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Jun 12, 2008 07:17 AM

Sammy's Roumanian?

Has anyone eaten at Sammy's Roumanian lately? Want to take my husband for Father's day (his choice) but want to make sure it is still good

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    1. I haven't been there in over ten years, but it certainly wasn't good then and I strongly doubt it has improved. It's fun, in that there is singing and a festive atmosphere, but the food is just gross. And very expensive. I had grilled salmon so salty and tough I suspected it might be repurposed belly lox. You'll have a good time and a lousy meal.

      1. Don't do it. Really. Don't. The food is mediocre at best and you'll pay more than if you took him to a high end steakhouse like Luger's or the Palm.

        34 Replies
        1. re: Bob Martinez

          This is an ethnic Jewish restaurant serving Eastern European food. It is not a gourmet steak house. There are many excellent steak houses in New York City but Sammy's is unique. You must know of a place that you like that serves ethnic food food that you can identify with that is not gourmet? If I went to a Mexican or Puerto Rican restaurant and said I should instead go to a gourmet steak house instead, what would you say to me?.

          1. re: BobGX13

            I get the fact that Sammy's is ethnic. It's also awful. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

            1. re: BobGX13

              I'd like to know the Puerto Rican or Mexican restaurants charging $35 for a steak, sides extra. Casa Adela on Avenue C is Puerto Rican, its steaks are no better than Sammy's, but they cost $9.50, rice and beans included.

              1. re: Wilfrid

                isn't that like comparing apples and oranges, with mangos?

                All different experiences, all valid if the food is tasty, or unique enough. There are a lot of meals we endure for their special approach, wether it's frozen in time, or lost entirely due to fashion and diet. If it's the last Kosher steak, with schmaltz on the table in the US, that will be good enough for some. Unless someone is claiming they have the very best steak, which is top rated in the city, then comparing it is misleading.

                There are plenty of regional ethnic dishes, Latin or otherwise, with inflated pricing. It's kind of a meaningless game to play really. If there's something being offered with the Casa Adela that is uniquely New York Latin and makes you instantly nolstalgic, or can only be found in Puerto Rico, otherwise? If so, you might be willing to pay any price, and eat shoe leather.

                1. re: sugartoof

                  The place isn't even kosher, they serve egg creams next to the steak for chrissakes

                  1. re: msny98

                    neither is Katz's, but people talk of it as if it's the last bastion of Jewish deli.

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      The difference is that Katz's pastrami is the best or in the top tier (I know, Langers and the place in Joisey) it has some kitsch but people go for the food. And it is a Jewish deli even if not kosher.

                      At Sammy's the food really isn't good, certainly not the steak even though it is expensive. Some may think it is worth it. I am not one of those. To me it is actually an insult to my ethnic pride as opposed to a piece of it but I digress... I have been and won't return, ever. If someone asks I will tell them that the steak is bad, the place a dump and the bills high. They may still want to go for the entertainment, just like one would go to Ninja for the entertainment. Some may have an emotional attachment to the place... but it isn't tasty, or authentic or particularly worth it.

                      1. re: msny98

                        better analogy (well, is there one?) is like going to Lucky Cheng's. Just as kitschy, food just as bad, but not as pricy and no feeling of price-gouging.

                        1. re: msny98

                          Did you eat the chopped liver, the unborn eggs, the karnatzlach, the sweetbreads?

                          It is certainly authentic. It is a continuation of one type of American Jewish experience, a continuation of the borscht belt, which was certainly an authentic experience for a couple of generations.

                          1. re: msny98

                            Why bring up kosherness at all then? Sounds like a cheap shot, considering you have no problems with other Jewish institutions mixing their dairy with meat.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              sugartoof, it was you who brought it up.

                              "If it's the last Kosher steak, with schmaltz on the table in the US, that will be good enough for some. "

                      2. re: sugartoof

                        BobGX13 invited the comparison with Mexican and Puerto Rican restaurants. As far as I'm concerned, you can introduce any "ethnic" category you wish to the conversation. To the best of my knowledge, Sammy's is absolutely unique in offering an experience that bad at prices that high.

                        I can understand that someone might be willing to pay any price to eat shoe leather, if it reminds them of the shoe leather their mother cooked for them. Sure. But every thread about Sammy's on Chowhound involves people not looking for their mother's bad cooking, but looking to have a good time - and it behoves us to warn them what a fantastically bad and expensive time they will have at this joint.

                        1. re: Wilfrid

                          But many people have a very good time at Sammy's. Whether or not they enjoy the food is another matter. Some do, some don't. Just read through this thread - there are people who have enjoyed the food (or at least some dishes), and who have had a good time there. Just because you and Bob Martinez don't agree that it's possible to enjoy Sammy's doesn't make it so for everyone.

                          Sammy's is kitschy fun. Some of the food is perfectly okay. Yes it's expensive. And for some people it's worth it.

                          To each his own.

                          1. re: gutsofsteel

                            Sure it's possible to enjoy Sammy's. It's also possible to enjoy Ninja. But this is Chowhound where the focus is supposed to be on good food, not overpriced culinary theme parks.

                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                              CH is for everyone who enjoys whatever food they want to, for whatever reasons they choose, regardless of who might understand or not. And as people keep saying...some people enjoy some of the food at Sammy's, whether or not you approve. For some people, Sammy's (both the food and the shtick) has an emotional resonance too, which is worth money to them to experience.

                              1. re: gutsofsteel

                                So Ninja is OK?

                                "CH is for everyone who enjoys whatever food they want to, for whatever reasons they choose, regardless of who might understand or not."

                                Honestly, if the definition is that loose, then it means nothing.

                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                  jfood has made that argument elsewhere on many threads. Bottom line there is a "chains" board and people give detailed analyses of the silliest of item purchased at McDs, JITB and Taco Bell.

                                  Take a deep breath like jfood did and focus on the good food you like. Pushing a pea uphill with your nose gets tiring. Just a bit of sanity advice from someone who has been-there, done-that elsewhere. :-))

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    I'm not trying to convert the Romanians. I'd just like to warn the unwary that there's another, darker, side to the story.

                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                      What's the "darker" side - that bottles of vodka are expensive and the steak isn't as good as what you get for the same price in a good steakhouse? So what? It's still a fun entertaining place that serves *some* good and special food, which lots of people enjoy. Is some of the reason nostalgia? Sure. Nothing wrong with that either.

                                      Maybe you just don't "get" Sammy's (either food or brand of kitsch), and that's fine too. For those who do "get" it, it's a good place.

                                      1. re: gutsofsteel

                                        I "get" that it sucks. Bad food and a bad comedian equal a bad experience.

                                        Again, I'm not trying to convince you. My comments are aimed at people who might be considering going.

                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                          But as people on this thread have said, some of the food doesn't suck at all. And the kitschy entertainment part doesn't suck at all for those who enjoy it. I just think you don't "get" the food or the place, and that's totally fine.

                                          You've been there once, you didn't like the comedian, you didn't like most of your food, and you felt it was too expensive.

                                          Did you try the chopped liver? The karnatzlach? The unborn eggs? The sweetbreads? The egg cream?

                                          1. re: gutsofsteel

                                            Assuming you drink vodka (because that's part of the experience), how much do you usually pay per person?

                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                              I haven't been to Sammy's in several years (I have been there perhaps 3 times total), and I don't remember what we paid the last time - we were a group of about 6 people. We did drink vodka. I don't remember feeling that it was outrageously expensive. I suppose the entertainment costs money too and that's in the price as well. I enjoyed myself, I enjoyed some of what I ate, and I was pleased to have gone. We ate, we sang, we laughed a lot. There was no comedian - only a singer/keyboard player who sang in multiple languages. Actually this thread is making me want to go again.

                                              Did you try the chopped liver? The karnatzlach? The unborn eggs? The sweetbreads? The egg cream?

                                              1. re: gutsofsteel

                                                ive also been 3 times, i enjoyed the steaks, pickled veggies and the chopped liver. ive never had a comedian there all the times ive been there but i too remember a keyboard singer who sand in multiple languages, i thought he was pretty good. i think the only thing i didnt really like there was the stuffed cabbage. im not even sure if i didnt like it, i just think its a lot worse than my grandmother's.

                                                1. re: gutsofsteel

                                                  It's a shame you can't remember what your meal cost. For me, the price of the meal really does play a big part in deciding whether a meal is worth having. I have one set of expectations when I spend $30 – I’ve got a completely different set of expectations when I spend $120.

                                                  "Did you try the chopped liver? The karnatzlach? The unborn eggs? The sweetbreads? The egg cream?"

                                                  I had the steak and the chopped liver - I can't remember what else. The steak was fatty, tough, and not particularly good. The chopped liver tasted like chopped liver. It didn’t magically transport me to another time and place. I can’t remember what else I had. Maybe some starchy sides. Fried potatoes? Kasha varniskes? Unremarkable.

                                                  The comedian wasn’t funny. Actually, it was worse than that. It was painful to listen to his routine. As I said on another thread, I like kitsch but not at those prices. There’s no reason for a bad steak and an unfunny comedian to cost $120. Sprinkling on a little pixie dust and ersatz nostalgia doesn’t change that.

                                                  Well, that’s all I’ve got to say about Sammy's, at least for the next month or so.

                                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                    The fact that you felt it was too expensive for what it was does not warrant the kind of venom that you display toward this place. That's what is puzzling. Plus it seems that you didn't try some of the dishes they do well. Sorry the comedian was bad. I enjoyed the singer when we went. I don't even think $120 sounds like a lot for what your group probably did. Steaks, chopped liver, probably plenty of other entrees and other food, lots of sides, vodka, maybe other drinks, entertainment,...$120 doesn't sound like a lot of money in NYC for that. Hell, I went to that kitschy Roumanian place in Queens last year and we hardly drank and it was something like $90 per person. They have entertainment too.

                                    2. re: Bob Martinez

                                      Ninja is not a place full of nostalgia (both in shtick and food) which is meaningful to a particular population. It's really not a valid comparison. I don't find anything redeeming about Ninja, but I do understand the appeal of Sammy's for some people.

                                      And although I haven't been there in a long time, I enjoyed the chopped liver and the sweetbreads at Sammy's. And also the karnatzlach. And I had fun singing along with the kitschy singer.

                                      What you keep avoiding is the fact that some people actually enjoy some of the food at Sammy's. And the reason is....some of the food is just fine. Couple that with the fun that some people have there....and you have an appealing situation for some, that is worth the price to them.

                                    3. re: gutsofsteel

                                      Amen! My mother and late father loved Sammy's. The first time I had dinner I was shocked at how dumpy the place looked. Even though it's not great cuisine, it will always hold a special place for me since my parents loved it. I might even go back for the nostalgia value. I actually enjoyed the chopped liver, Roumanian steak and the egg cream. For those of you who have read my posts for other restaurants, I know it's no Per Se, EMP, Ko or Bouley, but it does have a tremendous sentimental value for me and probably for others on this board. Yes, that sentimental value goes a long way to improve the taste of the food.

                                      1. re: ellenost

                                        Here is a perfect example. ellenost is a discerning diner. She enjoyed the chopped liver, the steak, the egg cream. she enjoyed the sentimental value of the place. For her, it certainly doesn't "suck."

                                    4. re: Bob Martinez

                                      That said, these comparisons are starting to make less and less sense. Sammy's isn't a calculated theme restaurant emulating an experience, with costumes. It IS the experience.The menu, the style of cooking, the schmaltz, the salt, etc., may not resonate for you, but it's not fair to pretend their isn't culinary value in a cultural dining experience.

                                      Anthony Bourdain lives in his Sammy's tshirt.... here's video from his visit, with chopped liver featured:

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        I love how Mimi Sheraton says this is the only place outside of her own home where she'll eat chopped liver. And that's because the chopped liver at Sammy's is good. And I had forgotten about those unborn eggs, which are a treat.

                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                          I've actually been to Sammy's in a party with A. Bourdain where cameras were not present. He was smarter than me, and didn't eat a bite.

                                          The discussion here about whether or not some people enjoy the emotional resonance of paying three figure checks for terrible food misses the point. It is a question of responding to questions posted about Sammy's - often by people who have never been, in this case by someone who asks (mystifyingly) if it is "still good."

                                          These people deserve an honest and accurate answer.

                                          1. re: Wilfrid

                                            And an honest and accurate answer would be that they do some dishes well, others not so well, the vodka is expensive, and the kitschy entertainment is a lot of fun, especially for those (American Jews) for whom there is nostalgic value.

                                            The fact that Bourdain appears to be a hypocrite who feigns enjoyment for the sake of the camera is another issue. Perhaps Mimi Sheraton did not enjoy her chopped liver, unborn eggs, and flanken as she said she did?

                                    5. re: Wilfrid

                                      it may be a few years since the last time jfood went but it was a complete and total hoot Can't wait to go back and have that shtick throw in jfood's face. .

                            2. The food is what it always has been -- Eastern European Jewish -- probably not as good as your bubbe's, but the last of its kind in NYC. You want a great steak? Go elsewhere. You want chopped liver with gribenes, grated radish and schmaltz? This is most definitely the place. Anyway, if it's his choice for Dad's Day, that's really all there is to it. Don't let the opinions here deter you.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: Deenso

                                I recently saw it featured on Todd English's Food Trip. It looked interesting. I love skirt steak which is what the roumanian steak is. And the their ribeye looked massive- The owner proclaimed it at 28 ounces. Has any tried the ribeye? How is the steak overall? And how does the poster figure that it would cost as much as a normal steakhouse? The ribeye is only $33.

                                1. re: steakrules85

                                  I went a couple of years ago- the food is awful, and I grew up with Eastern European Jewish food. it's good for chopped liver and schmaltz, but the steak was tasteless and so very dry (had the skirt steak not the ribeye). I forget what else we ate, but it was all really overcooked. When I was there they really tried to jack up the price with bottles of vodka. as long as you are aware of what you are ordering, and decline all of the extras that they try to push, the price should be ok. I thought the entertainment was fun, and I really wanted to like this place, but the room is dirty, the food is awful, and the service is obnoxious. but as a previous poster said, if it's his pick for father's day, you should just go and order carefully.

                                  1. re: steakrules85

                                    the ribeye is good but my favorite cut there is their romanian. ive only tried it once and i was very little, i'm not sure if i even developed a taste for rare meat lol. i would recommend the ribeye though cause it comes with a huge freaking fred flintstone bone unlike the other steaks.
                                    my favorite thing at Sammy's though is the chopped liver

                                  2. re: Deenso

                                    If it's her husband's choice, sure, go. If it's not, or he doesn't know what this place is about, then it's just an outrageously priced kitsch fest with awful food.

                                    I went once with a group. Most of the food was bad, the rest was adequate at best. The comedian was funny for about 2 minutes but the act got old real fast. Imagine the late Henny Youngman's act. Then imagine if Henny Youngman wasn't particularly funny. You start cringing within 60 seconds.

                                    Nobody had warned us. Based on the poor food and low rent ambiance of the place we figured we'd get out cheap. We had split some large steaks, had a few sides and drank a couple of shots of vodka. We really didn't eat or drink that much.

                                    It wound up costing us around $120 a piece. We were stunned and sat around recomputing the bill, amazed that they had managed to ratchet up the check by that much. Finally we paid the bill and everyone in the group swore an oath that they'd never return. Since that time I've talked to a number of other people and their experiences were identical.

                                    I get the idea that they're delivering on the Eastern European Jewish experience. That's fine. What's inexcusable is that they're charging outrageous prices for bad food and an unfunny comedian. If the food was better and the price was cut by 50% I'd say that it could be a fun evening. But at $120 a person my sense of humor really goes away.

                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                      Come on, Bob: it's actually much worse than that.


                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                        Bob, that is not the Eastern European Jewish experience. It's not even kosher. My bubbe never served dairy with meat for one thing and never had a dirty glass in the house. It is total kitsch and an insult.

                                        Go to Katz's or 2nd Ave Deli... they are far closer to the original experience.

                                        1. re: msny98

                                          Katz's is quintessential New York, but it's not the place to go for an Eastern European Jewish experience. It's also not kosher either.

                                    2. Its Father's Day so.....................
                                      Its his choice.

                                      Actually, much of what has been said is true, both good and bad. I've gone there for many, many years (not frequently though, cholesterol levels can't take that). It is certainly one of the only places like it in NYC. Some of the dishes are very, very good - like the terrific chopped liver, in which the waiter mixes fresh fried onions table side) and others, like the stuffed derma, are very poor. Stick to basics. The skirt steaks I've had there have been cooked to order, huge and good. The fried veal chop is also pretty good, very large. French fries also are fresh and well done. They also have a classic Eastern European dish, Karnashilach (sp?), which is ground beef filled with about a 50% mixture of garlic and some other spices. Its served grilled. They look like meatball kebabs almost. Those are terrific. They are a starter. Also, their pickles and sour tomatoes are great. It winds up being a massive amount of food. With the food, the chicken fat, the seltzer and the garlic you literally head home and reach for the Tum's before you even sit down.

                                      Also, definitely look at the bill and what you are ordering. Liquor/wine is expensive. The prices are way too high for what the place is but they still do a large business many nights. On some Jewish holidays they are absolutely packed, selling seats for $80 pp or more. There are often many tourists there, along with many jews from cities all over the country. If you go, have fun and sing a little.