What in Sam Hill? Comfy Grub, Games and Fun

Sam Hill had its “soft opening” in the Fall of 2023 and is increasingly creating quite a buzz around town with its original food and drink offerings as well as its whimsical atmosphere. When the weather gets warmer, they will have outdoor games and other events.

“Armando Lopez is our amazingly talented chef,” General Manager Nicholas Dean said. “Born in Mexico City, Armando moved to Chicago at age 18 and began working in restaurants as a dishwasher. By his 21st birthday, he had been promoted all the way to head chef, and he’s been running kitchens ever since. His most recent role before Sam Hill was Culinary Director for Frita Batidos here in Ann Arbor.”

There is a wide variety of American and regional influences on the Sam Hill menu.

“Our focus is on regional American comfort food, so most of our dishes contain some familiar elements — although he couldn’t resist putting an extra twist on some of them,” Dean said. “You can certainly get a hot brown sandwich elsewhere, but it’s a long drive to Louisville.”

One of the items we tried was their popular Hot Brown sandwich and the sauce was so creamy and comforting.

One of the dishes on the menu with the best story is their short rib mole.

“Growing up, Armando’s mother made this mole sauce for special occasions with him helping,” Dean said. “It was a three-day process then — drying peppers on blankets in the sun, toasting and grinding all the ingredients — and it still is. He took that incredible sauce, and married it with grits and short rib to create perfect fusion comfort food.”

Photo by Donna Marie Iadipaolo.

The short rib mole was delicious with tender meat and great goat cheese grits accompaniment that added balance to the dish.

But some of their favorite items are their appetizers.

“The tomato pies and mini pasties have been smash-hits, and people are loving the hot brown sandwich just as much as we do,” Dean said. “And don’t sleep on the crab cakes.”

We wanted to try both the tomato pies and the mini pasties when we dined, but both were unfortunately sold old at the time. We are going to make it a point to return to try them another time, however.

Sam Hill also has some wonderful brunch offerings. We enjoyed their light breakfast, which included eggs any style and nongreasy fried green tomatoes. Their over-easy eggs were served perfectly with light herbs atop. The crepes were also delicate and full of flavor.

When asked what sets Sam Hill apart from other restaurants, Dean had even more to share.

“The seven-legged horse on the side of the building is a pretty good start!” Dean said. “Out there in The Yard, we built a 16-tap draft system and a plug-and-play stage using shipping containers, because what good are yard games and Adirondack chairs and fire pits without a drink and some tunes? Our multiple event spaces allow us to host everything from wedding receptions to board meetings to end-of-the-year office blowouts. Our menu features some items that you can’t get around here — and a few you can’t get anywhere — and our bar boasts fantastic cocktails, a house lager — Sam Helles—brewed just for Sam Hill by Wolverine Brewing and our private Knob Creek Single Barrel selection for the whiskey fans.”

Dean said the draft lines will be mostly beer, but they’ll also have some draft cocktails. It is also equipped to serve four frozen cocktails and soft-serve ice cream along with bottled wine and canned beer.

The games that will be available in the yard are cornhole, bocci, giant beer pong, giant Jenga and giant Connect Four.

On top of everything else, the restaurant is very family-friendly as well.

“Most of us have little ones ourselves, so making Sam Hill a great place for kids and parents has been part of the plan since day one,” Dean said.  “We have two thoroughly kid-tested menus just for the small fries — one for dinner and one for brunch, so lots of healthy options that can make it past those most discerning of customers. There are shapes to color and words to search, vintage games on the walls to explore and more booster seats and high chairs than you can shake a stick at. Once The Yard opens in spring there will be even more on offer — giant versions of Jenga and Connect Four, soft serve ice cream, and we’ll keep you posted on some entertainment that’s just for kids!”

Photo by Donna Marie Iadipaolo.

The decor of the restaurant is fun as well. Skateboards, paddles and bocci in containers. Service is friendly and aims to please.

“Many have claimed to be THE Sam Hill over the years, but Michigan’s Samuel W. Hill has the strongest claim,” Dead said. “Sam was a surveyor in Michigan’s Copper Country, and the first person to map much of the Upper Peninsula. He was known for blazing a trail, and for painting a blue streak in the process. It’s easy for us in the restaurant industry to relate to someone who took care of business, but had to put a lot of quarters in the jar along the way! Between the games and menu and entertainment and event hosting, we’re hoping that folks always have to ask the question “What’s going on in Sam Hill?”

Sam Hill is in Scio Township at 5827 Jackson Road, in the building that was formerly The Standard and also previously Creekside.

RELATED: Aloha Hawaiian Barbecue: Serene Environment and Huge Portions

Recent Articles