1 Welcome home, please seat yourself
... is what you’ll see at first glance in this homey Pleasantville establishment. Samuel Hunter founded Sam’s Rialto Grill in 1983 to serve traditional BBQ, breakfast and seafood with a spice of southern flare. For many locals passing through this small city, they do consider this place like home as they enter and are greeted with warm smiles from Owner Brenda Hunter, widow of Sam Hunter.
2 Sam wanted to leave a legacy.
Sam Hunter, who died in 2007, learned the ins-and-outs of cooking from his mother and moved to Atlantic City from Virginia at the age of 17 to work as a dishwasher at the old Zaberer’s Restaurant in Egg Harbor Township. After years of working through the ranks, he was named head chef at Zaberer’s in the ’70s while also owning a bar called Bellport Inn in A.C. Hunter closed Bellport to put all his focus on Sam’s, which is now run by Brenda Hunter and their son Jake Hunter.
3 It’s mostly a Pleasantville congregation.
Actually, Brenda Hunter said she has customers come all the way from Hammonton on a regular basis — mainly for their weekly special on chicken wings and fries for $5. It’s either that, or the $10 bucket of chicken wings offered on Tuesdays versus the regular price of $15. All the food is cooked with heart and seasoned to perfection, such as the fish ’n shrimp combo ($14), Cajun catfish ($14), the popular chicken and waffles ($8 to $12) and pork spare ribs ($12).
4 Smooth jazz flows through your ears.
Sam Hunter wanted the music and ambiance to match the food. And what better way to do that then with old southern funk jams and classic R&B songs from the ’90s? Gil Lewis Jazz Trio plays in the back corner of the restaurant 6 p.m. every Tuesday. DJ Bowe and DJ Able spin current hip-hop and R&B tracks Fridays and Saturdays. Saturday is also considered crab night from 4 p.m. to close — or until the kitchen sells out — featuring Dungeness, blue crab and snow crabs.
5 Recap your experience at the bar.
Happy hour runs 4 to 7 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, featuring $5 Long Island Iced Teas, $5 Malibu drinks and 50 cents off regular-priced drinks — which are usually no more than $8. Seriously good bar bites that come in decent portions include chicken tenders, nachos, cheeseburger sliders, gizzards and crab cakes ($5 each). Now that we are heading into prime-time sports season, tune into one of their three TVs at the bar while drinking $2.50 beers on tap or a mixed drink starting at $4.
OWNER(S): Brenda and Jake Hunter
OPENED: Oct. 1983
EVOLUTION: Brenda Hunter said her late husband Sam wanted to have a successful black-owned business in a black community and, at the same time, not limit his customer-base to one type of community and make anyone feel comfortable inside.
WHERE: 18 S. Main Street, Pleasantville
WHEN: 10 a.m. to midnight Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays, 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays, and 8 a.m. to midnight Sundays. Kitchen closes one hour earlier.
HOW BIG: About 100
WHAT TO WEAR: Very casual, comfortable attire
WHAT YOU’LL HEAR: Live or overhead jazz and classic R&B
WHO’S THERE: Older, sophisticated crowd and locals
HOW MUCH: No cover charge. Mixed drinks $4 to $8, beers $2 to $5, entrees $8 to $15, appetizers and sides $3 to $8
MORE INFO: 609-646-5128 or SamsBarandGrill.com.