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Famous Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse

For Greg’s birthday this year, he decided he wanted to celebrate at a New York City institution: Famous Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse on the Lower East Side.

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

When I went through my pictures the next day, this photo series made me laugh. Not creepy at all, Wolfgang!

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

When you picture a New York City steakhouse, you typically think of dim lighting, sleek decor, and an upscale atmosphere.

You don’t think of this:

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

Sammy’s Roumanian is unique, to say the least.

You walk down the stairs into a room that feels like a 1970s basement. The walls are littered with pictures and fliers, many of them hilarious.

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

And in the corner, a man named Dani Luv sings and plays the keyboard, entertaining the guests with songs by popular musicians, including Frank Sinatra and Elton John, as well as traditional Jewish songs to, in the words of Dani, “make you feel like you walked into a bar mitzvah in a basement.”

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

We were joined by Wolfgang and Jo, as well as Liam and Yibei, everyone dressed nicely with the men in suits, all expecting a traditional steakhouse atmosphere.

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

They were a little nonplused by dining in what looks like a grandmother’s basement, but they all took it in stride, and laughed when Greg told them that he picked Sammy’s Roumanian because he knew no one would go with him if it wasn’t his birthday.

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

We started with a bottle of vodka, frozen in a block of ice.

I would say we only ordered this type of drink on a Tuesday night because we were celebrating a birthday, but most of the tables ordered the same, and did not seem to be celebrating anything. So apparently vodka frozen in a block of ice is standard refreshment at Sammy’s Roumanian, and is as common as water.

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

Cheers to the birthday boy, and a new experience for New Yorkers who thought they’d seen it all!

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

For dinner, the waiter gave us the option of trying a bunch of dishes for $55 per person. We didn’t press him for details, instead we just figured “why not?!” and agreed to his offer.

We began with chopped liver, or “Jewish guacamole” as the waiter jokingly called it.

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

This course was accompanied by some greens too, clearly making this meal a healthy one!

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

Then he brought us latkes with applesauce, as well as kreplach, or “Jewish wantons.”

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

The food continued with steak, chicken, two kinds of potatoes, and stuffed cabbage, also apparently known as “Jewish burritos.”

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

By this point, the vodka was nearly gone, the music was playing, and everyone was singing along, enjoying the hokey atmosphere.

Sammy’s Famous Roumanian Steakhouse is a slice of old New York City.

The food is comforting but not overly remarkable, so you go more for the experience than for the meal. And while I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite NYC restaurant (or even in my top 100), it’s certainly an evening I’ll remember, and a dining experience that stands out from the city’s many homogeneous restaurants.

Cheers to the wonderful birthday boy!

Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse - New York City dining - Wanderlust in the City

Who may remember slightly less of his experience at Sammy’s Roumanian than the rest of us!

~A

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