“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.” - William Blake
by Nicole Lisson
- The Capitol Hill Times -
James Snyder, related to the original Red Robins restaurant chain family, opened up a restaurant of his own called Sam’s Tavern on 10th Avenue and Pike Street this past week. Its prime location means stiff competition from the surrounding restaurants including Quinns, located down the street. However, as soon as you walk into Sam’s you will notice it isn’t what you normally find on Capitol Hill.
Two jumbo flat screens are propped against two parallel walls, either showing Cabela’s gun network or a rowdy game of football. Taxidermy decorates the faux brick with a bar near the front that is backlit in colors of green and blue. The interior is basically what you would find in any chain restaurant in America. While I was immediately put off by the uninspired vision of the place, I had high hopes for the food.
The menu is divided into three sections: Gourmet Burgers, Sam’s Six – For – 6 (All Day Happy Hour) and Sam’s Smoke ‘N’ BBQ. The burger’s held the most creativity with options like the Frito Not-Yo-Nacho Cheeze Burger ($9) which features sautéed onions, Frito nacho cheese sauce, bacon chili and scallions. Per recommendation of previous customers, I went with the Juicy Lucy ($8), a Seattle Patty (what is a Seattle Patty? A bunch of ground-up hipsters?), stuffed with Brie cheese, sautéed onions, cream cheese and Sam’s secret sauce. My friend ordered the Baby Back Ribs ($10), which came with a side of Mac and Cheeze. For a drink, I ordered one of Sam’s Tavern House Cocktails, a Moscow Mule ($6). Taking a sip, I noticed there was very little ginger ale, the primary component, but was heavy on the vodka. For the patron who drinks to get drunk, this is their kind of cocktail. A slight buzz kept me from getting discouraged, and when the food came I was excited and frankly, quite ravenous.
The burger was on the small side, but for $8 dollars I didn’t expect a Whopper. A handful of cold, thick-cut shoestring fries accompanied it. Overly greasy, they made your hands feel as if you dipped them into a vat of oil. Little to no salt was sprinkled on top and there was none to be found on the table so you couldn’t dress them up. With a name like Juicy Lucy, you would think the burger would be juicy. Instead, it was covered in a thick slathering of cream cheese while the lukewarm pieces of Brie were not stuffed into the meat patty as stated in the description. Cooked to the point of no return, the only juices to be found were from the runny cream cheese.
My friend’s order of Baby Back Ribs had a nice smokiness to them and were fall-off the-bone tender. However, they tasted manufactured, almost as if they had been purchased frozen.
I wish I could say the Macaroni and Cheeze was the winner of the night, but it wasn’t. Weirdly sweet, there wasn’t a hint of garlic from the creamy garlic sauce. My first clue of what was to come should have been from the misspelling of cheese. East Pike Street is the epicenter of good food, cheap food and street food. Sam’s Tavern falls into the second category. The bill for two was $28 with cocktails, a small chunk of change that wasn’t worth the meal. The hotdogs on the corner are tastier, harsh, but true. Nonetheless, it only opened a week ago and there are always a few kinks to work out when it comes to a new restaurant. I’m crossing my fingers, the food will improve but I’m sad to say, the décor cannot be changed. Sam’s Tavern is basically a Red Robin with a different name.