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Sam's vs Tadich Grill [San Francisco]

  • e

Okay, we've narrowed it down to Sam's or Tadich for dinner the night before our cruise (dim sum the morning of).

What's your preference and why? I've read all the available posts on these two restaurants, but can't really tell a lot of difference between them. What am I missing? Also any advice as to what each does best would be helpful. (I love seafood, simply prepared - i.e. not a lot of heavy sauces, etc. to cover up delicate fish flavours.)


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  1. Both are very traditional, very good. Tadich has a bar for loners. I like Sam's better, because I always have Sand Dabs (in season). Tadich usually has two or three dabs; Sam's has five or six smaller fish. Both have the ubiquitous boiled potato. While the other dishes are very good, I just never bypass the Sand Dabs.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jim H.

      What exactly are sand dabs? I keep reading about them, but truly have no idea what they are. If we have them here, we must call them something else.


      1. re: E Wong

        Sand dabs are a small (about four ounces) flat fish, a member of the flounder family. They're very sweet and delicate.

        I prefer Tadich to Sam's. The only good thing at Sam's are the sand dabs IMHO, while Tadich not only has good sand dabs but a wider range of choices. They'll both serve you a good, simply prepared piece of fish.

        Link: http://www.ochef.com/404.htm

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          The flesh of "tat sa yu" is sweeter and more delicate than rex sole or petrale sole. My favorite prep is clear steamed with ginger and scallion. Also like them browned in butter.

          Link: http://www.santacruzflyfishermen.org/...

          Image: http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/historic...

    2. I am a bit partial to Sam's. It is a much smaller room and probably attracts fewer tourists (no offense intended!). At either place, stick with whatever fresh fish is available and order it grilled. If they have fresh swordfish, be sure to order it. Tadich is famous for its rice pudding dessert as well.

      1. m
        Michael Rodriguez

        The grilled petrale sole at Tadich is inimitable. Crispy skin, moist flesh. Heaven. And the Tadich tartar sauce is wonderful. I never eat tartar sauce except at Tadich. Lately the vegetables served on the side have been imporoved. Better than my last visit to Sam's.
        That said, Sam's sand dabs are very good. Perhaps you should go to both places and tell us what you think.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Michael Rodriguez

          Michael Rodriquez said:
          >And the Tadich tartar sauce is wonderful. I never >eat tartar sauce except at Tadich. Lately the >vegetables served on the side have been imporoved. >Better than my last visit to Sam's.

          Interesting. I've always far preferred Sam's tartar sauce to Tadich's. I do agree about Tadich having better vegetables, especially since you don't really get any by default on Sam's plates, just potatoes. Sam's does do some great fried zucchini, though, and a knockout potatoes au gratin.

          That said, those two are definitely the best places in SF for "seafood simply prepared" as the OP put it, and served by waiters who came with the building. I miss them a lot being down here in Vegas. There's excellent food here, but nothing like Sam's or Tadich (a bit far inland for that sort of thing).

          1. re: Steve Green

            I vote for Tadich tartar sauce too. It has some grated potato in it which give it that lovely light texture. But I can see why someone else might like the more classic creamier style at Sam's.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Grated potato????? Ohmygosh, This is a twist on tartar sauce. Cooked, I'm sure. Pray tell, do you have the recipe?

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Does Tadich tartar sauce have relish in it like a regular tartar sauce you can get in a bottled jar?? How about Sam's? I typically hate tartar sauce b/o relish...

            2. re: Michael Rodriguez

              Wish I could do both! Alas, not enough time. Think I'm leaning towards Tadich and will just have to make another trip for Sam's.


            3. Went to Sam's once and didn't like the food, but there was a plantinum blond at the bar dressed just like she was sent by central casting from a Bogart movie. She was dressed in 40's attire and,of course, sipping a martini. I wondered if she were hired by management as atmosphere or whether she really expected Sam Spade to show up.

              1. w

                Both Tadich and Sam's are very old-SF, traditional in style, and offer simply prepared fresh seafood. Both rank in the top 5 of Calif.'s oldest restaurants. Neither take reservations. There are similarities, but some key differences.

                Sam's is best known for their rendition of sand dabs. Tadich excells in petrale sole -- either pan fried or charcoal grilled. Both offer an occasional sea bass that is firm on the outside, but light and tender on the inside. Potatoes are boiled at Sam's, but Tadich offers french fries either longbranch or steak varieties. Creamed spinach is excellent at both.

                Sam's is smaller, more intimate than Tadich, and has very private booths with curtains for even more privacy. Sam's also has Belden Alley seating when the weather is nice. Tadich tends to get very noisy and crowded, but Sam's is always very relaxed and quiet. You can watch the kitchen and food prep at Tadich, but not so at Sam's.

                Tadich has a very long bar, with stools for single diners. Sam's bar is pretty small, with no counter eating. Both make wonderful martini's, though.

