Slice of history

Long-lost Fort Worth restaurant pops up for another taste of its famous potato soup

Long-lost Fort Worth eatery pops up for another taste of potato soup

Sammy's potato soup, ambrosia cake
Sammy's famous potato soup and ambrosia cake. Facebook/Sammy's
Sammy and Nena Pantoja, Sammy's Restaurant
Sammy's founders Sammy and Nena Pantoja. Facebook/Sammy's
Sammy's Restaurant
Sammy's was at 300 W. Central Ave., on the city's north side. Facebook/Sammy's
Sammy's potato soup, ambrosia cake
Sammy and Nena Pantoja, Sammy's Restaurant
Sammy's Restaurant

UPDATE: Organizers announced on November 13 that the first pop-up has been rescheduled for 1 pm Saturday, November 21 — not November 14, as originally planned. It will be in the parking lot of the old Sammy's Restaurant, 300 W. Central Ave., Fort Worth.

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A beloved old Fort Worth restaurant known for its potato soup and late-night hours is making a comeback, one pop-up at a time.

Sammy’s Restaurant, which operated in a small frame house on the city's north side from 1971 to 2001, will be resurrected Saturday, November 21 at a pop-up hosted by the granddaughters of restaurateur Sammy Pantoja. Sisters Alysia and Angela Castillo say they, along with lifelong friends Cindy Arredondo and Connie Saldana, want to continue their grandparents’ legacy — and bring back that famous potato soup.

“People still want the soup and food,” says Alysia, whose parents reopened the restaurant from 2004 to 2008. “When the restaurant closed the first time, it was never our intention for it to stay closed. Our grandparents got ill. My parents tried to run it, but they had full-time jobs, and we were just never able to get it back up and running like it was before.”

The pop-up will be the first of many, the sisters say, in hopes of potentially raising funds to reopen Sammy’s altogether.

Patrons can visit the pop-ups for a simple menu of the acclaimed potato soup ($6 for a bowl), Sammy’s homemade hot sauce and chips ($3), and a slice of the popular ambrosia cake ($5). Events will take place in the parking lot of the restaurant’s original location at 300 W. Central Ave. There’ll be a few tables and chairs outside for folks who wish to dine on-site, but Alysia says everything will be prepared primarily for takeout.

“Our parents are still around to help us,” says Alysia. “They know how to make everything, so they can help with the recipes.”

Pantoja’s potato soup came from a recipe gifted to him by his first employer — a former steakhouse on Jacksboro Highway, says Alysia. The soup, along with steaks and late-night hours, drew locals and tourists alike to Sammy’s. Regulars, including renowned pianist Van Cliburn, always entered through the kitchen.

During the restaurant’s prime, it was Sammy’s wife, Nena, who cooked while Sammy greeted late-night honky-tonkers, stock show cowboys, and night shift crowds. Alysia started washing dishes at the restaurant around age 12 and eventually became a waitress while Angela made the hot sauce. Waiters at one point were mainly Pantoja’s young nephews, and they always wore black bow ties with white shirts and black coats. Tables often had several servers, each assisting with bringing salads or refilling drinks.

“It was also a big draw back then that they were open until four in the morning on the weekends,” says Alysia. “It was kind of rare to find really good food at that hour.”

Nena passed away in 2010 and Sammy in 2015, but their memories remain vivid in the granddaughters’ minds.

“I just remember my grandparents being so welcoming,” says Alysia. “Everybody was like their family. Anything a customer wanted, they would get.”

Follow their Facebook page to find out about future pop-ups.