Whenever the subject of old SF seafood houses comes up, so do the merits of Sam's vs. Tadich. I'd previously lunched at Tadich, so when my Great Aunt (a SF native) suggested lunch at Sam's, I jumped at the chance to do a comparison.
Overall, I was disappointed. Although in style the two places are very similar (old wooden booths, old wooden waiters), I thought the food at Sam's was a notch down from Tadich. I guess, like Tadich, Sam's is a hard liquor kind of joint, since the wine service was perfunctory: my house Sauvignon Blanc was served in a glass that was too small -- filled to the brim and slopping over the sides (not a fluke, the other glass on the tray was as well). The bread was room temperature and wasn't particularly fresh or tasty. I ordered grilled halibut (we all wanted the sand dabs, but they hadn't gotten any in that day), which was dry (the waiter didn't ask me how I wanted it cooked), bland and not trimmed well. The rex sole my mother and GA had looked better, but that was mostly because it was swimming in butter! All the fish entrees come without any accompaniments except for a misshapen hunk of boiled potato doused in melted butter and chopped parsley. Somehow I expect more for my $15 -- Sam's isn't cheap, especially since unless you order one of the limited number of lunch specials, everything is extra. Finally, although it's nicely old-fashioned, it doesn't exude the "heart of old SF" aura that Tadich does.