Sammie’s serving comfort food in Grayslake since 1972
By Tina Johansson Special to The News-Sun December 13, 2012 4:14PM
Grayslake Friday, 12/7/12 Dominic Guinta runs the Sammie's restaurant in Grayslake Friday. Originally opened by his grandfather in 1964, Sammie's has been at it's current location in Grayslake since 1972. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
799 Belvidere Road (Route 120)
Updated: December 13, 2012 4:14PM
GRAYSLAKE— As a boy, Dominic Guinta was so excited about seeing a farmer drive up on a tractor to get a hot dog or Italian beef at Sammie’s, the family business. He couldn’t wait to tell his friends back home in Chicago.
“That’s the way it was here then,” said Guinta, third-generation restaurateur, who today handles the iconic Grayslake eatery for his father.
The original Sammie’s in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago was started in 1964 by his grandfather, also named Dominic. But it wasn’t until 1972 that the Grayslake location opened across the street from the Grayslake Drive-in movie theater, which is now home to Jewel-Osco and a strip mall.
“It was strange because we had the business in the city, and here we have the country place, both very different locations,” said Guinta. During his teenage years, between Grayslake and Chicago, he would be cooking right alongside his parents, Sam and Patty Guinta.
In 1989, the family sold the Chicago site, but in the meantime two others in Lake County sprouted up — one in Round Lake Beach on Rollins and Cedar Lake roads, the other on Milwaukee Avenue in Lake Villa.
While it might be customer history for farmers chugging up to the place on a John Deere, today there are those from other walks of life.
“We get as many white collar workers as blue collar,” said Guinta. In fact, without naming names, he added that several politically connected individuals are also known to have made this their diner of choice.
And what do they come in here for? “Comfort food. I call this food that makes people feel good,” said Guinta.
The menu options featuring popular Chicago-style sandwiches like hot dogs, Italian beefs, and gyros, also include more recent additions such as Angus burgers and Philly cheessteak. And if a customer asks for it, they can have a grilled tilapia sandwich, not on the menu.
The success comes by way of quality food, coupled with good customer service, said Guinta. A feather in Sammie’s cap is initiation into the Vienna Beef Hall of Fame.
“It’s quite an honor and we are extremely proud of that,” he said of the plaque and banner presented several years ago.
Customers are a big part of the business, and while they have seen him grow up in it, Guinta has also seen households increase. “Not only do I get families coming in, I have employed generations of them,” he said.
Some loyal folks out for a recent afternoon obliged to give their take on the place.
Larry Robertson of Fox River Grove, a dump truck operator who works down the street from Sammie’s, has been a regular at the place for a decade.
“I come here because the food is good,” said Robertson who just finished lunch. “The place hasn’t really changed, but it might have gotten a little bigger.”
While running some errands, Dayna Goldman of Libertyville popped in for a bite to eat.
“I’ve been coming here for 12 years, especially for their Italian beef and gyros,” she said. “I remember when I was a student at CLC, and between classes I’d go to Sammie’s. It’s always been my favorite, and it’s always busy here.”