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Food Memories

Sammy’s Romanian Steakhouse

 

 

This is one of the most fun places with outstanding food you can ever go to. It’s not formal, so dress comfortably. Prepare to eat yourself into a stupor with some of the best steak ever, along with some amazing side dishes. Sammy’s is an on going Bar Mitzvah that started in 1929! New ownership took over in the 70s, according to rumor in a winning hand of poker!

 

Let me set the record straight. While informal and lacking in an upscale atmosphere, Sammy’s is not cheap. The cost per person can be well over a hundred bucks a person. It’s well worth it!

 

Let me set the record straight. I love eating. I love trying new things, new ideas and new anything. I eat because something tastes great. I dine at amazing restaurants like Per Se, Le Bernadine, Mastro’s and Cut on a regular basis; yet Sammy’s is still one of my all time favorite places to eat.

 

Sammy’s features what I call haute Jewish cuisine. While your Bubby (grandmother) didn’t serve prime meat, Sammy’s does. The tenderloin’s or skirt steaks are the most popular and easy to share. Before the steak you must try the chopped chicken liver. I’ll tell you more about this amazing Jewish pate´ in a moment.

 

On my first visit to Sammy’s, about 20 years ago, my dining companion asked about the bottle of liquid butter on the table. How did they keep it liquid even at room temperature? I explained to my dining friend, that this was the Jewish version of “I can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.” It’s not butter, but you use it like butter. Smear it on a piece of rye bread and wow. This elixir is actually schmaltz or rendered chicken fat. My grandmother used it in her chopped liver and it really is the secret ingredient.

 

The chopped liver is prepared tableside. The waiter smashes the livers with a fork, mixes in the gribenes and radish and your experience begins. At Sammy’s they mix in a bit of radish, along with fried chicken skin and chicken fat. The skin and fat is actually fried in the schmaltz along with some onion. The technical term for this isgribenesand it reminds me of my grandmother. Yes, this will spike your cholesterol, but it is yummy. Really.

 

A dish of old and new pickles is brought to the table along with sweet roasted Hungarian bell peppers (I can’t find these in any local market) and fresh rye bread.

 

About now the entertainment starts. A guy plays a variety of music, from ethnic to rock, Broadway to parody. He plays on an electric keyboard and sings. He has a great time and so do diners. Okay, he’s a bit off key but his enthusiasm makes up for that.

 

My wife loves the veal cutlet and orders it every time. It’s lightly breaded and fried. It’s enough to feed three people! It’s huge. It’s good, tender and juicy, but I love the Tenderloin (skirt) steak. Even the small steak hangs over the side of the plate. Sharing a medium cut, along with the chopped liver, we still had enough for a snack the next day.

 

The steak is cooked to order (rare for me) and is perfect. The juices run clear, the rye bread available to soak up each drop. The steak is marinated in garlic and it’s one of the best. I really like skirt steak; it’s one of my preferred cuts of meat. I like the texture and flavor. I make this steak at home when I’m feeling like beef.

 

Sammy’s serves some additional interesting fare including unborn chicken eggs,Karnatzlack (Romanian sausage) and kishka (intestine stuffed with finely chopped meat and grain). For those who want to drink like the Russian Revolution, you can have a shot from a bottle of vodka frozen in a block of ice. Each table comes with an old-fashioned seltzer bottle, the kind you can actually squirt at someone.

 

Between the singing, jokes, eating and stuffing yourself like you are a kishka, there comes the time at the end of the meal for an egg cream. First, an egg cream contains no eggs. A shot of whole milk is infused with Foxes U-Bet chocolate syrup. A real honest to goodness Egg Cream is made with Foxes, not Hersey’s, or another brand. Not only do other syrups taste different, it’s tradition with U-Bet. Then you finish the glass up to the top with seltzer, mixing the milk, chocolate syrup and soda. This is heaven in a glass.

 

As a kid, my dad (who came from New York) use to make this dessert drink for us on special occasions. Being at Sammy’s reminds me of my dad and grandmother (on my mom’s side). Wonderful life memories served up by wonderful food.

 

Sammy’s is a culinary adventure unlike other dining places. Sammy’s offers up dishes rich in history.  

 

 

 

Mark Alyn

As a host, reporter and writer Mark has talked about and scribbled about food, wine and travel. He has appeared on TV, the Internet and radio talking about trends in these fields. And he has written numerous features about them as well. Mark was one of the first to feature food topics on the radio in Los Angeles and Memphis. He has interview world-class chefs (His favorite being the late Jul...(Read More)

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