Sam’s at the Cove
2001 Lakeshore Drive
Old Hickory, TN 37138
Mon – Thur: 11A – 11P
Fri – Sat: 11A – 12A
Sun: 11A – 9P
I told you at the beginning of this journey we would not review only high-end restaurants, but would do our best to bring you the best we could find. Sam’s at the Cove is one such place. Sam’s at the Cove is part of the Sam’s Sports Grill empire they have four Nashville-area locations, as well as two locations in Alabama.
It’s not too often you can visit a restaurant or sports bar in Nashville and feel like you’re on vacation, but you can definitely do that at Sam’s. It sits on the water – literally, it’s a floating restaurant and bar – at Old Hickory Marina in the town formerly known as Lakewood (i.e. Old Hickory). You may remember it as The Black Pearl @ Blackjack Cove, a restaurant known primarily for its suspect service and secondarily for its good food. Well, I’m pleased to say the service at Sam’s is just as good as the food, which, incidentally, is fantastic. In fact, it’s been voted Best Sports Bar for 12 YEARS IN A ROW by the readers of the Nashville Scene. They also feature a gluten free menu, loaded with tasty selections, which makes Michelle very happy.
You can visit Sam’s via land or sea (okay, it’s just a lake, but it’s nice to pretend), but either way, you enter by walking down the dock to see the hostess. From there, you can sit outside, inside, or in a room that doubles as both. Technically, it’s indoor seating, but the walls/windows roll up to pretty much make it outdoor seating. We usually prefer this room, as it’s non-smoking, just as if you were seated indoors. In other words, it’s the best of both worlds.
No matter your seating preference, you will have a great view of one of the many flat-panel TVs at Sam’s. We tend to visit Sam’s on the weekends, so there is usually a wide array of sports from which to choose. We’ve been a few times since football season started, and the games are always on when we are there.
The atmosphere is as you would suspect, given that it’s a sports bar on the lake. It’s high-energy and fun. You feel like you’re at the beach, and the mood is festive. I will say, however, it’s okay to go there with the entire family. I’ve never encountered anyone there who was out-of-line and/or over-served, and only once have I heard what you would call “colorful” language. We have been several times in large groups with 6-8 children, and the servers have always been able to handle our group with little or no trouble.
The theme is understandably nautical, and there is lots of wood. It feels right, and you will feel at home. There is also a Ship’s Store, just in case you want a t-shirt or koozie, among other things.
Happy Hour typically lasts until 7:00PM, which includes half-price drafts and $1 off frozen margaritas. It likely includes other things as well, but we’ve never thought to ask! The frozen margaritas are excellent, and the draft beer selection is ample. They also feature many bottled beers and a full bar if your tastes run toward distilled spirits.
But what about the food? It’s actually some of the best we’ve had, and I don’t say that lightly. We’ve tried several items, and they have all been excellent. On our most recent visit, Michelle had the Nachos Grande, I had the fish tacos, and David had a cheeseburger with fries.
The Nachos Grande are gluten free, and can be served with pulled pork, or chicken, or chili. Michelle opted for the chili, and I highly recommend it. There is plenty of melted cheese, fresh jalapeños, lettuce, tomatoes, and, yes, chili. I would suggest you split this dish with someone else, as it’s quite large. And whomever you split it with will become your new best friend, presuming they were not already.
The fish tacos can be ordered lightly-battered, grilled, or blackened. I went with the blackened, and I was not disappointed. The flavor was fantastic, and the spicy (spicy, not HOT) slaw that comes on the tacos was the perfect complement. When you order the fish tacos – at lunch, anyway – you get to choose a side. I suggest you try the black beans and rice. It is slightly sweet, but not over the top. It goes very well with the haute flavor of the fish tacos.
David’s cheeseburger was among the best I’ve had, and yes, I tasted everyone’s food that day! I have to try it so that I can write about it, don’t I? At any rate, the burger had a nice, simple grilled flavor, and it was cooked to perfection, which, in this case meant “medium”. The accompanying fries were excellent as well. If you’re a fan of crinkle fries, you’re going to be disappointed. They don’t serve crinkle fries. The fries are excellent, however, with just the right amount of seasoning. I think you’ll like them.
This was a lunch visit, so we just had tea and soda to drink. With tax and tip, the visit totaled $32.00. Not too bad when you consider we fed three people; fantastic given that David had a “grown up” meal and not a Kid’s Meal.
The one item we did not have, but usually do, is the Trio Dip. It’s gluten free, and it comes with tortilla chips (refills if needed) and features three dips, ergo the name. The dips are smoked trout (my favorite), guacamole, and pimento cheese. The pimento cheese is my least favorite, not because it’s not good, but because I’m not a huge fan of the pimento. Michelle says it’s really good, so there’s that. The guacamole is fantastic, with a hint of lime. You’ll love it. But the reason to order this appetizer is the smoked trout dip. It has a nice touch of garlic, but isn’t over-powering, and the flavor is spot on. Stop what you’re doing, go to Sam’s, and order this dip…now. You won’t regret it.