Late last week, a crew was installing a familiar sign on the building at 219 E. Dewey Avenue: In a large red font with a blue subheading, the sign read “Sam’s Southern Eatery.” Is this a second location of the southern seafood restaurant in Sapulpa? Not exactly.
Many residents will be familiar with Sam’s Southern Eatery, which began its journey in Sapulpa in 2019 when it opened north of town just off Highway 97 next to Kum and Go. Known for its cajun-style seafood, po’boys, and burgers, the restaurant was a welcome change in options for Sapulpa, which had no seafood restaurants to speak of.
The owner of that location, Saaid Jaraba, made his intentions in becoming a part of the community well-known when he began giving meals away during the pandemic.
That location hummed along for a few years, and when the former Hickory House location on Mission Street became available, Jaraba made the decision to move the restaurant there in January.
Soon after that came the decision to carry additional menu items outside the normal fare of the franchise, and in a risky move, Jaraba made the decision to leave the franchise and rebrand as Sami’s Southern Kitchen and More.
In conversations with Sapulpa Herald, Jaraba (who goes by Sami, hence the name) said the restaurant received no help from the franchise outside of using the logo and the name. “I had to buy all the signs, all the posters, all the food.” He took out his phone and showed us pictures of the food on the table, which were the same ones now being used in promotional posters around the restaurant. “I took those pictures,” he said. “We do not even get discount pricing from our suppliers,” he said. “Even the recipes…that gumbo, it is my recipe,” he said.
Jaraba said the franchise did not help with the purchase of the new building, nor in the remodeling of it. “Pretty much all they do is come collect a payment every quarter,” he said.
Michael Kalel, the original site developer who helped open the location when it was on Highway 97, is the same developer helping to open the new Sam’s Southern Eatery in downtown Sapulpa. Sam’s Southern Eatery has now filed a temporary restraining order against Sami’s Southern Kitchen and More, accusing them of intellectual property violations and stealing trade secrets.
In a hearing on May 3rd, both Jaraba and Kalel were present, and their attorneys spoke with Judge Golden about the restraining order. A status meeting with the attorneys is scheduled for May 15th.
In the meantime, Sami’s Southern Kitchen continues to be open regular hours, but there’s been little progress beyond the hanging of the sign at the downtown building for the last two weeks.