Positives: grilled and fried seafood that tastes good
Negatives: dirty inside and out, broken equipment and fixtures, tight parking
Sam's Southern Eatery in Ennis is one of those places you want to recommend but are afraid to. Portions are large, prices reasonable, and both fried and grilled items are well prepared. But the facility...we were told it was formerly a Wendy's...desperately needs renovation and cleaning.
We visited entirely on the recommendation of friends in the area. They talked about how good and plentiful servings were for the price. Tasty fish at a reasonable price is always an attractive proposition. After having seen the facility, however, I'm not sure it's quite the bargain we expected.
Parking and Location -
There's no question Sam's is a hot ticket in Ennis right now. I think it's a combination of their Southern-style cooking, value pricing, and the fact they're new in town. The restaurant is easy to find, on the west side of downtown. Since they're so popular, parking is an issue. We parked in a lot filled with broken pavement behind the building.
A few changes have been made to the original design...very few. Primarily, they've removed references to the original occupant and painted some murals on walls. Booths, serving tables, the order counter...even the glassed-in dining room...are holdovers from another time. Fixtures are chipped and faded.
Menu and Food -
When we decided to try this place, I immediately visualized a restaurant that offered "fried everything". That picture was reinforced as we walked past a couple of empty vegetable oil boxes discarded behind the building. Consequently, I was shocked to find virtually every item...fish, chicken, shrimp...could be ordered grilled.
Our group ordered a variety of items. I chose a grilled shrimp po' boy sandwich. While it doesn't compare to similar fare in New Orleans, overall it wasn't bad...particularly for the price. Others ordered fried fish and shrimp. Everything was nicely prepared and tasted very good.
Side dishes were typical Southern items: fried okra, coleslaw, red beans and rice, etc. Unfortunately, they had run out of the latter. We'd really like to have tried it. The sides we did eat were also good.
Employees we spoke with were nice enough, and they generally seemed to be trying, but they were constantly struggling against a variety of factors...some they could change and others beyond their control.
Lines were long during our visit. Orders are taken at a counter. Customers receive a number which is called when food is ready.
Orders were issued consecutively, but food was served haphazardly. For instance, our group held numbers 131 and 132. We heard numbers in the 120s and 140s called well in advance of ours. Every other number in the 130 range was served before us. Additionally, take-out orders seemed to receive preference.
Customers are supposed to fill their own drinks but the ice dispenser was frozen. Several employees tried breaking the jam with tongs and other utensils the entire time we were inside.
I was impressed that employees were friendly to everyone, including first-time guests like us. The manager was good to answer questions. But employees did tend to linger with familiar customers and some had friends/family distracting them from work. As a result, service languished.
The Bottom Line -
Sam's is a paradox. As much as we enjoyed the food, conditions inside were a concern. I'm tempted to return next time we're in the area, but am not sure I can overlook the litter and grease.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.