An ode to Sam’s.

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I read the news yesterday that Sam’s had closed on Saturday.

I won’t be back from our trip to Block Island and points east in time to have just one more red hot and fries at Sam’s.

This is the second time in the last few years that a place I loved in the neighborhood has been taken away from me.

Johnny’s Grill went all deconstructed food on me a year ago. I’m not paying nine bucks for a lonely hamburger on a plate with not even a little plastic cup of cole slaw on the side to keep it company.

And now Sam’s is gone.

I don’t think this can be blamed on gentrification or hipsters moving in.

It seems to be about family illness. Although the little triangle on Armitage must be worth a nice piece of change these days.

Back in 2008 I wrote about Sam’s in a blog post about Anthony Bourdain coming to Chicago and doing a story about Hot Doug’s.

Hot Doug’s was all duck fat fries and fancy cased meats.  As Casey Stengel once said, it got so popular nobody went there anymore.

I’m not waiting in a block-long line in Chicago for a hot dog. No way.

If Bourdain had asked I would have taken him to Sam’s, a little shack on Armitage near Western. Nothing fancy. No place to sit down. A steamed dog (the kind that snap when you bite into ’em) with mustard, onions and sport peppers wrapped in paper with a bunch of fries and a Pepsi for four bucks.

In Brooklyn on our way to Block Island I realized I had forgotten my bicycle helmet in Chicago. I walked over to 9th Street Bikes on 5th Avenue in Park Slope to buy one. The  25-year old guy who sold me the helmet asked me where I was from. When I said “Chicago,” he pointed to his t-shirt that advertised Hot Doug’s. “I lived in Chicago. Logan Square. You know it?”

“Uh huh,” I said.  I thanked him politely and walked back to where I was staying.

I have been going to Sam’s since 1975 when I first moved to the neighborhood. I have been stopping less frequently of late because of my desire for a healthier diet. I stopped drinking sugared drinks a couple of years ago.

But every couple of months I would drive down Armitage and pull over. I would get a dog and fries. No hot dog salad on top at Sam’s. Just the dog with mustard, onions, pickle relish and sport peppers. Rolled in a sheet of white paper with the fries so the steamed dog and steamed bun would get all squashed and some of the mustard, onions and pickle relish would mix in with the fries.

I would wash it down with Chicago’s finest tap water when I got home.

You just don’t know how much I will miss it.

You just don’t know.

4 Replies to “An ode to Sam’s.”


    Who was that guy, name of Sam?
    Sad to see him go, I am
    Font of nourishment divine
    Hot dogs, Polish sausage fine
    Fries and pizza puffs so hot
    Good old Sam, I knew ye not
    Sam’s, you fed my soul for years
    For you I shed bitter tears

  2. Felt the same about Fluky’s before it went commercial and sort of re-appeared inside a local Walmart (eeeeeek…). Just not the same as the old Fluky’s…Sorry about Sam’s, and the other great restaurants slowly disappearing, or selling out.

  3. There was a great place called Sammy’s Red Hots on the corner of Division St. & Marion Ct. I lived in the apartment building behind it. A hot dog w/ fries for a quarter! WOW!!!

  4. I grew up in the city and I loved these little hot dog stands on the corner. My father was a cop and he would stop at the stand near North and Larrabie on his way home on Friday night after working the second shift. He would get us all hot dogs and he and my mother would get us out of bed around midnight to eat our yummy dogs. This was quite a treat since families didn’t do much eating out or carrying in in the 1960’s, and never at midnight! This is a very fond memory from my childhood.

    I took some road trips with my son this summer and made what I consider to be a sad discovery. I call it the “saming” of America. When I take a road trip, I enjoy sampling the area’s local cuisine. All the way there and back, all we saw were signs for McDonalds, Cracker Barrel, Waffle House, Arby’s, etc. Granted, we drove mostly interstates during our trips, but even when we were at our destinations, it seemed like Mom and Pop restaurants were few and far between. Sad.

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