Sammy's Wild Game Grill: Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

In this week's cafe review of Sammy's Wild Game Grill, the new wild game hot dog-and-hamburger spot off Washington, we examine the idea that all artists borrow -- and the great ones steal. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

A lot of Houston diners didn't see it that way, however, when Sammy's opened. Its menu, at first, looked somewhat familiar to fans of Moon Tower Inn. Both places served wild game meat-based hot dogs. Both places served them in Slow Dough buns.

But that's where the similarities end.

Sammy's offers a much wider selection of food and sides -- including hamburgers and elk chili fries that I'm a big fan of -- and most importantly, it has own distinct atmosphere. After all, the all-outdoor, grown-ups-gone-camping vibe was one of the most striking and important aspects of Moon Tower Inn, which is currently closed for remodeling.

And even if you think the two restaurants' menus are too close for comfort, does it really matter?

Dolce Vita is perhaps Houston's most successful example of a restaurant that "borrowed" a menu -- nearly part and parcel -- from an already established restaurant. In this case, owner and chef Marco Wiles's menu was heavily influenced by Mario Batali's Otto in Manhattan. This co-opting has never hurt Dolce Vita; rather, Houstonians have more or less embraced the restaurant for bringing better pizza to our city.

More topically, it was suggested when Moon Tower Inn opened up that it had borrowed its entire wild game hot dog idea from Hot Doug's in Chicago. The point being that no ideas are original anymore; everyone borrows -- or steals -- whether they know it or not.

Get acquainted with Sammy's while MTI is closed. Lack of craft beers aside, you might be surprised at how much you like it.

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