Chef Sam Richman switches up from a Mexican menu to ‘high-brow/low-brow New England Americana’ cuisine

Sammy’s Deluxe, new Rockland restaurant, aims for quality, simple fare

Posted:  Monday, June 6, 2016 - 9:15am
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Sam Richman behind the counter of the old Sunfire Grill as he currently renovates the space on Main Street. (Photo by Kay Stephens)

ROCKLAND — Sam Richman, the former chef of Salt Water Farm, decided on an innovative route when the Rockport restaurant closed unexpectedly in 2015. He began operating a series of pop-up Mexican dinners under the name Salty Soup Kitchen. Working with restaurant colleagues and friends in several locations, the dinners proved to be a success all through the winter of 2016. And he might have continued that route had he’d not been tipped off that the owners of Sunfire Grill on were retiring after 14 years, leaving the Main Street space open.

Richman took over the location and is now working on opening his first restaurant called Sammy’s Deluxe. However, don’t expect to find Mexican fare on the menu.

“The Mexican Nights we did were sort of a side project, but now I’m returning to what I think I do best, which is getting the freshest ingredients locally and treating them simply,” he said.

Richman describes the menu he’s currently working on as more of "high-brow/low-brow Main-New England-Americana.”

He added: “I’ll go down to the farmer’s market or local fish market and whatever’s the brightest, shiniest ingredient will end up on the menu. I just want to treat the ingredients well, let them shine and not make very fussy food with it.”

He’d worked as a chef in a number of restaurants in New York City and has experimented with a number of supper clubs, but this is his first venture as a restaurateur. 

“I’ve learned a lot working in other people’s restaurants, but it’s nice to be able to be able to stretch out a little bit and work on some of my own ideas,” he said.

In addition to highlighting the freshest produce possible, the menu will include classics taken seriously. Offerings might include comfort food such as a cheeseburger made with the best ingredients or a corn dog he perfected while working at Salt Water Farm.

Having grown up in New Hampshire, he said his foray into New York City was a good one, but the lifestyle was too busy for him.

“I just wanted to get back to New England,” he said. “Maine had a more vibrant food scene going on, not to mention the quality of restaurants that exist here. I think this area supports a really good restaurant culture with some of the greatest ingredients in the world.”

Richman plays Led Zeppelin over the restaurant speakers as he works to transform the restaurant’s interior. Tables and chairs are stacked to the side and the Mexican memorabilia is shuffled aside to be put away. He is not going for a modernist look with Sammy’s Deluxe, but instead, plans to keep the decor simple and rustic.

“I want people to feel like they can come for really well-shopped for, well-cooked food without having to be in a fancy restaurant,” he said. “I’m a cook, not a designer, so you’re not going to be coming here for the really cool space, you’ll come for the good food.”

As for the fans of the Mexican food he made with the Salty Soup Kitchen, he said: “I definitely have a love affair with Mexican food, so it might make an appearance as a special night. We’ll see.”

Richman said he plans on opening as soon as he gets through his city council hearing, which may be mid-to-late June.

For more information visit Sammy’s Deluxe on Facebook.


Kay Stephens can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com