I still miss Sam's Joint.

It's been about 10 years since the Michigan-based chain of rib shacks closed their doors for good, leaving a barbecue sauce bottle-sized void in my soul that no one has been able to fill since.

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If Sam's Joint was before your time or you're new to West Michigan, let me catch you up to speed. At the peak of his powers Sam Bravata owned and operated a chain of seven restaurants throughout the area.

Bravata started the first Sam's Joint in 1977 in Caledonia but the chain soon grew to include Rockford, Hastings, Plainwell-- and beyond! As a kid I remember marking several occasions, everything from baptisms to birthdays, at Sam's Joint. Any occasion was reason enough to celebrate at Sam’s!

It's also worth noting that Sam's Joint had the best ranch dressing I've ever had in my entire life. I've been searching for a Sam's Joint ranch equivalent since the restaurants closed in 2014 and I still haven't found anything that even comes close to Sam's. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there was a time where you could buy it on store shelves in West Michigan-- or the barbecue sauce at the very least.

Lauren Gordon/TSM
Sam's Joint - Plainwell (Lauren Gordon/TSM)

So Long, Sam!

Sadly, in 2012 Sam started to sell off his Joints and by 2014 all seven locations had closed, including the nearby Plainwell restaurant.

Trace Antcliff via Facebook Marketplace
Trace Antcliff via Facebook Marketplace

Although Sam Joint is gone, it's not forgotten! It seems a piece of Sam's history still lives as I recently saw this listing on Facebook Marketplace for several frames of stained glass that reportedly once adorned one of the restaurants. Seller Trace Antcliff simply writes:

Right out of Sams Joint in Alto, cool piece of history…

If you remember the interior of Sam's restaurants were decked out in taxidermy, antique sports equipment, and ton and tons of stained glass. Although seller Trace Antcliff doesn't expand into too much detail about the stained glass' specifics, he had me at "Sam's Joint."

Stained glass from Sam's Joint? $350. Countless memories made at Sam's Joint? Priceless.

Trace Antcliff via Facebook Marketplace
Trace Antcliff via Facebook Marketplace

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