vegansaurus!

09/13/2010

BREAKING: Ike’s Place is staying open after all!  »

Ha ha, just kidding. They’re really closing this time. I’m holding my last ever Vegan Brutus on glorious Dutch crunch from Ike’s Place—last ever, that is, until they inevitably (hopefully?) reopen. In the meantime, put your phone on speaker because even the wait to get past a busy signal is out of control.

And in a way, Ike’s Place really is staying open after all. In our hearts? Well, maybe there too (I’m sentimental like that), but I meant in Stanford. Their new location just opened last week, and according to Ike it’s already exploding, with an hour wait on the first day. So call ahead before your next sandwich road trip.

I’m sure some of you are still scratching your heads wondering why we’ve been getting all worked up and misty-eyed over a sandwich shop that also serves meat. For me, it’s about 32 percent selfish. Ike’s Place was my neighborhood sandwich shop, sometimes acting as my own surrogate kitchen for weeks at a stretch. Ike’s also gives a shit about what vegans want to eat, showing a level of commitment to us and to keeping with the times that almost no other restaurant in San Francisco has shown. Even our city’s “flagship” vegan restaurant (yes, I’m looking at you, Herbivore) keeps the same menu year after year, while Ike keeps buying new products that vegans are genuinely excited about. It was an omnivorous sandwich shop that was simultaneously more vegan than half the vegan restaurants in this city combined.

I love San Francisco, but Ike’s eviction is a symbolic victory for everything broken in this city: unneighborly neighbors who take up space over people who actually contribute to the community; blighted storefronts over a vibrant local economy; bureaucracy over small, independent business. Opening a new eating establishment in San Francisco is already prohibitively difficult; the message you get from City Hall, neighbors, landlords, and large chains is “you’re not wanted here, don’t bother.” And that’s all before adding the extra layer of “vegan” (see also: “weird,” “niche”) into the mix.

Yes, there’s nothing more played out than a “people like X are ruining San Francisco for people like Y” rant piece. But veganism in this city will succeed or fail based on whether or not new restaurants, bakeries, cafes, etc. can get some basic support, instead of being treated like a boil to be squeezed out. I’m not saying, let’s go Ayn Rand and deregulate everything. That’s insane—shit needs to be clean and safe; employees need to get paid a living wage. But come on; San Francisco has more skeezy massage parlors than vegan restaurants. It really shouldn’t be this hard to sell a sandwich.

P.S. What are you doing tonight? Probably nothing, so join Ike and everyone else as they crowd 16th and Sanchez with music and insanity for a farewell street party before closing tonight for real. PEACE OUT, neighbors.

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