Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sam's Deli Diner - How The Mighty Have Fallen

In our constant quest (some would say obsession) to locate the best burger in the Houston area, one name kept popping up.  "Sam's Deli Diner".  "You've gotta try Sam's".  "I've been going to Sam's Deli for years, it's the best!"  I'd never heard of this place two years ago, but now it's on the radar, and it's exactly the type of burger place I love to find: Small, privately owned, and successful for decades.

Last weekend found us wandering the rats maze / retail wonderland that is IKEA, and presented the perfect excuse to try this legendary hamburger joint.  So zipped down I-10 and pulled up to the nondescript strip center location.


Sam's was easy to find, and parking was plentiful on this early weekend afternoon.  The place looked clean and inviting, and when we entered we were surprised by the size of the dining room, with a long, linear open kitchen tucked behind a low counter.




Clearly, the place does some business, even if it was nearly empty.  We placed our order, and waited for the food to arrive.

The first attempt at my burger was wrong - I requested "dry, no tomatoes" as is my habit, and what came out was neither dry (it was slathered with mayo) nor tomato-free.  This was surprising, since the room was essentially empty.  The lack of attention on the part of the cook didn't bode well for the burger, but I returned it to the counter, and waited for the replacement to appear.

What came out was perhaps the saddest burger to ever come out of the kitchen from one of Houston's famed burger joints.


The grey, overcooked, machine-formed patty was dry and ooze-free.  The cheese was slightly melted; more attached to the bun than to the beef.  And the tired looking veggies were huddled under the patty, trying their best to avoid the prying eyes of a hungry patron.

I bit into the burger, hoping that the flavor would be the saving grace.  It wasn't.  I've had better burgers at McDonald's, and I didn't finish this one.

I've heard uniformly great things about Sam's, and I'm hoping I caught them on an off day.  It happens.  But one mark of a great restaurant is the ability to always deliver a quality product, and what was served today showed me that it is certainly possible to get a lousy burger at Sam's Deli Diner.

Update: One of our favorite Twitterers (@sensestorm) visits Sam's, and confirmed what we experienced. Her tweet.

Update: Katharine Shilcutt visits Sam's Deli Diner and shares her experience.

Update: Another opinion, from The Mighty Rib.

Sam's Deli Diner - 11637 Katy Freeway - 281-497-8088

Sam's Deli-Diner on Urbanspoon

11 comments:

  1. I'm shocked at your bad experience. I've been eating at Sam's Deli Diner since I could eat solid foods. My dad ate there as a child too. I've never had a dry burger, or a bad day there. Hope you give it another chance.

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  2. I ate at Sam's once.
    The burgers are pre-made & frozen. The tomato, onions, etc. they put on them redeem the boring, but large, meat patty somewhat. Since yours was "dry," well, you got what you asked for all right.
    I don't understand how this place ranked in the TX Monthly top 50.

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  3. In 2001 when I was selling cars next door at Jeff Haas Mazda this place was excellent. Looks like they've upscaled the decor and downgraded the food. What a shame.

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  4. WTF happened to you, Sam's?!? Like Candace, I grew up eating here and it's always been my favorite burger in town. And that does NOT look like a Sam's Deli Diner burger. I am so ashamed of them right now. So. Ashamed.

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  5. I agree totally with Katharine. I've never had a burger from them that didn't drip meaty juices. That burger looks terrible. I'm going to make a reconnaissance trip tonight to see if it's consistently bad now. I hope not.

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  6. I'd love to find out that this was an anomaly - please follow up with your findings, and a photo, if possible.

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  7. i am surprised at your bad Sam's visit. i am pretty sure the patties ARE frozen, but i have watched the burgers being made ( while sitting at the counter) and i've seen them "church em up" as my husband would say. i also recommend putting the fries ON your burger. the milkshakes are always good. the burgers aren't my favorite, but they usually aren't this bad at all. hope you'll give them another shot. try a saturday afternoon- they are packed and really rockin' there.

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  8. This is a follow-up to my comment from the 18th. I made it to Sam's last night and order the same thing Albert did: Cheeseburger, no tomato, dry. While the toppings (onion, lettuce, etc.) were of good quality, the burger itself is indeed frozen and coming out of a box.
    I know that if you get a bacon burger here, the portions are quite generous. As long as they continue using boxed burger patties, it's going to be required to get something with a lot of moist (greasy) toppings to feel like you're getting a "homemade" burger.
    A photo of the box o' patties is here: http://tweetphoto.com/40084727
    My family and I have had many visits here in the past. It's been awhile since I'd been in, as I've become a Hubcap Grill regular. Still, my best resource for a handcrafted burger in West Houston is gone. Any suggestions on where else to go?

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  9. IT'S SAD HOW PEOPLE JUST COMPLAIN AND DON'T SEE HOW HARD THIS PEOPLE WORK. SPECIALLY DURING LUCH TIME. I'VE ALWAYS HAD A GOOD TIME GOING TO SAM'S DELI. CASHIERS ARE VERY NICE AND ARE WILLING TO PLEASE EVERYONE THAT COMES IN.

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  10. Hi, Anon. I admire hard work, but a restaurant is measured by its results. You tell me - was the burger in the photo something that a top-notch burger place would serve to a customer?

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