Sam’s Joint Restaurant – Plainwell
My second week on the job and I’m already picking up extra shifts. I like that. I’m not usually scheduled for Friday nights, but there was a shortage at work, so they asked if I could come in. I rarely turn down extra shifts, but being Friday and our newly crowned date night, J and I still wanted to go out for dinner. Initially, she thought about meeting me in Grand Rapids and finding some place up there, but instead opted for the closest thing for halfway.
I started looking for joints in Plainwell where we could meet. I know have a pretty good list of places we want to check out, but for our first venture into the Island City, I chose Sam’s Joint which is actually north of Plainwell proper.
Sam’s Joint is a little West Michigan chain. There are eight locations with the Caledonia restaurant being the Sam’s that started it all in 1977.
The Plainwell Joint is on 10th Street just north of 106th Avenue. If you’re coming from downtown Plainwell, Main Street becomes 10th Street. If you know the area better than I do, 106th Avenue actually intersects with US 131 so you can avoid the city.
Sam’s is an old red brick building that reminds me of fancy places from the 70’s. Sam’s Joint had a previous life, but the name actually escapes me. It’s still visible under the new sign out near the road.
The parking lot is wild. The lot is a single lane road that runs around the front of the building. J got there before I did and she took that avenue and had to go all the way to the back to find a spot. When I pulled in, I noticed a lot right off to the right of the entrance. I went in there and walked up the door.
There’s a long sidewalk leading from the parking area/road to a covered drop off area. From there, you go up a short flight of stairs to a solid wood door that leads you to the hostess station.
The interior has the feel of an old house. The dining room is sectioned off by walls and narrow hallways lead you in to each room. We were led to a a dining area that felt like a screened in wrap around porch.
There were plenty of tables to choose from but the hostess set us down at a table for six near the windows. It’s funny because there was a two top right next to it. Didn’t really matter to us, but I would have felt bad if they needed the table. There must have been a party somewhere in the space because there were a lot of cars in the lot, but not a lot of people where we were. I was almost expecting a wait when I saw the parking lot, but the dining room we were in was pretty empty…..oh yeah, and hot. Really hot. Another couple came in later and asked to be seated somewhere else because of the heat. At that point, they realized it might be a little too hot and we felt the air kick on. It’s probably a pain to heat and cool a space that large and that sectioned off, but it’s also hard to enjoy a place when you’re sweating. It wasn’t quite that bad, but if it had been any hotter outside, it might have been.
The decor is somewhat kitschy. There are antiques all over the place…including the tables and chairs that squeak when you sit in them, and ambient lighting is enhanced by Christmas tree lights hanging from the ceilings.
We started with Cokes while looking over the menu. Sam’s is famous for their ribs, but I went with a burger instead. I got the bacon cheeseburger which is an 8 oz fresh, hand-made patty topped with bacon and American cheese. Had the meat been cooked to medium instead of medium-well (I wasn’t asked a preference), the burger would have been perfect. It was actually very delicious an enhanced by the choice of bun as well a the crispy, large strips of bacon. The sandwich came with home made pub chips or the option to upgrade to potato wedges for a buck. Since the chips were homemade, I stuck with them and it was a good choice. The chips were crispy and well done. There was a large pile and more than enough to satisfy my lunch skipping hunger.
J found a couple chicken strip choices that appealed to her, but when it came time to order, the Sam’s Famous BBQ Strips won the battle. She got five large that are first fried then charbroiled with Sam’s Famous BBQ sauce. She ate one and a half of the large strips and absolutely loved them. The BBQ sauce is exactly the kind of sweet, smokey sauce that she likes and the extra charbroiling makes it stick to the meat. She gave me one of the strips and still took two and a half home for another meal. After eating the one she gave me, I sort of wish I would have gotten the ribs just to have some more of the sauce. Her meal came with potato wedges and a piece of bread. The wedges were good, but run into the problem all potato wedges have. They’re were a little raw in the middle. It didn’t matter. Between the two of us, we finished them off.
The food at Sam’s Joint was really good. Both of us were really happy with the meal which came in a little expensive at a little over $24 for what is essentially pub food. I don’t feel bad about the price though because we were both really happy with what we got and J even has a little left over for a sandwich tomorrow.
While the food was good, service left a little bit to be desired. Our section was pretty empty and it took a long time to get a to-go box for J and to get our check. Our waitress walked by us three times after we were done before offering up a check then disappeared for ten minutes after I put my credit card on the table to pay. It wasn’t awful, but a little long for a dining room that only had four tables. My only other complaint, and I put this in just cause I’m a dork who constantly checks e-mail…and so is J for that matter, there’s a big sign out front proclaiming Sam’s is a “Wi-Fi Hotspot,” but when I turned on my iPod, I found a locked access point and no sign of a password in sight. Just saying. It’s a Wi-Fi hotspot that can’t be easily accessed.
Sam’s Joint worked for us. We were both impressed with the quality of the food and we’re both fans of the BBQ sauce. Sam’s is definitely a place I would hunt out if we’re ever near any of the other locations and a place I would confidently recommend driving from Kalamazoo for.