The 1024 East Pike Street address that previously housed Chino’s will reopen at the end of the year as Sam’s Tavern, a casual burger bar. A particular subset of local restaurant geeks will tell you that the name pays homage to the original Red Robin location near the University Bridge. The purveyor of Rookie Magic shakes and bottomless fries started life as Sam’s Tavern, then Sam’s Red Robin. 

Owner James Snyder is the son and the nephew of the first two Red Robin franchisees. And when I called to ask him about his project, I confess I couldn’t get that family-friendly, giant red bird vibe out of my mind…until he told me that his tavern will most decidedly “fit the culture that’s on Pike Street right now.” A culture typified by neighbors like Big Mario’s

I still didn't get it. “But that’s where I go late night, drunk, for pizza.”

Snyder laughed. “That’d work for me.” 

Point taken, Sam’s won’t be a fancy-pants burger bar; the menu will be simple, says Snyder, but well executed. The only thing firmly decided about the bar menu is that cans of Rainier will come with a koozie. While Snyder is big on fast, consistent service, he won’t have actual servers. Customers place their order with the bartender, then go grab a seat in the custom chairs Snyder is having built. 

Happy side note: He is, in fact, hoping to do bottomless fries.

Snyder is bedecking the space in wood reclaimed from an old cold storage facility, and plans to open softly just before the new year, then for real on January 2. Capitol Hill Seattle blog has an account of how Snyder landed in this space, and you can follow Sam’s Tavern on Facebook for updates and such.