One morning during the recent CEDIA convention in Denver, we tried to get into the Corner Office Restaurant and Bar at The Curtis hotel where we stayed. The hostess told us that it would be a 45 to 50 minute wait for a group as large as ours (10 in total). One of our set up guys from Montreal had told us about a place just down the street from The Curtis - Sam's No. 3 - and he said it was a better breakfast and much cheaper than what they served at the Corner Office. We thought we'd give it a try.
By the time we walked the half block down the street to Sam's No. 3 (see map), our group enlarged to 14 people. We knew we were going to have trouble all sitting at one table no matter where we went for breakfast, so we all decided that it was catch-as-catch-can when we got in there.
Sam's No. 3 is a very popular place for breakfast in downtown Denver. They have won numerous People's and Critic's Choice Awards over the years for the food. In addition to typical American food, Sam's No. 3 also serves Greek and Mexican dishes - many of which use the same original recipes from over 80 years ago.
The original Sam's No. 3 opened in the mid-20's as the third of owner Sam Armatas' Coney Island restaurants. Armatas, a Greek immigrant, opened five Coney Island restaurants with the one downtown being the most popular. Coney Island - later known as Sam's No. 3 - stayed in business for over 40 years before closing in 1971. In the meantime, Sam's son, Spero, opened the Newbarry's diner in southwest Denver serving a lot of the same items as the old Coney Island restaurants did.
After talking about the possibility of reviving the Sam's No. 3 name, Spero Armatas' sons, Alex, Sam and Patrick (pictured at the right with their father), opened a Sam's No. 3 in suburban Aurora in 1998 (see map). A few years later, they reopened the original Sam's No. 3 location in downtown Denver at 15th and Curtis. It quickly became one of the favorite spots for breakfast and late night weekend eats for the citizens of Denver.
Sam's No. 3 has the look of an old time diner, but with a modern feel to it. There's a number of seats at a counter with a lot of booth and table seats throughout. Given that a large convention was in town, the place was packed before 8 a.m. It was a 10 minute wait before the bulk of our group could get seated into the back bar area of Sam's No. 3.
My boss, Daniel, is big on making sure everyone has a big breakfast on trade show days, mainly because we don't have time to have lunch. The menu at Sam's No. 3 is big enough to satisfy any hungry person's appetite at breakfast. Three and a half pages of the menu are filled with breakfast items. They have a number of daily breakfast specials, omelets, pancakes, waffles, burritos and skillet dishes to choose from. It was almost overwhelming what they had to offer for breakfast.
I went with the Supreme Omelet - four eggs with diced ham, sausage, bacon, gyro meat, with Cheddar Jack cheese and a side of Sam's No. 3 famous green pork chili. I got whole wheat toast and bacon on the side. Hey, Daniel wants us to have a big breakfast - I'm getting a big breakfast.
The problem was that it was so busy and we had such a large group. We only had one waitress working our group. A couple of the guys were complaining that they didn't get coffee or they needed this or that. I said, "Hey, cool out. This woman's working her ass off. It's one woman working three tables for 14 guys on one check." One of the other guys in our group went over to the stand where the coffee was, took the pot and began to pour coffee for the rest of the group. I don't drink coffee, so it wasn't that big of a deal for me. But some of the guys I work with, they take their coffee intravenously.
It was over a half-hour before our food showed up and, for me, it was worth the wait. The Supreme Omelet was big and hearty. The combination of the sausage, bacon, ham and gyro meat with the jack cheese was excellent. And they definitely didn't skimp on the ingredients.
After the usual impatient bitching, everyone in our group said their breakfast was very good. I'm not big on breakfast, especially first thing in the morning. But Sam's No. 3 was one of the best breakfast places I've ever eaten in. In terms of selection, quality of food and ambiance, Sam's No. 3 was a true gem for breakfast. This is the type of place that I try to find in my travels. Good thing we had a chance to eat there. I'll go back the next time I make it out to Denver. There's too many interesting things on the menu that I'd like to try.