by Eric Ginsburg
Sammy G’s Tavern: Tinsley Drive in High Point or at sammygtavern.com. Call 336-884-3474.
The most memorable thing about Sammy G’s Tavern — besides the food — is the high-end restaurant’s somewhat confused identity.
In some ways, the upscale venue is at odds with its surroundings. It’s located in a strip mall on a thoroughfare, and despite the quality, price and presentation of the food, a few Saturday-night patrons still looked dressed for dinner at the mall food court.
Sammy G’s split personality isn’t strictly a victim of circumstance or surrounding, though — televisions broadcasting sports and the name itself suggest an informal ambiance that is mildly at odds with the kitchen.
Despite its incongruities, the tavern deserves to be the bustling destination that it is, and not just to proximate High Point residents. And that’s because of the food.
The drinks are good too, including a well curated beer list, numerous wine options, almost a dozen martinis and cocktails such as a classic Tom Collins that accompanied me throughout the meal. But let’s talk about the entreés.
Sammy G’s Tavern focuses on seafood with attention to steak and a variety of chicken options. I lingered on several but knew as soon as I saw the seafood and cheese that I would end up devouring it. It’s the full Monty: shrimp, large scallops, chunks of lobster, a dash of bacon, spinach, corn and angel hair pasta doused in a four-cheese Cajun cream sauce.
It’s a heavy dish, possibly best consumed in two sittings. Each element is expertly prepared and riffs off the other ingredients, like a band of old friends on a reunion tour — familiar yet exhilarating, fulfilling and appropriately paired.
I didn’t go to Sammy G’s Tavern with the intention of writing about it. This was supposed to be a fancy date with my girlfriend, made all the more memorable because we made an uncommon excursion to the Triad’s oft-ignored corner. Even without the aid of a notepad, the restaurant left enough of an impression to work from memory. Food this satisfying shouldn’t be guarded like Tolkien’s ring, but shared.
My girlfriend is the type of person who prepares for the first trip to a new restaurant by reading reviews (while I’m inclined to arrive without having so much as glanced at the menu online), so we settled on a must-try appetizer before leaving home. The Yelp reviewers are right: You have to order the tuna tostada.
Instead of a flat, hard tortilla with an assortment of toppings found on the menu at Mexican restaurants, fried wontons act as the firm base of this dish. Long, thick strips of pink, seared tuna are sandwiched between crab cream cheese and sliced avocado. Pan-Asian plum sauce and a pinch of Sriracha complete the tostadas, which is plenty of food to split.
She made the wise decision to top her grilled mahi mahi with lemon-caper brown butter, a fitting complement, but could’ve opted for the flashier mango salsa or crab cream cheese. It, too, tasted excellent — or at least the one bite she let me try (before happily finishing it herself) did.
While future visits will likely lead to experimentation with dinner menu items like the seabass risotto or the chicken and broccoli Alfredo, there will be a reprise of the tuna tostada when we return. That is, unless we are tempted by the Sunday brunch menu, which is brimming with intriguing options including Portabella and shrimp eggs Benedict, Bananas Foster French toast, and “High Point hot brown” — sliced turkey, bacon, tomato and a warm cheese sauce on toast.