Love is in the air at Valley Plaza Mall, now that Ike’s Love and Sandwiches is open for business. The Bay Area-based sandwich chain opened its first Bakersfield location on Thursday in the mall's food court.

This store, and one slated to open at The Marketplace next year, are part of a Central Valley expansion, which also included shops in Modesto and in Turlock. Most of Ike's 40-plus shops are located in the Bay Area and Southern California.

“I would like to personally thank Bakersfield for encouraging us to open here, it is much appreciated!” Ike Shehadeh, owner of Ike’s Love and Sandwiches, said in a news release. “We are not only bringing one location to Bakersfield, but two! That’s twice the love and sandwiches for the Bakersfield community!”

Ike's at the mall serves a large menu with meat, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options as well as a couple of exclusive sandwiches. The Frank Gifford, named for the Bakersfield High School football legend, tops halal chicken with a tangy mango sauce and provolone. The Minsked Words (no clue on the local reference there) follows the same playbook as the Gifford, just swapping in vegan turkey as the protein.

There are 500 possible sandwich combinations, all including “Ike’s Dirty Secret Sauce,” which is baked into the bread and spread on every sandwich.

Check out all the possibilities at loveandsandwiches.com.

Ike's is at 2701 Ming Ave. (Store #4557), next to Panda Express in the food court.

The second Bakersfield location is slated to open at 9000 Ming Ave, Suite H4 (last home to Yogurt Zone).

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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