A Love Letter to the Now-Closed Sam’s Joint in Plainwell
The Sam’s Joint chain of restaurants had the best ranch dressing in the entire state of Michigan... don’t @ me! Having recently moved back to the Allegan-area after years away from home, to say I was excited to enjoy some of my favorite local comfort foods is an understatement. I hit up Corky’s Drive-In in Allegan for an olive burger, the only remaining Hot N’ Now in Sturgis for some popcorn chicken, but you can imagine my disappointment when I learned the Sam’s Joint franchise in Plainwell had closed. Not only that, but it had closed over seven years ago!
If you don’t already know, the now-defunct Sam’s Joint was a small chain of rib shacks across the West Michigan area. Sam Bravata started the first Sam’s Joint in Caledonia in 1977 and in its heyday operated seven locations, from Rockford to Norton Shores to Plainwell. As a child, I distinctly remember celebrating baptisms and birthdays at Sam’s Joint. Any occasion was reason enough to celebrate at Sam’s!
Though they were well-known for their ribs and the electric décor that filled the interior, my favorite part of Sam’s Joint by far was their ranch dressing. Listen, I’m by no means a ranch fanatic and I don’t need to put it on everything however, there was something special about the extra-creamy, smooth, buttermilk goodness that made up Sam’s ranch dressing. My family still raves about it to this day!
I don’t know what kind of magic they were doing back in that kitchen, but just thinking about that dressing now makes my mouth start to salivate. Forget Klondike bars- what wouldn’t I do for a bottle of Sam’s Joint ranch dressing! Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there was a time where you could buy it on store shelves in West Michigan.
Sadly, in 2012 Sam started to sell off his Joints and by 2014 all seven locations had closed, including the Plainwell restaurant. Thankfully, after auctioning off the former properties, new developers have begun to remodel and bring life back into the former eateries. I’d especially hate to see the Plainwell property sit vacant as it’s got a unique history, having been used in the Underground Railroad and is reportedly haunted!
Did your family ever celebrate any special occasions at Sam’s Joint?
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