Sam's Deli Diner - How The Mighty Have Fallen

August 17, 2010

In our constant quest (some would say obsession) to locate the best burger in the Houston area, one name kept popping up.  "Sam's Deli Diner".  "You've gotta try Sam's".  "I've been going to Sam's Deli for years, it's the best!"  I'd never heard of this place two years ago, but now it's on the radar, and it's exactly the type of burger place I love to find: Small, privately owned, and successful for decades.

Last weekend found us wandering the rats maze / retail wonderland that is IKEA, and presented the perfect excuse to try this legendary hamburger joint.  So zipped down I-10 and pulled up to the nondescript strip center location.

Sam's was easy to find, and parking was plentiful on this early weekend afternoon.  The place looked clean and inviting, and when we entered we were surprised by the size of the dining room, with a long, linear open kitchen tucked behind a low counter.

Clearly, the place does some business, even if it was nearly empty.  We placed our order, and waited for the food to arrive.

The first attempt at my burger was wrong - I requested "dry, no tomatoes" as is my habit, and what came out was neither dry (it was slathered with mayo) nor tomato-free.  This was surprising, since the room was essentially empty.  The lack of attention on the part of the cook didn't bode well for the burger, but I returned it to the counter, and waited for the replacement to appear.

What came out was perhaps the saddest burger to ever come out of the kitchen from one of Houston's famed burger joints.

The grey, overcooked, machine-formed patty was dry and ooze-free.  The cheese was slightly melted; more attached to the bun than to the beef.  And the tired looking veggies were huddled under the patty, trying their best to avoid the prying eyes of a hungry patron.

I bit into the burger, hoping that the flavor would be the saving grace.  It wasn't.  I've had better burgers at McDonald's, and I didn't finish this one.

I've heard uniformly great things about Sam's, and I'm hoping I caught them on an off day.  It happens.  But one mark of a great restaurant is the ability to always deliver a quality product, and what was served today showed me that it is certainly possible to get a lousy burger at Sam's Deli Diner.

Update: One of our favorite Twitterers (@sensestorm) visits Sam's, and confirmed what we experienced. Her tweet.

Update: Katharine Shilcutt visits Sam's Deli Diner and shares her experience.

Update: Another opinion, from The Mighty Rib.

Sam's Deli Diner - 11637 Katy Freeway - 281-497-8088

Sam's Deli-Diner on Urbanspoon

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