ONCE UPON A TIME, not so very long ago, two enterprising gentlemen named Sam Battistone and F. Newell Bohnett decided to combine their talent and experience in order to develop a profitable restaurant business with unlimited potential.
The year was 1957 and the birthplace of the then sleeping tiger was picturesque Santa Barbara on the coast of Southern California.
Wondering about a suitable name for their restaurant, the two men finally came up with a fanciful derivation from their own names – Sam and Bohnett – and thus the future chain of Sambo’s Pancake Restaurants was born.
Shortly thereafter the partners revived the legend of the little boy and the tiger, who have been growing larger and larger dinning on pancakes floating in rare maple and boysenberry syrups, dripping with golden tiger butter. The company still uses the little boy, his parents Mumbo and Jumbo and the tiger for identification of menu items and promotional purposes.
Thus the awakened tiger and his new network of family restaurants grew faster than anyone had imagined possible. In fact, by 1969 Sambo’s had become an enormous tiger indeed, with 113 restaurant units flourishing in 12 states across the country.
Now a restaurant with a name like Sambo's cant possibly survive. Not only the name was a "stumbling block" the design of the interior became an issue. Above the counters were reliefs of the story of lil black Sambo and how he turned a tiger into butter. The reliefs were changed thru the years and Sambo's complexion became noticeably lighter. Oh well... the name had to go. There was an attempt to reinvent the chain in the mid-eighties with a new name and a new image. The chain became "FAMILY SAMS" with Sam the bald eagle as its mascot. The concept failed miserably. In the era of Regan family values this over-patriotic family restaurant reinvented itself into oblivion. These things happen. Most of the restaurants became BAKERS SQUARE then SEASONS then whomever could afford this accursed building.
Part one of MY BREAKFAST WITH BLASSIE filmed at SAMBOS in LOS ANGELES
They Always Come Back:
The original Sambos is still operational as a SAMBOS. Visit it here.
As a bonus here is the mini menu I have been carrying around in my wallet for the past seven years. Sambo is no longer as dark as he used to be. He now wears a turban. I'm sure that's a better image nowadays. Oh Sambos... bad choices since day one.
For some remarkable Sambo's artifacts go here.