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Ike’s owner, Singaporean food chef face off for Thai Cafe space

The current owner of the McMurtry cafe, Ike’s Place, and a Stanford alum seeking to sell Singaporean street food joint are among the vendors vying to take over Thai Cafe’s vacant space in Jordan Hall, as the School of Humanities & Sciences’ (H&S) search for a replacement enters its public survey phase.

Thai Cafe (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily).

Last month, H&S Director of Public Relations Joy Leighton told The Daily that the school aims to bring in a new business by spring 2018. Fast service and low prices are among the top criteria that will be used to judge applicants, said Leighton.

The two bidders who spoke to The Daily each has a history with Stanford. For the five years it operated as a sandwich shop in Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center, Ike’s enjoyed a devout following that mounted a protest in White Plaza when the store was forced to close in spring 2014. Since then, the chain restaurant has opened a grab-and-go store in McMurtry Building offering cold sandwiches, cookies and ice cream.

The other vendor hopeful is Roy Chan Ph.D. ’17, a recent alum who hopes to bring Singaporean cuisine to the Main Quad just months out of his chemistry graduate program.

Roy’s Singapore Kitchen

Chan’s proposed menu includes chicken rice and coconut milk-rice dish nasi lemak, along with rojak, a vegetarian option.

“In Singapore, these kinds of dishes are served by hawker stalls,” Chan said, “rows and rows of mini stalls, each operated by two to three people. They specialize [in a few dishes].”

He spoke admiringly of the street food culture of his childhood, which he hopes to emulate with his own shop.

“A few people cook a specialized dish and make it really, really good,” he said. “Recipes [can be] multigenerational.”

Growing up in a household that cooked often, Chan said he is comfortable enough in a kitchen to develop his own recipes. His parents own two shops selling fried chicken at Orchard Road in Singapore, and his mother is planning to help at his joint in Stanford if he wins the bid.

A self-proclaimed “foodie” who says he has traveled to places just to sample the local food, Chan hopes to bring his love of food and his studies together with his shop.

‘Chemistry is the main thing I do, but as a hobby, I do a lot of cooking,” said Chan. “I think my special talent is actually food … And chemistry and food have a huge overlap – there’s this branch called food chemistry.”

Ike’s

Shehadeh said that his new location will be structured differently from Ike’s Place, as the business will be tailored to be conducive to short wait times, a priority that he believes is in line with Stanford’s.

“We didn’t want people waiting — time is a premium, especially at school,” he said. “There are so many permutations with sandwiches, they would be unfit for the location.”

Instead, Shehadeh has proposed five different ideas: pizza and other Italian foods, Vietnamese street food, breakfast sandwiches & coffee, a pasta place and an American burger/chicken/milkshakes joint. Each of his proposals includes vegetarian, vegan as well as gluten-free options.

Students who frequented Thai cafe said they anticipated a replacement that would be just as conveniently-located and student-friendly.

“A lot of people have classes in that area,” said Amy Shen ’18, a computer science major who had several classes near Jordan Hall. “The food was tasty, though I’m not sure if it was the healthiest.”

However, Shen said that Thai Cafe’s cash-only policy – which its owner said helped to keep prices down– could be inconvenient for students. She hopes the new store will be similar to Thai Cafe in function, but with added benefits – such as taking meal plan dollars or serving to-go food and snacks.

“There were definitely times when I’d get food from Thai Cafe and have to awkwardly eat it in class,” said Shen, recalling her attempts to finish the full meals the cafe sold.

With both students and the university seeking fast service and affordability, students can expect an establishment with these traits as they await a decision on what will occupy the basement of Building 420. The survey to gauge student opinion on the new vendor will close Monday, Nov. 13.

 

Contact Karen Kurosawa at karen16 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

 

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