Run, Don’t Walk, To Cafe Sam!

Achievement: #92. Cafe Sam

Have you ever had a restaurant that you’ve driven past a whole bunch of times, and every time you go by, you think, “My, that place looks charming. I should go there.” And then you never go there — and years go by, the cycle repeating:

“I should go there!”
*Doesn’t go there*

Cafe Sam

That was my wife’s and my relationship with Cafe Sam. Through college and beyond, we’d drive by the cozy building that houses that restaurant on Baum Boulevard, give it the eye, and then scoot off to wherever it is we were originally headed.

And now that we’ve finally been there, all I can say is…what TOOK us so long?!

Cafe Sam

We decided to have a late dinner at Cafe Sam on Monday. This was just an arbitrary pick, but quite the good one, for two reasons: 1) we just missed a sizable dinner rush, and 2) as it turns out, Monday is $4 house wine night!

So with the house to ourselves and two glasses of just-dry-enough Chardonnay at hand, we began to pore over the menu. And what a menu it was! Several full pages of choices, plus another full page of specials for the night.

After much debate, we ultimately chose to make as many choices as we could. And thus began the Cafe Sam Food-stravaganza 2013.

We ordered a pair of appetizers, and while we waited for those, the manager brought us a little sample of Cafe Sam’s pigs in a blanket — a beef frank with bell pepper relish, three cheeses, wrapped snugly in a tortilla. Tasty!

Cafe Sam

As we finished these yummy bites, out came the appetizers. We had ordered calamari rings tossed in General Tso sauce, plus a plate of sesame seed-encrusted Ahi tuna skewers.

Cafe Sam

Both apps were just right, with the calamari meaty and lightly fried, the General Tso sauce tangy and sweet without overwhelming anything else — and the tuna! Simple, tender, and hearty (just like me).

Cafe Sam

For our entrees, our two paths diverged in a wood. Fox ordered a salad and angel hair pasta with langostino, and I selected something called the pizza burger. (It is exactly what it sounds like — do the math.)

While we waited for our meals, the manager came to check on us, and to deliver a complimentary order of house-made buffalo chips, which are also served at the bar. These, too, were totally delicious, with just enough kick to light up your taste buds.

Cafe Sam

Oh, and that little cup off to the side? That was a sample of Cafe Sam’s mulled rum apple cider. In a word: yessss.

The salad that arrived shortly after was Fox-perfect — that is to say, it had plenty of onions!

Cafe Sam

Then came our main events. One cool thing Cafe Sam does is offer “appetizer size” portions of their pasta — essentially the entree size is double the pasta, double the price. Fox had chosen the appetizer size, and as you can see, it’s still plenty.

Cafe Sam

The burger was a perfect medium-rare — twelve ounces of heaven on a lightly buttered bun. The pizza sauce and cheeses, while a little messy, fulfilled all my hopes and dreams. It all came with sides of slaw and chunky, flavorful applesauce.

Cafe Sam

To share, we added on an order of Cajun fries, which came with ranch, Thousand Island, and ketchup. Again, totally spot-hitting.

Cafe Sam

At this point, we were both pretty well stuffed. But did we stop before having dessert? C’mon. What are we, quitters? (Or even sensible?)

To be fair, when presented with the dessert options we had, you’d have gone for one, too. So naturally, we chose two: the chocolate cake a la mode (cherry ice cream)…and a J├Ąger root beer float.

Cafe Sam

Um, yes, I did just write that. A root beer float dosed with a healthy pour of J├Ągermeister…combining all the innocence of youthful days gone by with that magical, notch-upping elixir known for causing happy throats and rash decisions. So, how was it?

Cafe Sam

Basically, I’ll bet they serve this in the VIP bar up in heaven.

After our pair of desserts, it was about closing time at Cafe Sam. As we headed out, again chatting with the very friendly manager, we looked at the corner of the bar and asked what anyone would ask: “What’s the deal with the mannequin?”

Cafe Sam

Meet Sam. She’s been a fixture of the bar since the beginning. Soon after Cafe Sam opened, she was gifted to the bar by a nearby clothing store owner, and after 26 years, still she sits there, so no one who comes in ever has to drink alone.

It took us nearly a decade to finally go and visit Sam and her cafe. Now that we’ve been, though, I’m sure she’ll be getting to know us quite well.

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Filed under #92, #92-13, bloomfield, burgers, dessert, dinner, drinking, french fries, italian food, meat, pasta, pittsburgh, pizza, restaurant, salad, seafood, shadyside, side dishes, wine

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