The New Sammy B’s opens at The Mill in Lebanon
By DR. JOHN GALLAHER
PHOTOS by GRACE GALLAHER
I will drive (or fly) almost any distance for great food. And that’s why I feel so fortunate to have a familiar place, with a storied history, SO close to me: that place being – Sammy B’s!
Owners Jim and Gina Stradley have been in the food and restaurant business for most of their adult lives. Jim first came to Middle Tennessee by way of New England, Texas, Florida, St Louis, and Georgia – and you can see a little bit of each region throughout their diverse and delicious menu. In fact, Jim considers his culinary creations a “melting pot of flavors.” And even though their cheeseburger is one of their most ordered items, Jim is quick to point out, “We are not a burger and wing joint.” And with one glance at their menu, it’s apparent that what Jim says is true!
Jim and Gina opened the original Sammy B’s on Nashville’s Music Row back in the early ’90’s. (This was after they opened Dalt’s Restaurant and worked onthe Broadway Dinner Train). In fact, since bringing Sammy B’s to Lebanon, they’ve already had several visits from some of their original patrons which included almost daily visits from top music executives and artists. They once even served a “cowboy-powered” table that included Dallas Cowboy owner, Jerry Jones. Oh, and Jerry just happened to be dining that day with his head coach, Jimmy Johnson and quarterback, Troy Aikman! But their VERY first customer turned out to be one of their most famous. Literally, the first person who came strolling into Sammy B’s the day it opened way back when, was none other than legendary, cheeseburger aficionado (and part-time singer) Jimmy Buffett!
Today, their menu still has items marked with an asterisk signifying items from the original menu.
And original is what Jim strives for. Besides just a “normal” (and delicious) cheeseburger, you’ll find, if you get adventurous, burgers named “Uptown,”“The Southie,” “Buffalo Turkey Trot,” and my personal favorite, “Onion Dip Trip.” This is a hand-patted burger layered with French-Onion dip, with homemade chips piled high RIGHT ON the burger! It gives the burger a unique and delicious taste AND crunch.
And don’t think they stopped there, because when it comes to their hot dog offerings, they’ve definitely raised the bar with them as well. You will find everything from BDB (Big Dog Barking), which is a 1/3 pound, all-beef dog, bacon-wrapped and then deep-fried, smothered with hand-made Tabasco onions, roasted peppers and jalapeno’s, to my favorite dog, being their Red Hot with chow-chow. A Red Hot is a beef and pork sausage made in a spicy casing. This is NOT your ordinary dog. And if you like spicy as I do, you will LOVE it! I made my receptionist Renee Haynes (when Mitzi refused) order the Red Hot. One bite and she was all smiles. Mitzi took the safe route and ordered “The Original 16th Avenue Club.”
It’s a made-to-order sandwich with grilled ham, turkey and bacon. The thing that makes this the best Club Sandwich I’ve ever tasted is their hand-sliced cracked-wheat bread made with honey and molasses. Try dipping it in their home-made Honey Mustard (a recipe that is over 30 years old), and I dare anyone to tell me it’s not great!
Another original you will have a hard time finding anywhere else is their smoked, fried chicken. They take a bone-in half chicken, rubbed with Jim’s secret homemade rub, smoke it, and then deep-fry it with NO breading. Finger-licking good!
The menu doesn’t stop there. They have SO much I would love to tell you about, from great steaks (all hand-cut in house) to a daily “Fresh Catch,” to homemade lasagna that comes from an old family recipe passed down from Jim’s mom, whose ancestors hail from Italy. Their Voo-Doo Chicken which is hand-sliced smoked chicken breast sauteed with chow-chow, fire-roasted tomato salsa, black beans, rice, sour cream and jalapeno’s, is one of their best sellers. And their pizzas, again NOT your ordinary pizza offerings, with names like Cheezy Loueezey, Magic Mushroom, and my favorite: Drunken Sailor (shrimp and sausage sauteed in garlic, butter, dark rum covered in cheddar and mozzarella).
Many often ask how Sammy B’s got its name. Well, thankfully I’m an inquisitive sort myself and uncovered (exclusively for my devoted WLM readers) the answer! The name derived from Jim’s great (x4) -grandfather, Samuel Benjamin Stradley, who fought for BOTH sides in the Civil War, after he was captured by the North. He still overlooks the restaurant with his picture hanging over the fireplace. Sammy B’s as well as their owners have a book-full of history; however, Gina is quick to point out, “our food is our history.”
Let me not only recommend that you come give Sammy B’s a try (or three). Let me also challenge you to get adventurous and try as many of their menuitems as you can. Because I can just about promise you that the very first time you come, you’ll LOVE what you eat. And it kills me to see you people (and you KNOW who you are) ordering the SAME thing every time you go to a particular restaurant once you find something you like.
Live a little! You may just find something different that you love even MORE. Sammy B’s is located at 300 North Maple in Lebanon at The Mill. They are open for lunch ans dinner, Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Oh, I almost forgot. They now have Trivia Tuesdays, Jazz and Seafood Wednesdays (with fresh oysters, crab cakes, and fish tacos), and young artists performing music on stage Thursdays. Call to find out who may be playing on the weekends by giving them a ring at (615) 466-5292.
And last but not least, Jim and Gina STILL cater many events both at Sammy B’s and elsewhere. They can make anything from their menu OR whatever you desire, because one thing is for sure, when it comes to food, these two have just about done it all!