When friends come to town, I am determined to impress. It’s only natural to want to share your amazing city and show the ones you love the incredible spots you have found. It’s basically your time to show off! So when a big group of my college friends came to town recently, the New York residents made it our goal to find something fun and different for our big girls’ night out. One friend suggested Sammy’s Roumanian Steak House, and the rest was history….

This decades old lower east side institution has been the perfect place to celebrate all occasions – at Sammy’s Roumanian it’s always someone’s birthday, bar mitzvah, graduation, or even retirement party! The dinner, the show, the schmaltz! A good time is just waiting to be had here.

History of Sammy’s Roumanian

Sammy’s Roumanian opened in 1975 and not much has changed about this classic joint. According to owner/operator David Zimmerman, his father, Stan Zimmerman, won the restaurant from the original owner, Sammy Friedman, in a poker game in 1975.”My father had a coffee shop in Newark and had worked in the Catskills. He honed his skills at egg creams, working as a soda jerk at Howard Johnson’s in Times Square. It was his idea to add egg creams to our menu. The Sammy’s sign was already there, so we decided to keep it – and the name.” Zimmerman also noted that no one at Sammy’s today is Roumanian. “The original cuisine was similar to what we have now, but heavier. We’re all about good food and good times.”

Sammy's Roumanian

And it may be 2015, but on the inside of Sammy’s Roumanian it’s still somewhere around 1939. Upon entering, we all made the same comment. Did we just walk into the past? The tables are still set with white tablecloths, with an old-school bottle of pure-bright-yellow rendered chicken fat on every table. Walls are completely covered floor to ceiling with pictures of past celebrations, celebrities who have made their presence at Sammy’s Roumanian, and bizarre family photos that don’t seem to belong, but make the perfect addition nonetheless.

The Food Train

We were seated and immediately handed manila folders with menus stapled to the front. The Sammy’s experience had officially begun. The menu provides a brief synopsis of what Stan, the owner, had envisioned years ago. He wanted to make Sammy’s less Roumanian and more so a place where you could relive your Jewish grandpa’s jokes and your Jewish grandma’s cooking – no matter your heritage. Our waiter gave us the low down and explained how big groups usually order. We agreed to do family style and almost immediately the food began rolling out. Our table was soon taken over by latkes, pickles, fresh bread, kreplach, Sammy’s famous and deliciously plum potato latkes. And just as we were scarfing down the starters, our frozen handle of Kettle One arrived ever so lovely in a white plastic bucket. The drinks poured continuously as more and more food arrived; chicken, salmon, steak, mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, and string beans. And as we continued to eat, we were simultaneously singing and dancing along to familiar Jewish classics provided by the entertainment, which happened to be the most adorable old man who could certainly carry a tune. He had us out of our seats dancing in no time! The Jewish classics soon turned to pop hits, which just meant that the dancing did not stop!

Sammy's Roumanian

Overall, our Sammy’s Roumanian experience was one we will all not forget. If you’re looking for a major throwback and a great time, this is your place. Definitely pricier than an average meal, but this experience should in no way be compared to the average dinner out with your friends. You’ll get food, drinks, live entertainment, dancing, and feelings of nostalgia throughout the night. In other words, Sammy’s Roumanian is worth every last penny.

Sammy’s Roumanian – website
157 Chrystie Street
New York, NY 10002

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About The Author

Profile photo of Julie
Healthy Eater

Southern girl at heart, minus the fried food. Fresh on the NY food scene, hungry for a healthy way to live in this food capital.