Sam’s Grill

Review by: Michael Stern

Sam’s Grill is at the uppermost end of the Roadfood budget. We list it here because it is a true and historic – and delicious – taste of San Francisco. Open since 1867, it is deluxe (executives come wearing expensive suits), and it is informal (tear at your sourdough bread with gusto, letting crumbs fall where they may). It looks the way you want a great old California restaurant to look: outfitted with yards of thick white linen, brass hooks for coats, and private wooden dining booths for intimate meals.

Sam’s menu is a benchmark of a splendid west coast cuisine that never goes in or out of style: fresh Pacific seafood, charcoal grilled or pan fried, accompanied by hearty salads and fresh vegetables. The kitchen also turns out a huge roster of straightforward American food, including two dozen specials and almost a hundred à la carte selections every day. It is possible to order charcoal-grilled steaks and chops, sweetbreads done three ways, or short ribs of beef with horseradish sauce, or just bacon and eggs.

Most of Sam’s seafood is plainly cooked. This is the place to sample Pacific rarities that seldom make it east, like genuine Hangtown fry (an omelette made with Northwest oysters); petrale sole grilled over charcoal; and the delicate, white-fleshed local fish called sand dabs – about a half dozen sweet little filets sauteed in lemon butter.

Sam’s is quirky, the way venerable oldsters are entitled to be. Open only on weekdays, only until nine at night, it caters to a clientele of people who work downtown and come every day for lunch, or for an early dinner before heading home. At noon, it hosts successful-looking types jockeying for a table or crowding three deep against the bar. Once you are seated, it is an immensely comfortable place to eat. The staff of impeccably-dressed waiters are consummate professionals, not even blinking when they bring a second loaf of bread to a certain greedy twosome who pocketed their loaf to take with them on the trip north up the coast.

Directions & Hours

  • Monday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Saturday: Closed
  • Sunday: Closed

What To Eat

Petrale Sole

Sourdough Bread

Rex Sole a la Sam

Fried Filet of Sole

Hash Browns


Sam’s Grill Recipes


What do you think of Sam’s Grill?

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