A casual, take-it-easy diner in the heart of River North
, Sam's Grill believes in no-nonsense service and no-nonsense meals. The only thing slightly unorthodox about this restaurant is that the walls are painted in a curious shade of melon, but even that only pleasantly reminds you of summer days. Past that, it's no frills, a quintessential Chicago institution: burgers, dogs, "get em' in, get em' out, unless you want more coffee" attitude.
Breakfast entrees mostly revolve around eggs, either by themselves or as omelets or as part of a sandwich, and most early-bird options come with the choice of hash browns or grits(!). A nice, toasty egg sandwich makes for an economical meal (or as a killer side dish) at $1.85, while French toast and pancakes offer a couple of alternatives for the "allergic to eggs" crowd.
Once lunchtime rolls around, Sam's opens up the kitchen a bit, offering classier options, like marinated chicken on pita bread for $4.75 or julienne salad for $5.49. That's great and all, but greasy diner food is the true star here. A special for everyday is plastered on the exterior: Wednesday is Italian beef day, Thursday is all about the patty melt and Friday means double dogs (suitably juicy and possibly addictive) – all buried under fries and a drink for six bucks even (with tax).
Sam's black/white floor tiles and low-hanging lamps contribute to a bit of a shabby, neighborhood hole-in-the-wall atmosphere. In reality, there's nothing too dirty about the place, and the mostly non-descript decor comes across more so as "blue-collar lunch spot" than "nobody eats here." One drawback: don't wait till dinner; it's strictly breakfast and lunch for ol' Sam.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Andy Seifert