Samuel Horne’s Tavern
719 Sutter Street – Folsom
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. Most of you readers will recognize that line from the theme song to Cheers, and Samuel Horne’s Tavern, although I’d never been before, has that same welcoming, cozy and low-key vibe as the famed sitcom Boston bar. But Samuel Horne’s beer game is strong—clearly craft beers are their focus although they also have a full bar and serve great food. Situated on Sutter street in Folsom, an already old-timey location with rows of Gold Rush-era historic buildings, Samuel Horne’s Tavern nails it with their beer list and gives even a new customer that second-home feeling.
At the end of this month, Samuel Horne’s celebrates its fifth anniversary, and has planned a five-day celebration chock-full of beer-centric events (at the bottom of this page). Judging by the great experience I had there, Sam Horne’s is here to stay, and well worth the trip.
Before even entering the tavern, I was in love with the atmosphere surrounding it. I’ve never ventured to Old Folsom before, and I was gushing to photographer Liz about how freaking rad it is. Once inside, they had me hook, line and sinker.
There are brown leather booths lining the side walls, and two high tops that seat six apiece down the middle. There are only three stools along the wooden bar that butts up against the kitchen at the back. The decor feels homey, like an old world tavern. On the side wall by the bar, each beer has its own square chalkboard sign, listing the beer name, place of origin, ABV percentage and a spectrum of how pale, malty and hoppy the beer is. Other signage throughout the tavern describes “How to Enjoy Your Beer Without Being a Beer Snob,” and explains how seating and ordering works.
The bartender was a cool brunette named Bri who was helpful, informative, to the point and had a good sense of humor coupled with a twinkle in her eye. Her business card said “RHBOW” as her title. I asked her what that meant, to which she replied, “We had a bad review on yelp once, and I used to be a redhead, and they called me ‘Red-headed Bitch on Wheels.’”
It was difficult to decide what to order, because everything from the food to the beer looked amazing. We finally decided on the bartender-recommended Cootie Burger, which has pepperjack cheese, raw spinach, serrano aioli and fiery roasted serrano chilies, all topped with an over-easy egg. It was served with perfectly crisp, slightly greasy and plenty salty shoestring fries. We also got the mac and cheese with jalapeño bacon, and a soft pretzel with basil aioli, garlic aioli, lemon aioli and pub cheese dipping sauces. To drink, we had the Old Republic Frontier from Nevada City, an ale on the pale and malty side; the Lagunitas Born Yesterday fresh hop IPA from Petaluma; and two shots of tequila (the finest well variety), always a good jump start to a girl’s night out.
Old Republic’s Frontier is a smooth, mellow ale with distinguishable yet not overpowering hoppy and malty notes. Lagunitas’ Born Yesterday is in-your-face hoppy and sweet, and was akin to drinking a wet bag of nugs—like some good ass weed, not bammer shit.
The gluttonous Cootie Burger was medium rare, and the drippy fried egg oozed down the salty assemblage. The mac and cheese with added jalapeño bacon was gratuitously delicious, and the pretzel was cooked perfectly and livened up to gourmet status by the accompanying dips.
I was duly impressed with the food; but most of all, the energy of the place and the beer is what really sold me and will keep me going back.
Behind the bar, the “Buy a Pal a Pint” chalkboard hangs, listing the names of people for whom someone has paid it forward and shelled out for a friend to enjoy a beer on them. Explains owner Dylan Mauro, “People love it, they love to see their names up there, and if someone buys them a beer, they love buying a beer for someone else. It’s something that works in with what the feel of the whole place is about.”
Just about every week, Sam’s hosts some kind of event focused on a different brewery. A representative might come and feature a few different local beers, encouraging customers to try something new. Whenever possible, a charity benefits from these events, something that furthers the feel-good nature of the tavern.
In spite of its charm and super tight location, Sam’s went through some tough times. “We went through the whole revitalization of historic Folsom, and that was a huge challenge,” Mauro says. “It was tough to get down here, and that kind of turned people off. Then the way that a tavern runs, too—no table service. It takes our clientele getting used to, it’s not the norm in the United States. You can finish your food and don’t have to leave; we’re not turning over tables like a traditional restaurant.”
Mauro weighs in on why he opened up shop, and what it means to be celebrating Sam Horne’s fifth year. “The idea was to have it be based on a European home-away-from-home kind of feel. I’ve always been in the beer business, and this was something that I’d always wanted to do. The timing was right; I started it up at the newest wave of craft beer taking off. The people that come here are anyone looking for that kind of atmosphere. It’s attractive to the younger crowd who wants to have quality beer and hang out, but we get a more mature clientele too because they don’t have to deal with loud music and people getting crazy. Our passion is for local craft beers. For our fifth anniversary, we want to say thanks to the people that have gotten us here.”
5 ways to celebrate Sam Horne’s big 5
Sunday, Nov. 30
Sam Horne’s bartenders will compile a list of their favorite cocktails and a dollar from each one sold will benefit the Folsom Cordova Partnership charity.
Monday, Dec. 1
Sam Horne’s love those who love great beer, so bring in a receipt from another local beer joint and they will give you 10 percent off your bill.
Tuesday, Dec. 2
BBQ Appreciation Day. Regulars, locals, brewery folks, distributor folks—everyone is welcome to enjoy some BBQ.
Wednesday, Dec. 3
Sam’s trivia with trivia about Sam’s, with awesome prizes.
Thursday, Dec. 4
Sam’s big blowout!!! Guest bartenders (carefully chosen from a list of past employees), will pour rare, specialty beers that Sam’s has squirrelled away, as well as some local beers Sam’s staff brewed together.