Feast Your Eyes is a photo-driven introduction to an East Bay restaurant that’s been open for at least one year. We hope these stories will inspire you to check out these eateries for the first time, or remind you to visit again. If you have a recommendation for a restaurant we should feature, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In Albany, there’s a diner in a log cabin that looks almost as if it were out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. The breakfast and lunch at Sam’s Log Cabin has been winning over the hungry stomachs of locals for about two decades, but the building’s history goes back much further.
Built in 1930, the cabin was a prefab ordered from a Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog. The building changed hands multiple times, at one point operating as a speakeasy and later as an off-track betting den for horse race bookies.
Co-owner Rhasaan Fernandez is a Bay Area native and veteran restaurateur who’s been cooking for more than 20 years, including as a sous chef at Gather in Berkeley, and running his own catering business and food cart called Boffo Cart. Eight years ago, he and business partner Mike Daillak, a former full-time musician, took the diner under their wing from Scott Shumaker, the original owner. Shumaker opened the diner with his wife Carol in the late ’90s, naming the place after their son Sam. Over the years, Sam’s became a favorite locals spot for breakfast and brunch, and Fernandez and Daillak have upheld its reputation, while putting their own stamp on the place, too.
Fernandez, who’s taken a backseat role at Sam’s in recent years to focus on Boffo Cart, designed the menu with local farmers in mind. The food at Sam’s is made with mostly organic and locally sourced ingredients, with produce from County Line Harvest in Marin, Heirloom Organic Gardens in Hollister and Dirty Girl Produce in Santa Cruz. Its applewood smoked bacon comes from Hobbs in Richmond.
“We wanted to do something that could fit into the standard breakfast and brunch theme as well as bring in more interesting stuff,” says Daillak.
Popular dishes on Sam’s breakfast menu include the chilaquiles with house-made tortilla chips ($12); free-foraged pork sourced from Rancho Llano Seco in Chico, with braised collard greens and house-made cornbread ($12); and a rotating daily pancake special with seasonal fruit (a recent iteration was strawberry and mango) ($11). The lunch menu features a fried chicken sandwich ($13) and a lake trout sandwich on Acme bread ($13).
Along with offering hearty, soul-replenishing dishes made from scratch, the two owners strive to make Sam’s a real community space. Behind the homey log walls and lace curtains, diners will find local art on the walls, and, more recently, a poster in memory of Nia Wilson. Daillak and Fernandez are in the midst of expanding Sam’s kitchen and renovating the outside area. Within a year, they hope, their backyard will have more tables and live music on the regular.
“We’ve built a community around [Sam’s]. We’re really laid back, and with the people working here we’ve really spread out into the community,” says Daillak. “This place is so homey, too. The unique vibe of the cabin lends itself well to that.”
Be warned, there is almost always a long line for a table, especially on weekends. Luckily, Sam’s has a new back patio area where folks can sip coffee after putting their names on the waitlist.
Sam’s Log Cabin is open for breakfast and lunch, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations and only accepts parties of five or fewer on weekends.