Sammy's Place (Ft. Atkn., WI)
Last Saturday was a nice day for a drive so I hopped in the car and headed off with no final destination in mind; the radio's not hooked up but I still managed to get the "cruisin'" and "no particular place to go" parts down pat.
I've been exploring northern Rock and southern Jefferson County a litte bit more lately and I found myself rolling into Fort Atkinson on US-12, which took me past Sammy's Place
. I'd driven past it a couple of months ago on my way to Burlington and had made a mental note to check it out someday, and there was no time like the present to fulfill that obligation. Wow, a pickup truck on a 2-lane Wisconsin highway...now there's something you don't see every day!
The main dining room is fairly cozy with part of the back wall devoted to the awards that Sammy's has won over the past 9 years.
A deck with a little bit of outside seating was recently added.
But since it was 2:45 in the afternoon and the only other customers were in the banquet/party room I decided to eat at the bar.
offers a nice selection of Greek and other items and I knew it would take me some time to choose, so I decided to have the "Shrimp Dijon" appetizer while I waited. It came out piping hot and full of buttery garlic flavor with toasted homemade bread crumbs on top and tender, properly cooked shrimp inside. I probably could've eaten 2 or 3 orders if I wasn't planning on ordering an entree.
Sammy Jr. was tending bar so I asked him what his father's best dish is, thinking that it would undoubtedly be something Greek, and was thrown into a bit of a quandary when he said that it's the ribeye steak. What to do, what to do...OK, since I was only about 35-40 minutes from home a return visit was certainly possible so I chose the Pork Souvlaki with plans to order the ribeye another time.
Now I don't know beans - excuse me, fassolis - about Greek food but this was some good stuff, and if Sammy's accent is any indicator it's the real deal. The pork (if I had to guess I'd say he uses a shoulder cut because some of the pieces were nicely marbled) and rice pilaf were both tender and highly seasoned but the oven-roasted potatoes were my favorite part of the dish; in fact, when my younger daughter picked through the leftovers she ate all of them and left the pork and rice behind. Unfortunately I'd eaten a late breakfast and after the shrimp I was able to only get so far.
While waiting for the pork to arrive I enjoyed a cup of "Avga Lemena", which is a creamy chicken and rice soup with a hint of lemon that's available Saturdays and Sundays. Sammy Jr. told me that sometimes the lemony-ness varies and it was pretty subtle in my order, but it added a clean note that nicely counterbalanced the overall creaminess.
Sammy's is a family business run by Sammy, his wife, his son, and his daughter. My understanding is that he's part of the family that runs Seven Brothers
in Morton Grove, IL and came north about 10 years ago to open his own place and be his own boss; at the time they owned a placed called Mandas (according to Buddy Roadhouse) and it was a 24/7 operation, and Sammy wanted something a little less hectic. He bought a restaurant that had been closed for several years, basically gutted it including much of the kitchen (Jr. mentioned that they had 28 dumpster loads of debris), and remodeled it himself.
Judging by the awards he's done quite well for himself (although he commented that lunch sales aren't quite what they used to be - the economy, you know), which has to be at least in part due to the friendly, welcoming service as well as the food. Sammy Jr. told me that most of the restaurant staff has been together for at least 8 years and I imagine that only adds to the family atmosphere. I'll be back, and I'll be ordering that ribeye...