Southern revival: Sam's Kitchen returns... unchanged
Sam Jean is proof you can't keep a good restaurant man down. After opening in 1994 in the old Howard Johnson on The Corner (now the Red Roof Inn) and then moving to the old Hoo's Kitchen spot on Emmet Street (now the Cavalier Diner), in 2000, an attic fire claimed most of his restaurant. But he re-opened (proudly displaying framed photos of the fire on the wall) and remained a fixture on Emmet Street for working people and UVA students with cheap Southern-style eats and all-day breakfast, the kind of place politicians like to visit, as Jim Gilmore (R) did when he went after John Warner's (R) senate seat in 2008.
That same year, with his wife suffering an illness, Jean sold the business, with the idea of retiring, and the space became the Cavalier Diner.
"But I couldn't stay away," says Jean, who now plans to re-open famed Sam's Kitchen in the old Amigo's/El Vaquero space in the Woodbrook Shopping Center across from Lowe's on 29 North.
"I missed the business, missed my customers," says Jean. "And it's the only thing I've ever known. I've been working in restaurants since I was 12."
Originally from China, Jean first moved to Canada to work in a relative's restaurant, and then after some time in New York City, where he met his wife and became a US citizen, his family moved to Charlottesville.
Jean says he's completely renovating the space, and that there is still "a lot of work to do," but predicts they could be open as soon as October 8.
And get this: Jean says the new Sam's Kitchen will be exactly the same.
"We'll have the same exact menu, even the same employees," says Jean.
Indeed, cook Dorothy Glascoe, who Jean calls a master of Southern cooking, will be back in the newly renovated kitchen.
"We've always had such loyal customers," says Jean. "Ones that kept coming back for years. I'm excited to be welcoming them back again."Read more on: Sam's Kitchen