The old is new at Sam’s
It’s a long way from Boston, but Sam’s Place has the character that resembles the western version of “Cheers.” It comes complete with its own regular customer named Norm, who shows up at 2 p.m. like clockwork to sit at his stool.
Locals can now toast the new ownership to the restaurant, billed as the oldest tavern in Lake Tahoe.
Owner Kirk Neiderhaus and General Manager Mike Dunn kicked off the new year in style, revamping the Zephyr Cove watering hole to reflect a new personality, without taking away from its old essence.
Both men have years of experience at various Lake Tahoe establishments.
Neiderhaus was the general manager at the Zephyr Cove Resort and Dunn has worked at Chevy’s Fresh Mex, among other restaurants.
The restaurateurs put their heads together to give the restaurant and bar a new facelift. They took down a partition around the bar, removed the fake plants and did some woodworking.
“This is a pretty big thing for Sam’s because it’s a locals bar,” Dunn said.
At the same time, the redesign comes with a renewed respect for the restaurant’s past.
Ski passes line the awning above the bar. The deal is, you bring in a ski pass and get a free drink. One pass from Vail, Colo., dates back as far as 1983.
Other artifacts like cross country skis, snowshoes and black and white photographs adorn the walls.
“That’s Highway 50,” Neiderhaus said, pointing to an old jalopy flanked by what appears to be 12-foot snowdrifts.
It takes more than pictures to get people eating and drinking.
“Look at this. Have you ever seen this?” Dunn asked, slapping a frosty mug of draft on the table to illustrate a competitive feature of the bar.
The thawing mug of beer looked appetizing.
Sam’s Place caters to all types. The restaurant and bar almost transforms itself, as the local business lunch crowd often gives way to standing-room only of party goers at happy hour and upscale families from Glenbrook for dinner, according to Dunn.
The hotspot has a variety of foods. But Dunn is especially proud of its pizza, which with calzones comes with its own whole panel on the back of the takeout menu.
“If it wasn’t Sam’s, I wouldn’t be here,” said Dunn, who lives right behind Sam’s.
Reflecting a tight-knit community in tavern life, Sam’s held a fundraiser a few weeks ago for Jimmy McGeehan, a Mott Canyon bartender shot outside his home on Upper Kingsbury Grade about a month ago.
When asked what the duo does for leisure when not at Sam’s, the look of bewilderment came over Dunn and Neiderhaus. It was as if their best entertainment can be found at work, proving you can’t take the restaurant out of the man or the man out of the restaurant.
“Where else would we be?” Dunn asked, in disbelief one would question Sam’s entertainment value.
Televisions scattered around the rooms give billiard players, restaurant goers and barflies a taste of satellite sports.
It’s Nevada, so at any given time, you can expect to see those trying their hand at video poker.
In the summer, the back yard of Sam’s on U.S. Highway 50 northeast of Stateline comes alive with games like ping pong to horseshoes for those who excel in the skillset of reflexes.
Sam’s telephone number is 775-588-2844.
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