Southern revival: Sam's Kitchen returns... unchanged

Sam Jean is proof you can't keep a good restaurant man down. After opening in 1994 in the old Howard Johnson on The Corner (now the Red Roof Inn) and then moving to the old Hoo's Kitchen spot on Emmet Street (now the Cavalier Diner), in 2000, an attic fire claimed most of his restaurant. But he re-opened (proudly displaying framed photos of the fire on the wall) and remained a fixture on Emmet Street for working people and UVA students with cheap Southern-style eats and all-day breakfast, the kind of place politicians like to visit, as Jim Gilmore (R) did when he went after John Warner's (R) senate seat in 2008.

That same year, with his wife suffering an illness, Jean sold the business, with the idea of retiring, and the space became the Cavalier Diner.

"But I couldn't stay away," says Jean, who now plans to re-open famed Sam's Kitchen in the old Amigo's/El Vaquero space in the Woodbrook Shopping Center across from Lowe's on 29 North.

"I missed the business, missed my customers," says Jean. "And it's the only thing I've ever known. I've been working in restaurants since I was 12."

Originally from China, Jean first moved to Canada to work in a relative's restaurant, and then after some time in New York City, where he met his wife and became a US citizen, his family moved to Charlottesville.

Jean says he's completely renovating the space, and that there is still "a lot of work to do," but predicts they could be open as soon as October 8.

And get this: Jean says the new Sam's Kitchen will be exactly the same.

"We'll have the same exact menu, even the same employees," says Jean.

Indeed, cook Dorothy Glascoe, who Jean calls a master of Southern cooking, will be back in the newly renovated kitchen.

"We've always had such loyal customers," says Jean. "Ones that kept coming back for years. I'm excited to be welcoming them back again."

Read more on: Sam's Kitchen


Yay! We need another good breakfast spot.

Sam is a good man, and the Cav Diner is not nearly as good as Sam's Kitchen was. Harold was a fixture at his restaurant and glad to see him back at work bussing tables and singing while he works.

We completely agree with Dawg that places where you can sit down and eat breakfast (excluding fast food) are very few and far between in the Charlottesville area. These small places are small and stay crowded due to the lack of choices/locations. We miss Golden Corral's breakfast. However, we enjoyed eating breakfast at Sam's Kitchen at their previous location. We look forward to eating breakfast at their new location soon!

good luck, i look forward to being kind-a-sorta neighbors, you in woodbrook, my Ice Cream shop in albemarle square. I would say a very good compliment to each other, good southern cooking with great homemade ice cream.
again, good luck with your new/old shop, I will be in for some good home cooking.
see you soon,

In 2008, Senator John Warner (R) retired, leaving Jim Gilmore (R) to square off against Mark Warner (D) for the vacant seat.

Good business Vibrations seem to be happening over the c-ville way .

Lots of good news on start-ups

Nice to hear

Good Luck...Looking forward to a good homemade breakfast. See you soon Sam

Sam Jean looks like he is aging in reverse! I think the guy is in his 80's. Amazing. Best wishes to the old gang.

Wonderbread toast with margarine, greasy eggs, watery coffee. But Sam's geniality trumped all of that.

YAY!! We used to go ever weekend morning for breakfast - so glad to see him back in business! Great service, great people!