Neighborhood restaurant cooks up healthy options for the community
Sammy McDowell is the owner of two Sammy’s Avenue Eatery (SAE) shops. The first location is on West Broadway in North Minneapolis. The second is nestled on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis.
“We base our business off of customer service,” said McDowell. But success didn’t happen overnight. “I went to MCTC for business management for two weeks,” McDowell said. “I was like Kanye West, the College Dropout.” But perseverance is key, so he chose to follow his dream and own path.
McDowell is originally from Chicago, Illinois. “I moved here when I was five; grew up in South Minneapolis and went to Henry for high school. Emerson for grade school.”
In 2012, McDowell established his first location on Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis. Several years, later in 2019, the Northeast location opened.
McDowell said, “Our purpose is to really engage with the community in a healthier way.” He emphasized that he doesn’t want to be “surrounded by everything fried.” McDowell is focused on being proactive and plans on incorporating more healthy options.
During our visit, customers stopped by Sammy’s Avenue Eatery on Central Avenue for breakfast and lunch. Patrons were warmly greeted. McDowell placed orders and immediately started cooking.
The neighborhood restaurant has a pleasant and euphoric ambiance. Smooth R&B ballads played in the background as customers browsed the menu and waited for their food. An ambrosial aroma of delicious food filled the air.
Owning and operating a business is hard work, especially if you’re the only one in charge. McDowell handles the administrative side of the business in addition to cooking. Soon, McDowell aspires to hire positive, focused, and driven employees. “We’re looking for help,” he said.
McDowell emphasized how most entrepreneurs are self-taught and self-made. “We go to school and get their view on how to run a business.” As a result, he encourages budding entrepreneurs to gain firsthand knowledge of the industry they are interested in. He encourages individuals to “find a mentor and consider being an intern.”
He added, “Consistency pays off, so you need to get under somebody who is stable. Whatever it is you want to do, the business structure is always the same.”
McDowell developed a love for cooking at a young age. He said, “That was mostly my grandmother. When we were younger, I used to spend summers and weekends with her.” Her exemplary cooking had a profound impact on his culinary skills.
“She was a part of a big church in Chicago,” continued McDowell. “They were a storefront church and then they grew into this massive, 10,000-member church,” he recalled. The pastor trusted her cooking as the church grew.
Back then, “We were disciplined. Had block club parties. The thing we did was—we had that same feel of like the community and togetherness,” which is prevalent at Sammy’s Avenue Eatery. Everyone is welcome.
In the future, SAE will be expanding to a third location soon. Former NBA player Devean George will be opening a food hall in North Minneapolis. He called upon McDowell to be a part of the new development.
Important to note, George serves as the president and CEO of George Group North.
He redeveloped real estate in Hopkins, North Minneapolis, and throughout the Twin Cities.
Furthermore, George’s new food hall will include local, Black-owned food businesses. McDowell plans on expanding his menu by adding more healthy options. “We’re gonna do the vegan-style Chipotle,” said McDowell.
There is a flavorful selection of savory and sweet items on the menu. McDowell said, “Our breakfast sandwiches are really popular.” Customers can order a plethora of mouthwatering sandwiches, salads, soups, sides, and sweet desserts. The price range is from $1 to $15.99. There is also an impressive catering menu available.
The breakfast menu offers a variety of options, and customers can order aesthetically pleasing and decadent sandwiches that include turkey pastrami, veggie club, Sammy’s roasted chicken and much more. Customers can expect to pay $5.35-$10.99 for the signature sandwiches.
The soulful soup of the day can be added to your order. During our interview, a customer inquired about Sammy’s signature chicken soup, which is made from scratch.
Customers have the option of adding a slice of cake or pie to complete their meal. Customers can expect to pay $3.50 for each pie slice. There are whole pies available for purchase too.
There are perks of running a business. McDowell said, “Being an example for the youth, being a face that people can talk to—I speak to a lot of business owners and it’s important that people have an outlet.”
McDowell also shared advice for youth and upcoming business owners: “If you’re trying to be an entrepreneur, you need to go find an entrepreneur and learn from them for a while.”
He further explained, “Everything seems glamorous from the outside—You have to work hard, be consistent, and gotta have some endurance. That’s the truth.”
Sammy’s Avenue Eatery #1 is located at 1101 W. Broadway Ave. Sammy’s Avenue #2 Eatery #2 is located at 3301 Central Ave N.E. in Minneapolis.
Business hours are Monday through Friday 8 am – 5 pm, Saturday 9 am – 3 pm. Closed Sunday. For more information, visit www.sammysavenueeatery.com or call (612) 767-6278.
Note: Everyone is encouraged to place their order online in an effort to minimize the wait time.
Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder.