The entrance to Sam's Bar and Grill shows off its American character.
photo: Tom Nicholson
Address: Gorkého 1
Open: daily 11.00 - 01.00
Spectator Rating (Scale 1-10): 4
It would be one thing if Sam's Bar and Grill (located at Gorkého 1 next to the National Opera Theatre) catered to the public under the premise of it being a Slovak restaurant with some American menu choices available. However, Sam's touts itself as a true-blue American diner - its menu laden with American favourites, cheeseburger and fries, chicken wings, chilli, bacon lettuce and tomato sandwiches, roast beef sandwiches, and so on - so it best get it right, right? Wrong.
The verdict is defined by the cheeseburger, a nice change of pace from basic Slovak fare or a stop at a fast food joint, but Sam's interpretation still falls short of recreating the fine burger and fries experience famous in the USA.
Served by a courteous and attentive wait-staff, the burger makes a solid first impression, complete with seemingly all of what one would hope to accompany such a meal - extra condiments, coleslaw and a helping of French fries (at a cost of 189 crowns). However, the all-important first bite reveals several shortcomings of the main course. The mainstays of ketchup and mustard have been replaced by a Thousand Island dressing and the tomato slice is hardly large enough to make its presence known. Hidden between adequately-sized sesame seed buns, the meat patty itself appears to have lost a fair proportion of its 1/3 lbs.(200 grams) pre-cooked weight, and the thin, single slice of cheese is barely discernible.
The thin French fries had all the flavour of stiff wooden twigs and an ample dose of salt and pepper did little to enhance their lack-lustre taste. The accompanying coleslaw, on the other hand, was savoury and a nice change from the mayonnaise-drenched concoctions often encountered with such a meal.
Plus the menu isn't all it's cracked up to be. The "Buffalo-style Chicken Wings" aren't even wings, but a chicken thigh with gooey barbecue ketchup for a hefty 198 crowns. The cooks couldn't even handle this simple order on a Tuesday night when the appetiser came 45 minutes and two aggrieved beers later.
Sam's take on a slice of cheesecake for dessert (73 crowns) was also a bit off the mark, as it was unexpectedly light and served piping hot. The taste was again on the bland side, and left a yearning desire for the cold thick slab of artery-blocking heaven one most often associates with the dessert.
The interior of Sam's, pleasantly spacious, aims to recreate the American experience, utilising red brick, pictures of the Manhattan cityscape and Hollywood celebrities, plenty of plants and some neon. The friendly blue-jeaned and ballcap-wearing staff do a solid job hosting, serving and bussing. The non-smoking section - located a good distance across the room from that of the smoking - presents a nice, haze-free environment not often found at Bratislava eateries for tobacco-free patrons.
Some of the new restaurant's minor kinks are understandable and with just a touch more effort placed on preparation and choice of ingredients, Sam's would be much closer to recreating the true American fare.