In January 2021, New York institution Sammy’s Roumanian, known for its Jewish Romanian food and vodka-fueled parties, shuttered on the Lower East Side. Now it seems, the team is plotting a new location for the venue. According to Community Board 3 meeting list, Sammy’s Roumanian has a lease in the works at 191 Orchard Street, between Houston and Stanton streets, where it's pursuing a liquor license application.
After 47 years in business, Sammy’s had become synonymous with an old-school, midcentury vibe. Owner David Zimmerman, the son of Stan Zimmerman, who previously ran it, promised it would return in some form or another, at the time stating it was unlikely to remain at its basement-level Chrystie Street home. Eater has reached out to Zimmerman for more information.
Depending on who you ask, Sammy’s has several different names: Sammy’s Roumanian, Famous Sammy’s, and Famous Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse, among them.
It was a “den of schmaltz-covered, Ashkenazi fun,” chronicled in Grub Street in 2021. “People would tell you that the food didn’t really matter, that Sammy’s was about the experience. And, to a certain extent, that was true. But the menu could still make a heart flutter.”
Tables were adorned with schmaltz and old-fashioned seltzer; it was a favorite amongst birthday parties: “Sammy’s ties a balloon to every table just in case, and half the time they’re right,” Eater reported in 2009. It was the place where “every night felt like a bat mitzvah,” according to Food & Wine.
The late New York Times restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton gave the place three stars in a 1982 review; later, in 2014, critic Pete Wells dropped it to one, nevertheless celebrating its charms. “Known for selling vodka bottles encased in ice, Sammy’s is New York’s original bottle-service restaurant, and still the only tolerable one,” he wrote.
Over the past couple of months, Dani Luv, the singer synonymous with Sammy’s entertainment, known for “covers of Broadway classics and insult[ing] diners to their faces,” has hosted various New York pop-ups at Quality Eats uptown and Edith’s in Williamsburg.
For Sammy’s to relocate to Orchard Street, the restaurant will need to receive liquor license approval from the community board; a meeting is set for mid-May. As EV Grieve reports, the space its eyeing has been vacant for a few years, but was formerly home to a bar, the Sixth Ward, that lost its liquor license, related to what the publication describes as “criticism from locals.”