Do not adjust your dial: There is another sandwich shop in downtown Bakersfield.
Of course in an area of town panini-pressed with sandwich options — including but not limited to, Locale Farm to Table, Sequoia Sandwich, Bonnie's Best Cafe, Too Fat Sandwich and Sub Station — a new business has a lot of work ahead of it to stand out.
In the case of Radio Sandwich, it has a few things working in its favor: an emphasis on local ingredients and a cool pop-up inside Vests Market.
Owner Miriam Alqaisi plans to open later this year at a spot on 19th Street but for now she's happy to be slinging sandwiches from the deli counter at the Chester Avenue market on Mondays and Tuesdays. (Another local business, KV's Southern Style BBQ, operates in the space Wednesdays through Saturdays.)
The pop-up started on Feb. 1 with a trio of sandwiches: the muffaletta, hipster breakfast sandwich and Korean short rib French dip, which sold out for the week on the first day. Alqaisi doubled the sandwiches and plans to triple them for this coming week.
Sandwiches highlight locally made or grown products including Blue Magnolia Bakery Co. breads, Ayden's Eggs and produce from Fortitude Farm and Sia Fresh Produce. Alqaisi has been using Harris Ranch beef but said she's working on a local purveyor for beef as well as other meats.
At the last pop-up, the Fortitude focaccia was tailor-made for vegans with carrot fritters, shaved Brussels sprouts and green garlic with a broccoli pesto.
"I want Radio Sandwich to be the product of what everybody has done — my farmers growing, my baker baking."
Community support has been key for the new business owner: Insurance agent Daryl Dean Santos found her the pop-up spot at Vests and Heather Laganelli of Locale featured one of Alqaisi's sandwiches (a pimento cheese grilled cheese with an egg in a hole on top) on her menu in September. And both Santos and Laganelli have taken part in recent menu testing shared on Instagram Live.
"You cannot underestimate the power of this community," she said.
"I feel like I've won something. I'm not making crazy amounts of money. When you do support local business, you're reaffirming that what they're doing is worth it."
With a firm business plan in place — bolstered by her recently completed master's in business administration from Cal State Bakersfield — Alqaisi is working on securing a business loan or finding investors that will allow her to continue remodeling the 19th Street space.
For now, she will continue building a following for her menu, which is rotating weekly. The very popular French dip will stick around (although it's not on next week's menu), and Alqaisi said she's looking into a vegan version down the line.
"I do like the idea of having secret duplicates. A tempeh French dip or roasted mushroom French dip."
Once the full shop opens, she plans on having a secret vegan menu, giving the often-overlooked diners a chance to feel a little mysterious with their lunch order.
"It's nice to have something that makes them feel special, a little bit of a treasure hunt."
Coming soon for the pop-up will be a tuna melt, a tip of the chef's hat to the shop's name. (Radio is diner slang for a tuna sandwich, since the phrase "tuna down" for the order going in could sound like "turn it down," like for a radio.)
The Radio Sandwich pop-up is being held 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays inside Vests Market, 1831 Chester Ave.