While eating Syrian fries and fried codfish at Sam s Place in Blakeslee, Ohio, I read the sign over the bar several times before coming to the conclusion that it is accurate. The sign reads: There s no place just like this place, anywhere near this place, so this must be the place.
As they say, I have been around the block a few times and I have yet to see a place like Sam s, near there or anywhere else. It s one of a kind. So is Blakeslee, for that matter. The sign announcing you have arrived identifies the hospitality and size with A half mile of smile. Blakeslee is in Williams Country, about 10 miles northwest of Bryan.
I usually sit at the bar at Sam s because I am alone and like to watch the fast-paced action of the staff, from the kitchen through the dining rooms. More people are served each night than live in Blakeslee, and it s been that way since the late Sam Mohre opened his place in 1922.
Syrian fries are fresh fried potato chips and take the name from the heritage of the Mohre family. As I tried valiantly to eat through to the bottom of the high mound of chips, I kept wondering if a Sam s Place would work anywhere else. I decided, probably not. Sam s is as much a part of Blakeslee as the street lights and has a lot to do with the promise of a half-mile of smile.
If I ever go there and am handed a menu, I would either cry or walk out in disappointment. At Sam s we don t mind straining our eyes to read the blackboard on the wall. We don t expect linens and highfalutin dishes that fall under the heading of gourmet. At Sam s those potatoes are gourmet enough, and so are the Mosehoppers. The ice cream drink is the invention of Mose Mohre, Sam s son, who has passed the business to his son, Randy Mohre. Many years ago Mose called and said Gourmet magazine wanted his recipe for the drink. Should he give it to them? Absolutely not, was my advice.
I doubt that the restaurant has ever been open without a Mohre on the premises. I am never sure if I make the drive to Sam s to renew faith in family unity, or for the potatoes and a Mosehopper.
You are always bound to meet someone you know at Sam s. On this visit it was Ross Taylor, editor of the Archbold Buckeye newspaper, who took the only empty seat in the place next to me. He was with Ward Stuckey. Mr. Stuckey thought he was retired when he gave up the furniture business in Bryan, but changed his mind and began a new career selling advertising for the Buckeye.
Mr. Taylor said he worries about women traveling alone at night. I have to admit that I had a few fast heartbeats when I made the wrong turn and wandered on dark country roads for a half hour or so. But I recovered and that s what is important. That day I had driven from Toledo to Pulaski, Ohio, to Bryan and then to Blakeslee with no mishaps.
But why does anyone ever go to Pulaski unless they live there? My timing to pick up alterations at Eileen Campbell s was perfect. I wanted to find out if she was getting a head start on changing her clocks last weekend. The last time I mentioned Mrs. Campbell s clocks in this column, she only had 60. Now she has 106. People just keep giving them to me, she said. But I happen to know she also buys a few.
When I opened the mail that night after returning home there was a package with no return address. It contained a book, Ella in Europe, an American Dog s International Adventures by Michael Konik, and a letter from a reader thanking me for my columns. She said she is afraid to travel alone or even go into most restaurants alone, and so she is fascinated with my tales and travels and admires my courage. She did not sign her letter, so to her, whoever and wherever she is, and to other single women, my advice is: Just do it. Don t be afraid or shy to go places alone. Be careful, of course, but don t stay home by the fire and wish you were on the road.