Second Helpings

Second Helping

For many years, Sam's #3 on Havana Street kept Sam Armatas's dream alive. When it opened in Aurora in 1969, it was the last Sam's left -- and now, 36 years later, it's not only going strong, but it has been joined by a new, improved Sam's #3 downtown. But it was on Havana that I first got to taste the fare that had made Sam's Coney Island a favorite with everyone from judges to janitors back in the '20s. The food is not always great (and occasionally it's downright terrible), but when this Sam's is at its best, it's enough to make me forgive and forget all former offenses and fall in love all over again. I'll be drawn back in by the bright colors and the packed parking lot and have a fantastic meal -- a two-dollar chili dog so messy and overloaded it has to be eaten with a knife and fork, a cheeseburger so big I have to unhinge my jaw like a python just to get a bite, a caramel milkshake so good I figure that if God ever has a craving for a milkshake, Sam's must be where he goes.

Such inconsistency is just a fact of nature at Sam's, and over the years, this place has earned the right to a second chance, a third -- even a tenth, if necessary. Not every meal will be the best, but sometimes you'll have a plate of corned-beef hash and eggs that's so good it will recalibrate your judgment of what "best" really meant in the first place.

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan