chef’s table

THE SWEET LIFE

Ikeda’s is a family business rooted in tradition.

WRITTEN BY STEPH RODRIGUEZ
PHOTOS BY CANDICE VIVIEN

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Alberto Ortega, the orchard manager at Ikeda’s in Auburn,
has worked the orchard since he was 16 years old

Life on the ranch is deeply ingrained in the Ikeda family’s memories. It’s a freshly picked peach that’s perfectly sweet and bursts with sugary nectar. It’s falling asleep under a fruit tree shaded by its canopy while dad finishes up the day’s work driving a tractor from orchard to orchard. These moments are at the core of why Glen Ikeda, co-owner of the iconic fruit stand, specialty grocery store, and burger shack collectively known as Ikeda’s in Auburn, loves what he does: running the family business.

“What keeps us unique and what keeps people coming here — and you see the line is out the door — is the fact that, yes, we’re that old-school, dirty table, not-so-perfect place, but we’re family owned,” Glen says. “We pick the peaches ripe, and when you eat them there’s no peach, no apricot, no crab sandwich that’s going to taste like what we supply here.”

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Peaches grown at Ikeda’s orchard in Auburn

A connection to the farm

The family business started in the 1950s as a simple fruit stand on the side of the road, complete with wooden windows that Glen says were propped open by stilts. It originally was owned by Glen’s late father, Sam, who grew all the fruit, and his mother, Sally, who ran the business right alongside him.

Eventually, the fruit stand that also used to sell orange juice and hot dogs, expanded into the specialty grocery store that sells everything from Ikeda’s freshly picked apples, plums, berries, and nectarines to wild Pacific salmon; fresh Dungeness crab; prime-grade, marinated tri-tip; fine wines; hard and soft cheeses; and more.

But if one word could sum up the success of this family-owned eatery and grocery store, it would be pies. And these pies are so incredibly popular, even Oprah Winfrey is a fan. No, really. Winfrey’s favorite is the Ikeda’s marionberry pie. A golden, flaky crust holds deep purple marionberries that are sweet, like blackberries, but with a touch of tartness that breaks up the overall richness of the fruit. It’s a real treat to enjoy an Ikeda’s pie, no matter what the variety, and this place has just about every fruit and cream pie imaginable.

“The day before Thanksgiving is our busiest day. We’ll sell almost 4,000 pies, and we do it all on site; we cook 48 hours around the clock to cook those few thousand pies for Thanksgiving,” says Glen, who co-owns the business with his brother, Steve. “Typically, Dutch apple is our year-round, No. 1-selling pie; then it’s marionberry cobbler. Something that’s become popular that we added in the last two years is our triple-berry pie. We use blueberry, raspberry, and marionberry with a crumble on top.”

The Ikedas’ 40-acre farm is only about a mile down the road from the store, and what makes an Ikeda’s apple, peach, or plum the sweetest fruit in Northern California is Sam’s unique fruit-picking technique that the family still uses to this day.

“We pick the trees four or five times. For us, we want to pick at the peak of perfection, and a lot of people don’t understand that, but once they eat the peach, they realize that the flavor is so much better because you’re picking that fruit when it’s ripe on the tree,” Glen says.

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Adam Medina, the pastry chef at Ikeda’s, makes pies in the market’s kitchen

Farm to family

During its more than 50 years as a destination for pies, burgers, and milkshakes made with puréed, fresh fruit, the business has expanded four times to meet the growing demands of its customers. Glen’s two sons, Derek, 24, and Brendyn, 19, share memories similar to their dad’s of growing up around the family business. 

“I remember when I was young, every time I would come in and work, I would be in the back packaging candy with my brother. I just have very fond memories of us going out on the ranch and looking at all the peaches and just falling in love with what our business is,” Brendyn says. “Our grandparents taught us at such a young age to appreciate the produce and the quality of great produce, and ever since then, I’ve fallen in love with what we do here, bringing quality products to the consumers.”

Steph Rodriguez is an award-winning freelance journalist who keeps a close eye on the food and music scene in Sacramento. With more than 10 years’ experience as a writer, she crafts stories that mirror the vast and diverse culture of the region. From entertainment and lifestyle features to profiles with a farm-to-fork interest, she aims to capture the best of Sacramento.

Resources

Ikeda’s
13500 Lincoln Way, Auburn • 530-885-4243
Market hours: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Mon. – Thurs., 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. Fri. – Sun.
Restaurant hours: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Mon. – Thurs., 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Fri. – Sun.
26295 Mace Boulevard, Davis • 530-750-3379
9 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily
Ikedas.com

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