*Editor’s Note - Today’s Hamblog was cooked up by our Sin City correspondent and Las Vegas Sun staff photographer Sam Morris. Before he picked up a camera professionally, Sam got his start flipping burgers at a McDonald’s in Iowa – a job from which he was fired. You can see more of Sam’s work at http://www.lasvegassun.com/staff/sam-morris/
How do I miss these places and never know they exist? Sammy’s has been around since ’04, and at the location I drive past a few times a week since ’07. Basically, it’s in my back yard, it’s part of the visual pastiche of my world, it’s everything I want in a burger joint (read: non-chain) and it’s even named after me. It took Justin “Hold the Onions” Sullivan to point it out to me as he was escaping the 2011 version of CES.
Maybe it’s the I-hate-Vegas-blinders I have on and my superior than thou attitude towards restaurants after moving here from San Francisco, but Sammy’s is a diamond in the rough that I had never noticed. Maybe it was their cheap vinyl signage (I later realized why: why spend money on signs if you are using the money for good ingredients?) or maybe it’s just my home-work-brown bag lunch-home pattern that makes me not notice.
After Justin alerted me to the joint – literally a joint, it’s a few hundred square feet with seating for a dozen or so inside and seating for a couple dozen outside, sandwiched between a discount Chinese tool emporium and a shuttered and graffitied dry cleaner – I made plans to head on down. With the kids behind on homework, my lovely wife Anne and I had to head down on our own.
If the descriptions of the burgers and sandwiches aren’t enough to make your cardiologist’s eyes light up (“Yes, another year of my kid’s college tuition paid!”), the pictures and descriptions of their sandwiches will make yours light up. I mean, the most insane burger they have is called the Zombie Burger, and consists of three ¼ lb beef patties, a hot link, sautéed onions and peppers, grilled bacon and two fat-ass onion rings.
After seeing the menu, there was only one burger for me to try and conquer: the Big Ass Bacon Cheeseburger ($8.49). What is more perfect than a good bacon cheeseburger? But this one was something else.
Did I survive? Read on.
This, my friends, is a burger of epic proportions and flavor. It is a monument to all things bovine and porcine. It is also an example of too much of a good thing. ½ pound of beef, 12 slices of bacon and ¼ pound of cheddar cheese (and I think it was closer to a half pound).
Think about those ingredients and portions for a moment. Does it not border on insane?
Well, my answer to grill master Kevin when he asked what I thought of it was, “It’s insane.”
Kevin said, “No, you’ll see. There’s so much bacon and cheese you won’t notice anything else.” Which was almost true.
The Big Ass Bacon Cheeseburger falls into a category I am calling Novelty Burgers. Not to say they are bad, but because they are a novelty and while good, you may not have another. Although Kevin said there are a couple Southwest Airlines employees who come in for these monstrosities on a regular basis. But for me, they are just too much. Too hard to eat, too much food, and, well, too much goodness.
After taking the burger and awesome Garlic Romano fries (more on those later), to the table, I had to ponder how to attack a nearly foot tall burger (OK, I’m a guy – it was probably closer to 8 inches). Not being a fan of having to use a knife on what should be a hand-held comestible, I opted for squishing it down and going to work.
In case the amount of cheese and bacon didn’t register in your head, it took me four bites just to get to the beef. Four bites of bacon and molten, crispy, melted cheddar.
And then I hit the beef. Finally. It shone through, but as I soon realized, it made its presence known because most of the mass of bacon and cheese had squeezed out. Nevertheless, I was enjoying the extreme indulgence of putting such copious amount of bad/good food down my gullet to the point that I barely notice the rivulets of pork and dairy grease making its way down my forearms.
About a third of the way through, I noticed a pool of grease in the bottom of the basket and knew that the bottom bun must be suffering. I turned the shrinking monster over and noticed that, indeed, it was soaking up a lot of the juice and fat. But to Sammy’s credit, they were using buns from a local bakery just down the street (Great Buns Bakery) and the quality bread held up like a champ, never once splitting or falling apart.
It was about this point that I realized Kevin’s comments about condiments were off base. The salt and grease of the BABC was screaming for a counterpoint, so I grabbed some ketchup to dip the burger into. Perhaps this may be the best way as ketchup may have been lost on the sandwich, but being able to dip a corner in pool of sweet and acidic ketchup helped balance all the salt and cut through the fat.
What I didn’t need was the ketchup for the fries. Sammy’s offers a wide array of fries, all of them a delightful shoe-string size which makes for a crisp fry that I prefer. My wife and I had the Garlic Romano fries, the most popular. A simple preparation of dry seasonings with great taste that has made me put Gordon Biersch garlic fries on the back burner.
The rest range from five different baskets (a small being big enough for two) seasoned with Cajun, ranch, southwest cheese and smokehouse BBQ. The fries are crisp and light, and I am guessing coated with a potato starch, much like Burger King uses on their fries to make them crispy even after being under a heat lamp for a while. Sammy’s gets back into novelty territory with their Meal Fries and Mega Meal Fries. Most consist of adding pastrami, gyro or steak meat along with cheese and/or chili or other condiments. I didn’t have them, so I’ll just list the ingredients of the Three Squares Mega Meal Fries: one pound of fries, ½ pound of grilled steak, ½ pound pastrami, chili, cheddar cheese, fresh onions, grilled onions, jalapenos, ¼ pound of bacon and two fried eggs. $14.99.
I do intend to go back because I really want to try a regular burger, and from what I saw, hand formed patties, seasoned as they went on the grill, quality buns and a commitment to fresh ingredients, I guessing a regular burger there will be good.
Not to say the BABC wasn’t good. Frankly, it was awesome. In a food porn kind of way. But from what I saw I think they make a regular burger that I could love and wouldn’t be embarrassed taking home to mom.
RATING: 4 out of 5
Sammy’s L.A. Pastrami and Burgers
2191 E. Tropicana Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Hours: Monday – Saturday 11:00AM – 10:00PM
Sunday 11:00AM – 8:00PM