My new favorite at Sam's Cafe.
Loyalty is not my strong suit. I like to try new places and new things; ask me what my favorite restaurant is, and it's probably one that opened last week.
But with the economy collapsing, the newspaper industry in a particularly awful place, and a cold front (for Phoenix, at least) chilling the air, I've found myself turning more regularly to oldies-but goodies. McDonald's french fries. A petit filet at Durant's, washed down with an ice-cold martini. Just about anything at Tandoori Times in Scottsdale.
And, of course, Sam's Cafe.
I've been coming to the Arizona Center Sam's for lunch for more than two years now with my friend Kerry. It's literally the only place we go. At one point, when we first started doing lunch, I suggested Fate. But Kerry, suffice to say, is a Louis Vuitton girl. She is not into funky old houses. We quickly ended up back at Sam's and have been content there ever since.
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At Sam's, we are happy to stay in a pleasant rut. We always arrive at 11:30 (to beat the lunch rush). We always order like a zillion Diet Cokes (because we looooove caffeine but aren't so enthused about calories). We eat way too much of the chips and salsa (which is suprisingly tangy and always great). Kerry always orders the same thing without even opening the menu: a chicken sandwich with fries, hold the bun. "If I don't waste calories on the bun, I can eat the fries," she says. Makes sense to me.
Lately I've been eating the spinach-and-portabella-mushroom quesadilla. At one point, I thought I'd try to be a vegetarian, which didn't stick, at all. But it was at that time that I tried this dish, and it's one of my few finds from that era that I keep ordering today. They serve it with this great spicy slaw and a pool of chipotle mayo; there's so much flavor, you just don't need meat.
Everything at Sam's always works perfectly. The waiters will serve you quickly, refill your drinks constantly -- and yet they never seem to be in a hurry to turn your table, should you care to linger over your Diet Coke and talk shit about your significant others well into the afternoon. Trust me, Kerry and I know this.
Call it a routine; call it a rut. I don't care. In times like this, I want consistency. Sam's always hits the spot. -- Sarah Fenske