Sam’s No. 3: Iconic downtown Denver diner dating back to 1927

The iconic Sam's No. 3 located on 15th and Curtis in downtown Denver
The iconic Sam’s No. 3 located on 15th and Curtis in downtown Denver

In 1927, Greek immigrant Sam Armatas opened the first Sam’s No. 3 diner in downtown Denver on 15th and Curtis. While this location closed many years ago, Sam’s legacy lives on. In 1998, Sam’s son and grandson reopened Sam’s No. 3 just east of downtown Aurora.

The downtown location opened in 2003, just across the street from the original, which opened nearly 100 years ago. In 2013, a third location opened in Glendale.

Today, Sam’s No. 3 is popular with locals and tourists who flock here to sample the extensive menu, which features traditional American diner, Mexican, and Greek food. They are also famous for their signature Kickin’ Pork Green Chili, which is made with New Mexico chiles.

Due to its popularity, it’s not uncommon to find over an hour wait on weekends.

Over the years, Sam’s No. 3 has been in newspapers, films, and television shows such as Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

As a fan of the show, I knew I had to add Sam’s No. 3 to my list of must-try restaurants in Denver. Would it live up to the hype?

Interior of Sam’s No. 3

Modern interior of the diner
Modern interior of the diner

The restaurant’s interior featured a long, narrow dining room with a small dining room at the far end. On the left-hand side was the kitchen and service area along with first come, first serve counter seating. If you are dining alone or don’t want to wait for a table, the counter is excellent if you can find a seat.

On the right-hand side were a handful of booths along with floor-to-ceiling windows. The restaurant felt bright and airy, with tall ceilings, white walls, and large windows.

Other than a couple of televisions hanging on the walls, some black and white photographs and artwork, exposed ducts, and hanging lights, the décor was quite simple. The space felt like a simple diner.

While I did not visit this time, at the far side of the restaurant opposite the entrance was a full bar known as The Hammer Bar.

Sam’s No. 3 Menu

The menu at Sam’s No. 3 was massive, with endless options. With so many options, I wondered how the kitchen would ensure the quality of each dish. Also, the dishes were quite pricey for a diner.

You had American diner classics, breakfast dishes, Greek food, Mexican food, and more. While there was something for everyone, the menu was too extensive and confusing.

The entire 15-page Sam’s No. 3 menu can be viewed here.

Huevos Rancheros

The Huevos Rancheros, Sam's No. 3
The Huevos Rancheros

First up was the Huevos Rancheros ($12.99). This iconic Mexican breakfast dish had two eggs, two tortillas, Sam’s No. 3 Kickin’ Green Chili, homefries, and refried beans.

There was a lot going on with this massive plate of food. The first thing that caught my attention was how much food was piled onto the plate. Also, it wasn’t the prettiest of plates. It was very brown in color. I was hoping it tasted better than it looked.

The main reason why I ordered this dish was because of Sam’s No. 3 Kickin’ Green Chili. I heard much about the homemade sauce made with tomatoes, jalapeños, chili puree, and fresh roasted green chilis. Seasoning for the sauce included salt, minced garlic, black pepper, ground mustard, and Greek oregano.

Mixed into the sauce were chunks of tender pork which shredded apart with my fork. Due to its name, I was expecting the sauce to be green, but it was red. I didn’t care about its color as long as it tasted good.

While the sauce was not bad, it seemed bland for its many components. The sauce was a little spicy and smoky, but I wanted more flavor.

There wasn’t anything else that stood out with this dish. I did enjoy the eggs, which exploded with yolk when my knife cut through them.

On top of the plate, and hidden underneath the eggs and sauce, were basic flour tortillas. Even though I like flour tortillas, I would have preferred corn tortillas for this dish. And I wish the chefs fried the tortillas for extra texture. I found these flour tortillas too thick, large, and gooey for my liking. Also, they were tough to cut through.

Finally, on the side were beans and potatoes. I enjoyed the tender, creamy, soft beans. The cotija cheese sprinkled over the beans added a much-needed salty component. I also enjoyed the potatoes. While simple, I found the potatoes to be crispy and tender. All that was missing was a little salt.

Hand-Rolled Chili Rellenos & Eggs

The unique Hand-Rolled Chili Rellenos & Eggs
The unique Hand-Rolled Chili Rellenos & Eggs

Just as with the Huevos Rancheros, the Hand-Rolled Chili Rellenos & Eggs ($13.99) was not the prettiest of plates. This dish made with two crispy rellenos, two farm fresh eggs, and Sam’s No.3 Kickin’ Pork Green Chili just looked sloppy.

On the side, you could choose between potato and toast, French toast, mini cakes, or biscuits and sausage gravy. I settled on the biscuits and sausage gravy.

The Hand-Rolled Chili Rellenos & Eggs differed from your traditional chili rellenos dish. These chili rellenos consisted of egg roll wrappers stuffed with New Mexico chile and cheese.

I was expecting two crispy rellenos, but this was not the case. Maybe out of the fryer, they were crispy, but after sitting around for a while and being covered in Kickin’ Pork Green Chili, these things were soggy. And they had a strange texture. Also, the egg roll wrappers were heavy and filling, and I felt like I was eating batter.

Hand-Rolled Chili Rellenos
Hand-Rolled Chili Rellenos

As mentioned before, stuffed inside each wrapper were New Mexico chiles. And stuffed inside each pepper was cheese. I was excited to try this dish, and New Mexico chiles, or hatch chiles, are among my favorite peppers to eat and grow.

Traditionally, these peppers turn fragrant and smoky after roasting them. Sadly, the peppers in this dish tasted bland with a strange, rubbery, stringy texture. They didn’t taste fresh for something tough to screw up.

The cheese stuffed inside each pepper made things worse. There was too much oily, rich cheese, making the dish hard to finish. And there was more cheese shredded on top.

The only part of this dish I enjoyed was the two farm fresh eggs. While cooked well, they were under-seasoned.

Biscuits & Gravy

A side of Biscuits & Gravy
A side of Biscuits & Gravy

For my side, I settled on Biscuits & Gravy. I feel like a broken record, but this dish looked sloppy, as with the previous dishes. There was just so much gravy. It was like a bowl of gravy.

While simple and not homemade, I did enjoy the soft and fluffy biscuits. The gravy on top, and there was a lot of it, was forgettable. It tasted like your typical gravy, but its texture was too sticky for my liking.

Mixed into the gravy was a generous amount of flavorful sausage chunks. The sausage reminded me of smoky, salty, sweet breakfast sausage, which I am a big fan of. While not the most refined biscuits & gravy, it was just good enough.

Service at Sam’s No. 3

My server was friendly and prompt, and my food arrived almost too quickly. I also noticed how fast staff cleaned tables after each guest departed.

With that said, I had no complaints with the service. While not directly related to the service, some flies buzzed around the dining room, which I wasn’t a fan of.


Sam’s No. 3 is an iconic diner with a history that dates back almost a century. Visit any day of the week, and you will find locals and tourists waiting for a table.

I wasn’t a fan of the dishes I tried, especially for the price. I found the Kickin’ Pork Green Chili to be bland. The portions were big, and the service was fine, but the dishes needed more flavor or imagination.

Would I visit if I returned to Denver? Probably not. I may have visited on one of those days.


Sunday-Tuesday: 7:00AM-2:00PM
Wednesday-Saturday: 7:00AM-8:00PM


1500 Curtis Street, Denver, CO 80202
GPS Coordinates: 39.746201,-104.995595


Last Updated on April 13, 2024

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