Sammy’s Steaks

Sammy’s Steaks was a pretty popular sandwich joint that was founded in 1946. The “Original” shop was at 12th and Buttonwood Sts. While under family ownership they sliced their own meats from fresh formed ribeyes and NEVER used anything but; unlike the emulsified meat that most others use today. They also made their own sauce from a recipe that the founder developed. The last “Original” Sammy’s was on Rockland St along side of Turkey Hill. That closed in 2006.

There were many other locations throughout Reading over the years…10th & Chestnut, 6th& Chestnut, 9th & Douglass, Lancaster Ave, Schuylkill Ave, 12th & Pike(later known as Mom’s Alberts Spaghetti House); a sandwich shop that sold pizza…not a pizza shop that sold sandwiches.

Sammy’s Steak’s three locations are pictured below in 1975; Penn Avenue in West Lawn, 5th Street in Muhlenberg and 12th Street in Reading.

Sammy's Steaks
12th Street Reading Location 1975

Sammy’s specialized in steaks but also made just about any type of hoagie. The 5th Street location is wedged between 5th Street and Fairview Street, just across from the Muhlenberg Township Building.

Sammy's Steaks
5th Street location 1975
Sammy's Steaks
West Lawn location 1975

The West Lawn location eventually became Speedy’s Sandwich Shop, which operated up until a few years ago. It was recently razed, and the only remaining trace is the sign, still standing.

From Berks Nostalgia’s instagram

Google Street View 2020, same view as above

Sammy’s is still around, but goes under the name Chicken Surpreme and is located in West Reading on Penn Ave. You will also frequently see their food truck at any Berks County fair or outdoor event.

5th Street Location today – Google Street View

Born and raised in Berks, I am fascinated by the style, design & culture of the mid-late 20th century. I started this website to research and build a collection of the places, things and stories I have heard about my entire life. Read more here.

18 Replies to “Sammy’s Steaks”

  1. Their cheesesteak was a good sandwich in the early days, but the quality deteriorated after more competition and more demand appeared. Maybe a change of ownership/management? Steak sandwiches were “mass-produced”, and there was always a huge pile of pre-cooked steak at the back of the grill, Sometimes the ingredients did not seem to be fresh. Other sandwich shops made their steak sandwiches fresh, and they cooked the meat in front of you. I do recall that they served a pretty decent Italian sandwich.

  2. Thank you for all the comments. The “Original” shop was at 12th and Buttonwood Sts., not 10th&Buttonwood. While under family ownership we sliced our own meats from fresh formed ribeyes and NEVER used anything but, not like the emulsified meat that most others use today. We also made our own sauce from a recipe that my father developed and passed on to me. The last “Original” Sammy’s was on Rockland St along side of Turkey Hill. That closed in 2006. There many other locations throughout Reading over the years…10th&Chestnut, 6th& Chestnut, 9th&Douglass, Lancaster Ave, Schuylkill Ave, 12th&Pike(later known as Mom’s Alberts Spaghetti House. We were a sandwich shop that sold pizza…not a pizza shop that sold sandwiches. Great memories and many great friendships and customers over the 60 years that the my father (Sammy), Uncle Joe, Uncle Tony, and I owned it. Thank you Berks County!! It was great!!

  3. Thanks for chiming in Sam! If you don’t mind I’ll add some of that info to the article. Check out our Facebook page if you want to see more people loving on Sammy’s, many have fond memories!

  4. Thank you Alexa…I was very proud to continue a Berks County legacy that my father started in 1946!!! I sold the “business” in 2006 and have since pursued another calling. I started acquiring the business in 1974 it provided me with many great memories and lasting friendships. Berks County people were the most loyal and kind people anywhere. Thank you for your article and bringing back my greatest life memories.

  5. I saw it and again thank you for bringing back so many good memories…we had 9 sandwich shops over the years and each one was a “neighborhood” store…then there was the many many fairs and carnivals that we were at with our French Fry and Steak Sandwich trailers. Oh they were great times….I miss them. Thanks again!!!

  6. I loved the smell of the onions that big piles were being cooked up they would put a lot on your steak I will never forget the taste an smell growing up in Hyde park

  7. I grew up 50 ft from Sammys 12th and buttonwood. Knew Sammy, a curly haired short little guy with a big black mustache. He looked like an Italian guy straight from central casting. He even had an accent! I used to watch the automatic meat slicing machine cutting thin slices of rib roast meat ,then fried on the grill and stacked high on the back of the big grill along side of the mountain of cooked onions. I went to 12th and Buttonwood grade school across the street and once a week my Grandmother would give me $.35 to buy a cheesesteak for lunch hour from school, an Italian sandwich cost $.25, circa 1956.

  8. Remember very well. Sometimes my parents would stop there on our way home from bowling. Loved their steak sandwiches.

  9. Thanks so much for keeping the memory of Sammy’s Steaks – 12th and Buttonwood – alive.

    My uncle – my father’s eldest brother – would take me to the shop now and then when I was very young and lucky enough to be so indulged.

    The entire experience – from start to finish – was a bit of heaven-on-earth for me.

    From one’s entrance – (as I recall there was a bell that would ring upon entrance?) – to the placement of the order – while a fellow was likely in the background attending to the grill – very busy frying onions and steaks and melting cheese – to the request for specifications for one’s order – (soft roll? sauce? extra-cheese? etc.) to the finishing touch ‘roll-up’ in the white-translucent paper – the great lunchtime treat travel to Sammy’s Steaks at 12th and Buttonwood was incomparable.

    Thanks again for escorting those of us who could experience the shop firsthand down ‘Memory Lane.’

  10. I lived a half-block from the 12th and Buttonwood store for over 30 years. Our family ate so many sandwiches over the years. They were so good. So were the little pizzas they made. My brother’s favorite was the meatball sandwich or the plain chees Italian. For me, it was always a large cheesesteak, double extra cheese (provolone), hard roll with peppers. Cheesesteak, Tastykake and Coke. Sammy’s was one of the institutions that made growing up in Berks County so wonderful.

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