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 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.
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.
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.
Wasn’t there Sammy’s on N.12th st in Reading?
I think 10th and Buttonwood or thereabouts
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.
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!!
10th and Buttonwood was where the “Stardust” was, going way back. The stardust was Augie Ninfos father of Augies sandwich shop
I was fortunate enough to have a memory of Sammy’s at 12th and Buttonwood. As I remember, it was shortly after my wife and I married back in the early/mid sixties. She from Reading, me from Indiana. I, a southern born hillbilly, she, one of those “Northerners”. She introduced me to the WOP job??? A term familiar to her as a child, but not to me. Naive and unworldly, I blurted out when asked what I wanted, said I want one of those WOP jobs. She immediately shushed me and told me what that meant. I had no idea it was considered a derogatory term. It really shouldn’t be as it only was short for “WITHOUT PAPERS”. alluding to Italian immigrants in country without documents.
The sandwich was wonderful and the memory has stuck with me all these years, now at 79 and wed for 58. I really didn’t care for Reading so much with its row houses and noisy traffic.
Shout out to Mr. Sammy Steak (Albert) and family!!
Some of the best memories of my childhood.
My Uncle Stanley Krafczek lived at 1258 Buttonwood St. Reading, PA and when my parents would occasionally leave me to visit with him on a Saturday for the day – or on a Summer weekday, my uncle would take me to Sammy’s Steaks – down the block but seemed a long way’s travel on foot at about five years of age. My uncle would let me choose any type of steak sandwich. I positively fell in love with the classic cheesesteak.
I loved to watch the cook make the order for us ‘to-go.’ They had swiveling ‘barstools’ at the counter – at which I would sit and watch and wait – enraptured by the cook’s deftness as he cooked up many orders – not just ours!!
I recall that sometimes the onions had been fried ahead of time and ‘sat’ in a delicious, fragrant heap at the back of the grill. The steaks were always fried fresh – right before our eyes. The cheese was placed atop the flash sautéed meat and melted before our eyes, as well. (I recall the ‘steak master’, as I deemed him, would sometimes cover the cheese and steak with a lid – to enhance the cheese melt.) I also seem to recall the cook fellow wore a white style ‘uniform’ and he
had his back turned toward us most of the time as the demand for his fare was great! The fragrances in the shop were heavenly: the steak, the cheese, the sauce, the fresh buns.
The fare was delicious; the staff welcoming.
It was a heavenly place for me – every trip a blessing, every visit always a moment of magic and kindness.
I’ll never forget the experiences!! Thank you for the memories!
And: Thank you original owners, Mr. Sammy and family!!
I was searching for an archived image of the corner store. So fortunate to find it here!!
Thank you for the kind words! So many great memories there and so many great friends were made! My father started a Berks County icon and I was proud to follow in his footsteps. He taught me well. I loved it there and when I hear how many have fond memories it warms my heart! Thanks again Pam for bringing a smile to me tonight!
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!
Oh! And thank you Alexa Freyman for your work! Much appreciated!!!
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.
I tried accessing your FB page…can’t see anything until approved???
I just realized you may need a Facebook account to see anything on Facebook. If you have one and are logged in you should be able to see by following this link:
never mind…wrong page….lol
Great memories ! Thanks for sharing photos, too.
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!!!
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
12 & Butttonwood, Great food ,,Great memories.. Joe Cavalier was awesome!!
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.
Sammy Sr was my Great Uncle and Phil and Helen Albert were my Great Grandparents.
Remember very well. Sometimes my parents would stop there on our way home from bowling. Loved their steak sandwiches.
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.’
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.
I am researching recipes to duplicate the Sammys Steak sauce recipe. Moved to Tennessee and no one down here has any idea of the delisciousness they have missed. Me too! I worked at Sammys 5th street for 2 years and didn’t care about no recipe! Anybody have a clue as to what goes in it?
Nicole, I have been able to come close to duplicating Sammy’s Steak sandwich though nothing can ever equal what they made. Down here in Texas, I buy the frozen packages of Steak-umm. For the sauce, I buy little jars of Great Value pizza sauce at Wal-Mart. I get my rolls from Sam’s club. Those are the only foot-long hard rolls I can find that come close to taste and quality of ATV’s rolls. I used to be able to buy the crushed cherry peppers mix in Texas but those disappeared as more room was made for Hispanic products. I buy the jars of peppers over the internet but it is really expensive (Talerico brand). Fry up some onions and meat with the sauce, pile the mix onto the roll and add lots and lots of provolone cheese. Tastes great. Really brings bake memories.