Do you remember your favorite restaurants from your college years? More importantly, are they still around? August was so happy tonight walking about the south side of UC Berkeley when we stopped into I.B.’s Hoagies. She ate here so often during her time at Cal, always ordering her favorite mushroom and bacon cheesesteak. Tonight, though, returning after at least eight years, she tried something new (since it was completely new for Zach) so that we could see it with entirely fresh eyes.
The fries might come from a bag in the freezer, and the cheese might come from a tin, but you can’t go wrong with these chili cheese fries if you’re looking for a savory late night treat, especially if you’re a college student.
The hoagie-style sandwiches are built on 6″, 9″, and 15″ rolls, and every one is made to order with cheese, grilled onions, mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce, tomato, and pickles. There are burgers as well, but “hoagie” is in the name of the place, so that’s what we came for. All that distinguishes the different hoagies, really, is the meat and extra toppings. August chose pastrami, sliced and paired with Swiss cheese on a 9″ roll. The pastrami was tender and super lean. Its flavor was spiced yet well balanced between tangy and savory, enhanced by the freshness of the vegetables.
Zach got a cheesesteak with beef, American cheese, mushrooms and garlic, not to eat it all but just to see what the size is like (we gave half of it to a Telegraph street person). With this size, though, you definitely get more than your money’s worth of cheesy gooey goodness. The bread used is great, soft but with a good chew. The mushrooms, we learned from “I.B.” himself, are organic when possible, sometimes a variety including cremini and portobello. It’s all the better that they were sauteed perfectly. The onions, too, were cooked just right, with the lettuce providing a nice crispness.
Quite a lot has changed in the south side of campus in the last decade. Several of August’s favorite shops and restaurants are gone. Many places are simply vacant. New university buildings have been erected. But, some things are the same. There are as many tourists as there are students during the summer. Street people abound. And the flavors at I.B.’s Hoagies are now just as they were, legendary.