Where: Sam’s No. 3, in Aurora (Parker & Havana), Downtown (15th & Curtis), and now also in Glendale (435 S Cherry St)
When: Hours vary by location, but the whole menu is served all day, every day
You’ve got to try: The Loaded Bloody Mary and one of Sam’s #3’s many new menu items
I have a confession: I know Sam’s No. 3 isn’t perfect. I don’t love every dish I’ve ever tried here, and their specific brand of giant burritos and cheese covered plates may not be for everyone. But when it comes to Colorado-style comfort food and curing a hangover, I always find myself settling into a booth at Sam’s to begin the difficult task of narrowing down my order.
Established in 1998, most locals have dined into the Aurora or downtown location at least once (or once a week if you’re more like me) and know the story of this family-owned diner. Sam’s refers to Sam Armatas who opened five Coney Islands in Denver in the 1920’s, its third location downtown being most popular. In 1998, Sam’s son and grandsons resurrected the diner-vibe and opened as Sam’s #3 bringing the city its pages-long menu packed with everything Mexican, American, and Greek.
Recently featured on a certain spiky-haired Food Network personality’s show and with regular long waits on the weekend, this diner is already a Denver-favorite, but some recent changes at Sam’s have made brunch there even better:
1. A Third Location
Now I can finally tell inquiring friends yes, there are three Sam’s No. 3’s. Located between Cherry Creek Drive South and S Leetsdale Drive in Glendale in a large, open building with plenty of windows, comfy booths and bar-side seating, this location has everything I look forward to in a trip to Sam’s wrapped in a shinier, newer package. After a lot of research, the Loaded Bloody here is still one of my favorites in town and Sam’s No. 3’s new location mixes them up just right. Paired with a plate of Chili Cheese Tots with half red/half green chili, this meal is one of my go-to brunch indulgences and after testing it out in Glendale, I’m convinced this location is on track to be as busy as the original two.
Though Sam’s menu is admittedly massive, there used to be one glaring hole in the brunch choices. Denver loves a good Benny, and Sam’s No. 3 loves Denver, which is why nine Benedict options can now be found here. Their hollandaise is as good as any I’ve had in town, and you can even splurge a little and go for a buttery croissant instead of the traditional English muffin for only 60 cents extra. With choices like The What? featuring thick slices of turkey, fresh spinach and bacon or the Huevos Benedict with scrambled eggs and chorizo sausage topped with Kickin’ Green Chili and Mexican cheese, ordering at Sam’s just got a little tougher.
3. More Gluten-Free/Vegetarian Options
Sam’s is definitely not a health-food choice, and it’s not pretending to be. But we do live in a town where dietary restrictions and the quest to eat more wholesome foods are important factors in the dining scene. Now Sam’s No. 3 offers more gluten-free and vegetarian options than ever before, though you may still need an extra workout after eating dishes like The High Maintenance Gluten-Dairy Free Skillet. A big plate of crispy home fries sautéed with onions, peppers, tomato and mushrooms, topped with avocado slices and served with a side of refried beans, a side of Kickin’ Green Chili (available pork-free), and two warm corn tortillas, this meal can be made vegetarian-friendly too. You can get your vitamins too with The Fruit-inator, a big plate of seasonal fruit and vanilla yogurt or cottage cheese or the Breakfast Banana Split with yogurt in place of ice cream, crunchy granola, and plenty of berries.
Diner food is a city-essential. The hunger for classic dishes like burgers, burritos, pie and mac and cheese (sometimes needed all at once) can strike at any time- including brunch. You never know when you’ll just need a meatloaf melt alongside your bloody Mary. Thankfully in Denver, Sam’s is around to ease those cravings and with an additional central location, choices that will satisfy even your diet-conscious friends, and the lure of hollandaise, Sam’s No. 3 is more tempting than ever before.
All photography by Jackie Collins