                Ask for John at Tadich and see if he can get you a nice table (make sure to show up no later than 11:30 for lunch), or Paul at the bar. At Sam's, John makes the best martini's. Greg used to be their best waiter, but I believe he retired about 2 months ago.

                2 Replies
                1. re: wedgeheadjunkie

                  How about the price range between these 2 restaurants?? I've been told that it's about the same.

                  1. re: YKK

                    For salads and soups, prices are very close. Tadich has more variety and specials of the day. Entrees tend to be only slightly more expensive at Tadich than Sam's, but depends on meat vs. fish dishes. Desserts are the same, but again, Tadich has more variety.

                    Martini's are $7.50 at Tadich (as of last week, at least) vs. $7.25 at Sam's (as of 3 months ago, at least). Better vodka selection at Tadich, but each has plenty of Grey Goose, Skkkkyyyyy and Kettel One on hand. Not sure about beer and wine price differential between the two places. At the bar, provided you don't actually pass out, Sam's tends to be more patient and understanding if you happen to find yourself starting to spill/break glasses, slurring speech, slide (gently) off your bar stool, or otherwise make a scene.

                    Instead of price, since I take clients at both places often, I tend to focus more on each one's particular strength of various fish offerings, overall ambience and privacy factors. For example, Sam's is definitely better for business lunches in one of the very private side booths, whereas Tadich tends to be better suited for loud, celebratory types of occasions. Also, if you're dining alone, the long Tadich counter is a great way to meet folks.

                2. If I had to choose one restaurant that I would have to eat in everyday for the rest of my life it would be Tadich.

                  1. Just want to give a quick update on Sam's Grill. Had dinner there last Friday:

                    - Mock turtle soup, still as DELICIOUS and tasted exactly as I remembered it from my last visit 15 years ago!!!
                    - Crab Au Gratin, brought to the table hot & bubbly. It's rich & sinful, and one can't stop till every single morsel had been cleaned up (the asparagus was a perfect accompaniment);
                    - Good old apple pie.

                    Definitely one of my top 10 places to visit before I diet (Tadich Grill's another one).

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: klyeoh

                      Thanks for the update on Sam's. Nice to know it hasn't changed since the ownership change a year or so ago.

                      Though most of these are 2004 comments, I'm putting links in because ... well, it's Sam's and Tadich's ... not much changes.

                      Sam's Grill & Sea Food Restaurant
                      374 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94104

                      Tadich Grill
                      240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                        1. re: Cynsa

                          Oh yes, the BEST martinis in town!

                          And, as rworange surmised, Sam's hasn't changed ONE BIT since the ownership change. If it ain't broke, why fix it?!

                      1. I was walking by Sam's last night and noticed that the prices on the menu are about 40% higher than on their Web site, which hasn't been updated since 2006. Still generally cheaper than Tadich by maybe 15-30%.


                        1. THE ULTIMATE is the char-grilled Petrale Sole at Tadich!! It is THE ONLY place I have ever found that is capable of char grilling Petrale Sole. I have been to numerous other high end seafood restaurants and when I have asked for their Petrale char grilled they tell me that it is IMPOSSIBLE to grill Petrale. Well Tadich has it nailed and it is the best dish on their menu. Yes their Cioppino is good but I make better at home so I have less interest in that. I am unable to match their petrale though so that is what I always order. The Petrale.. French Bread. start with a Martini and then get a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc with dinner.. maybe a seafood salad and I am talking pure heaven! I skip the clam chowder.. Theirs is good but again I make better myself so I prefer to order things that I can't duplicate at home.

                          1. I've always been a fan of Tadich and the sand dabs, however, on my last visit, the sand dabs were bathed in a greasy butter sauce that made them taste oily rather than fresh. I wonder if this was just an off day.

                            1. Got out of a movie early enough to eat at Tadich, but they estimated a 45-minute wait, so we walked over to Sam's and were seated immediately.

                              Generous crab cocktail ($17) and sourdough take me back to my childhood. Rex sole a la Sam ($19) was great, would have shared sand dabs as well but they had run out. Nice Honig Sauvignon Blanc ($31).

                              1. I've been dining at Tadich since I was a nipper, but the last time I was there, the arrogant old fart waiter told me that the sand dabs I wanted were out of stock, but Chilean Sea Bass was a good sub. WTF?

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  Tadich is old-school in both good and bad ways. Sam's is a little more up to date as far as sourcing but not 100%.

                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    Which was the bigger issue for you, the fact that Tadich was out of sand dabs or the fact that the waiter recommended having sea bass instead?

                                    1. re: DavidT

                                      The sea bass suggestion, by far.

                                    2. re: pikawicca

                                      Huh, not that Tadich or Sam's provides such details on their menus, but there is now certified sustainable Chilean seabass available: