Sammy's Roumanian has been schticking it up in that fluorescent-lit basement on the Lower East Side since it was opened by Stan "Sammy" Zimmerman in 1975. You imagine this Jewish steakhouse just sprang into existence, with all the following years' now-faded photos already taped to the wall.
When it comes to the atmosphere and the live music, that's actually almost the case — violinist Ruby Levine, whose regular gig was playing Sammy's, started the first week it opened, and entertained customers until his death in 1998. Sammy has moved on (his son took over), but the music continues, and so does the fun atmosphere, steady pour of ice-cold vodka, and the iconic New York dining experience that is Sammy's.
Of anything eaten at Sammy's, the chicken liver mixed tableside has to be one of the most tasty and memorable. The caramelized onions, strips of turnip, grated radish, chopped onions, gribenes, and the stream of chicken fat poured into the bowl, make for a sweet, salty, full-contact flavor and texture. One of New York's best chopped livers? Hard to say. Most entertaining? You bet. And for these reasons this dish made my list of most memorable meals of 2011.