Many of my favorite regular restaurants are neighborhood hangouts—comfy little cafes where you can get a cold drink and consistently good food and service. I'm not looking for five-star dining, just a comfortable place to hang out and have some tasty grub. Sam-Witches and Such, on Tanque Verde Road between Pima Street and Grant Road, fits that description to a T. The servers are collegial and friendly, the food is all made to order, and it's consistently tasty.
There weren't many patrons on either of our visits—for lunch and dinner—but the place seemed equipped to handle a crowd. Food was delivered quickly and piping hot to our table on both visits as well.As the name indicates, the menu at Sam-Witches and Such's menu consists of sandwiches. And some other stuff. We didn't make it for breakfast, but they also have a nice traditional breakfast menu full of comfort food classics such as French toast, biscuits and gravy and chicken-fried steak.
The restaurant is spacious, though the tables and booths aren't quite comfortable enough to encourage sticking around for a while. Several sets of French doors that can be opened during nice weather give it an indoor-outdoor dining experience. There is a full bar with a small but reasonable selection of beer and wine (by both the bottle and glass) in the main dining room.
Our first visit was for a weekend lunch, and the food and service were both a hit. The jalapeño poppers that we ordered to start ($8.95) were a delicious one-off from the usual fare—these were served halved and smothered in melted cheddar cheese and bacon crumbles. Entrees were also spot-on, and the portions were quite generous. The Fireman Burger ($10.95) was smothered in pepper jack cheese, topped with a few slices of capicola, fresh jalapeño rounds, chopped pepperoncinis, red onions and mayo, and was served with a spicy salsa. The burger patty was on the medium side of medium-rare, but it wasn't dry, and the combination of all the peppers was spicy without becoming inedible. The capicola lent a surprising salty element, which blended nicely with the spice of the various chiles.
We also ordered the Monte Cristo sandwich, a double-decker with griddled, egg-battered white bread surrounding layers of sliced turkey, ham, and American cheese. The bread was crispy and a little sweet, and the cheese was melted to perfection. Side choices for all of the sandwiches are fries, tots, or house-made chips with onion dip. They're all excellent choices, though the onion dip could have been a little more oniony.
The sandwiches at Sam-Witches range from fried Nutella and banana ($8.95) to the more traditional Reuben ($9.75). The lunch and dinner menu are identical, so on our dinner visit we tested two more sandwiches—the chicken parmigiana ($8.95) and the French dip ($9.75). Both were served on a chewy, oversized Italian roll and were stuffed to the brim.
The chicken parm was lightly breaded and fried, topped with a generous portion of melted mozzarella, and sauced with a nice, chunky marinara. The roast beef in the French dip was thin-sliced and tender, accompanied by a few slices of provolone and a ramekin full of creamy horseradish. The au jus was a bit over-reduced and thus a little on the salty side, and it definitely needed to be served in a larger ramekin or small bowl for easier dipping.
Appetizers on our second visit missed the mark a bit—the half-dozen bone-in chicken wings, medium spicy ($5.95), had good heat and flavor but could have used another minute or two in the fryer. The potato skins, obviously made in-house, were stuffed with bacon, cheese, green onion and sour cream. But they spent a few too many minutes in the oven. The skins were tough and, in a few cases, burnt.
The service and food at Sam-Witches and Such are, with minor exceptions, consistently good. The servers go above and beyond to make it a welcoming and friendly experience, and any restaurant that can master that combination is destined to be a success.