. Fresno’s haven’t been created yet. We suggested sandwiches involving tri-tip or Enzo’s Table Fresno Chili Crush olive oil. Shehadeh is open to suggestions for Fresno-themed sandwiches and encourages people to submit ideas via the Ike’s Facebook page.
And the love in the name?
“We just really care about sandwiches and we really care about you,” Shehadeh said.
The restaurant serves chicken wings, drumsticks and strips cooked in a soy garlic sauce or a spicy sauce and served with a side of pickled radish.
Although people seem to get most excited about the chicken, BonChon (which means “my hometown” in Korean) also has a full menu. It includes Bibimbap, a dish of white rice with veggies and egg served in a stone bowl with a Korean red pepper paste on the side. Customers pick which protein they want, either spicy chicken, seafood, tofu or bulgogi (thin strips of marinated beef).
There are also fried seafood appetizers on the menu, along with salads, soups, wraps and Korean tacos.
The franchised restaurant company based in New York has 236 locations worldwide, including 63 in the United States.
BonChon representatives did not return messages about when the restaurant might open.
The sandwich shop serves both hot and cold sandwiches. One of the most popular is dubbed the Mr. Pickle, with chicken breast, Monterey Jack cheese, bacon and avocado.
The shop’s bread is particularly delicious, said Myers . It comes from Boudin Bakery in San Francisco, the same one that makes sourdough at Fisherman’s Wharf. The bread on each sandwich is brushed with a garlic sauce that’s “really, really tasty,” he said.
Myers chose to open a Mr. Pickle’s because he liked the sandwiches and wanted to bring something new to Fresno.
“I think what sets it apart is a really fun atmosphere,” he said. “And the employees seem to be having fun and like working there.”
The sandwich shop does sell pickles, including whole dill pickles or pickles cut into spears. But Mr. Pickle’s is mostly a fun name and mascot. There is a Mr. Pickles mascot – an adult in a really big pickle costume – who you can see dancing in videos on YouTube.