Sam's Sushi is apparently a Nashville touristy thing that I had never been to until today. It used to be in the Arcade, an outdoor collection of various local shops and restaurants, all of which close by 5P, because hey, it's downtown Nashville and everything good closes there around that time, unless we're talking about the honky-tonks and the Big River Grille. Three had been to Sam's back a few years ago, and for some reason was all, "Hey, let's go to Sam's. He's kind of a douche."
I guessed it was along the same lines of Dick's, the restaurant where the servers are supposed to be assholes to you. I've never really understood the appeal, unless it's from the server's perspective, but then again, I don't really understand the appeal of dominatrices, either. More power to ya, I guess, but that's another topic for another person's blog. Anyway, according to local lore, if you go in and expect traditional fast service, you'll be ejected by the owner and seemingly only person working in the restaurant: I'm assuming his name is Sam, what with the name of the place being "Sam's," but it could also be Akito or Jiro, for all I know.
We park at the library and walk towards Printer's Alley, which has its own special history (printing business, then strip clubs, and now food and seedy music venues) and I almost miss the door. Right there, posted for all to see on the glass door, is a sign that says, "This is a slow food place. NOT FAST FOOD."
So Three and I go in, and I'm a little apprehensive, as I'm sure Sam prefers I be. The guy behind the counter does not even seem cognizant that we are even there, instead busily piling various ingredients into nori. We take a seat at one of the tables, and seriously, this place is small. Only three tables exist and about five other people are inside, but it is ridiculously crowded. Two of them are eating, and the other three appear to be waiting, but you really can't be sure. We sit down at the only table available and respectfully just look around, since there are no menus and only one bottle of soy sauce (the real kind, not that pansy low-sodium shit) and one bottle of Sriracha sauce. Next to our table is a glass cooler, filled with soft drink cans, and the rest of the drink stock is stacked around the restaurant, like a damned storage facility.
After about fifteen minutes, this group of three comes in and sits at the counter, asking how long the wait is.
"Thirty minutes," Sam says, refusing to look up from his sushi making.
"Can we order and walk around?"
"Forty-five minutes, then."
Instead of getting upset, they laugh and are all, "Sure, sounds good. I want ..."
I shrug my shoulders at Three and hope that I can order soon. My stomach is getting a little growly at this point. The group leaves with smiles on their faces, so I assume all is well.
Finally, he asks us what we want and we timidly (at least I do) approach the counter. He nods at us after our order is complete and we just go back and sit down.
About ten minutes after we order, a family of three comes in, none of them ever having heard of Sam's reputation, and start getting huffy when he hasn't even acknowledged them. They ask us, "Do we just go up there and order or what?"
"He'll let you know," I respond, sipping on my Diet Coke with Lime*.
Then another group of three comes in and sits directly in front of the counter. They start chatting about Ethiopia, which is where one of the girls was from, and Sam was more than eager to tell her about his travels in Africa. He brings us our sushi (and OMG, was there a lot of sushi. I ordered two rolls and could barely finish them), and then goes directly to the group at the counter to make their order, which just pisses off the people at the table. The man looks at me like I'd betrayed him, "I thought you said -"
I cut him off, "Dude, his restaurant, his rules. He'll get to you." I probably sounded like a pro on the place.
The man is not pleased. He starts to get up but, off a look from Sam, he sits back down, grumbling to himself, while his annoyed wife and completely unaware son look at something on the son's iPhone.
And now I'm going to focus on the sushi. It's awesome. It's not the most technically perfect sushi in the world, but that's not really the point. Sam makes it as he wishes and with whatever materials he has on hand, and, well, you'd better deal with it or leave. For four rolls, that were fucking HUGE, we spent less than $15.
But I digress. We get up to pay, delighted by the prices, and Sam looks at us and asks if we've been there before. I respond in the negative, and Three says he was there about two years ago.
Sam says, "So you know nothing, do you?"
I laugh, and Three shoots back good-naturedly, "Well, I guess not."
He then tells us that if we tip him, we're not allowed back, so we didn't tip. But oh, we're so going back. But not because we were abused, like a lot of people have claimed**. It's because we got awesome sushi by a dude who doesn't give two shits if his customers like him or not. He was nice to me, but honestly, I was nice to him and was pretty much like, "Oh, okay, whatever you want to make. But I like eel and avocado, if you want some basic parameters." And Three was just, "I honestly don't know anything."
Also, I want to become a "regular" with whom he talks about politics and celebrity news, but that's just me.
* I love DC w/ Lime. It takes the fake sugar taste and masks it with sweet citrus. NOM.
** Go read the reviews on Yelp. But don't tell Sam that you did so. He doesn't like Yelp.