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Taste the love at Sam’s

At Sam’s Flaming Grill, love is the secret ingredient

Posted: February 24, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2012 6:00 a.m.

Sam’s Flaming Grill, Newhall.

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Sam's Flaming Grill is becoming a bit of a phenomenon in the Santa Clarita Valley, with the fourth local Sam's opening in Newhall this past August, following closely on the heels of the third location, in Valencia, which opened last May. (The other two locations are in Canyon Country and Saugus, opening in 2003 and 2008, respectively.)

This growth and success in the restaurant business is amazing, given the economic times, and both Sam Panosyan, owner of all four locations, and Newhall manager Max Dominguez said it is all because of the love you can taste in their food. "It's the pinch of love that brings people back. It's ‘Samstastic.'" Dominguez said.

And that love is not only in the ingredients, which are fresh daily, with everything made to order - but also in the large portions, of which Panosyan proudly said, "We give too much food for the value. People can share a meal. Our portions have stayed the same since day one."

Sam's Flaming Grill offers kabobs and pita and shawarma - all the things people consider "Mediterranean" food. But Panosyan said his food is Armenian-style ("the spices are a bit different") and, further, the recipes were specially created by his mother, who took six months to develop them.

"Our food is unique, healthy, something the people in this valley desire," he said. And he went on to say how much he appreciates the people of the Santa Clarita Valley, who have welcomed his offerings and who have been so instrumental in his success.

As a perfect example, on the day I interviewed him, I also met Jennifer Rankin of Newhall, who said she has been a big fan of Sam's Flaming Grill since the Newhall location opened. "The Lamb Kabobs are awesome," she said, "and the baklava is almost as good as my great Greek aunt's."

You will have to visit a Sam's location near you to see the full and enticing menu, as the website is still under construction. But know that there are salads and appetizers, stuffed grape leaves, sandwiches, plate combos, rotisserie chicken, soups, and sides such as Lavash and Falafel. There are kids meals, party specials and family dinner combos.

All combos include rice or French fries, hummus, salad and pita bread, and you can get Sam's special garlic sauce with anything.

I was fortunate in sampling Chicken Shawarma, Beef Kabob and a Chicken Kabob Wrap - and in having lots of leftovers to take home.

Chicken Shawarma ($9.98): This is marinated and spiced slices of chicken, stacked on a spit and "timely" grilled against an open fire. Mine came with rice, hummus and a salad of sliced lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes. With it I received the Sam's special low calorie dressing on the side (oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper), garlic sauce - and, just so I'd know what it tasted like, a side of Mutabbal, which is eggplant mixed with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and spices.

This heavenly dish could, indeed, fill two people, with the generous portion of mild white rice and a huge mound of tender, flavorful chicken. The creamy, tangy hummus contrasted nicely with this, and the cool, fresh salad gave everything a light and healthy touch, hardly needing the mild and refreshing dressing. With pita bread this was a wonderful meal that the garlic sauce brought to an even higher level. And the Mutabbal? Oh my. This "sauce" was so rich and different and flavorful, I could eat it with a spoon, but, instead, occasionally substituted it for the hummus.

Chicken Kabob Wrap ($6.99): Large kabob-style pieces of tender chicken, marinated with herbs and spices, are wrapped up with the lettuce, cucumber and tomato salad into a neat and easy to handle package, to which you can add the garlic sauce or dressing, as desired. This is a filling, yet light and wonderful meal at a great price.

Beef Kabob ($11.98): Boneless pieces of beef are marinated with herbs and spices and cooked kabob-style and laid on a bed of rice or French fries. With this you get the salad, hummus and a roasted tomato and jalapeno chili. There's pita bread, of course, plus garlic sauce and salad dressing as needed.

Being a beef-lover this was my favorite dish, and the meat was perfectly done: tender, juicy and savory. The tomato complemented the meat well, and the pepper, used sparingly, added some fire. I had the fries, which were crispy outside and tender inside.

The day after my interview at Sam's I'm still enjoying my leftovers as I write this.

Sometimes, it's good to be me.

I'm sure you'll be passing a Sam's Flaming Grill soon, so stop in, have a taste and feel the love. You'll be glad you did.

The Newhall location of Sam's Flaming Grill is 24802 Orchard Village Road, Newhall, CA 91321. The phone number is (661) 222-9060. The Canyon Country restaurant is at 19433 Soledad Canyon Road - (661) 298-0115; the Valencia Sam's is at 25347 Wayne Mills Place - (661) 254-2154; and the Saugus restaurant is at 22880 Copper Hill Drive - (661) 296-0103. All four Sam's Flaming Grills have the same menu and the same hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. You can dine in or take out, and catering is available for any size group.

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