Bob Sambol, the founder of Bob’s Original Steak and Chop House on Lemmon Avenue, has bought the licensing rights to the steakhouse he sold nine years ago. He will leave his position as the president of the Trinity Groves Support Group tomorrow in order to start at the restaurant on Friday. He will be a licensee of the brand’s original Oak Lawn outpost; Omni Hotels owns the rights to the name.
Last May, Bob’s featured in my list of top 10 steakhouses in Dallas. I revisited its côte de boeuf bone-in rib-eye, the duck with green peppercorn sauce, perfect veal porterhouse chop, and crusty boule that arrives with a slab of butter.
“It came up that the people who owned the Lemmon Avenue Bob’s [franchise] might want to sell it,” Sambol says. “I said I might be interested in buying it back and running a steakhouse again. It’s where it all started 25 years ago.”
Sambol says that working in a competitive restaurant business—he cites the young, new talent in Dallas and the high-stakes scene of a city that defines itself by its rib-eyes, filets, and tomahawks—is invigorating. At Trinity Groves, he was the one overseeing operations among all of the upstart restaurants. But he missed running his own show.
“I like the challenge,” he says. “I really miss it. I was very fortunate. Bob’s was a very relevant restaurant. I miss the phone call: ‘Hey, we’re coming in to celebrate; my wife and I are having a baby.’ Or, ‘Hey, I have 20 people coming into town. I want to come in.’ It’s the whole relevant restaurant thing. I’m anxious to go back and do it.”
Sambol has been away from the brand he brought to prominence for about a decade, after some legal trouble. Omni Hotels bought a 50 percent stake in the brand in 2009 and began opening them in properties across the country. Sambol’s partner, the late Bill Lenox, held onto the other half, and the Omni allowed the original location to operate separately from its hotel locations. Sambol formally left Bob’s in 2011 to take a job with Ray Washburne’s MCrowd Restaurant Group, which owns Taco Diner, Mi Cocina, and the Mercury.
Lenox later parted with the original restaurant. And now it has come full circle, with Sambol—who is known for his hosting ability, his candor, and how good he is at remembering his customer’s names—returning to the fray.
“Bob’s was the original Del Frisco [before it was Bob’s]. So, it’s been a successful restaurant for 50 to 60 years,” he says. “What’s really important in a really competitive restaurant city, especially when it comes to steakhouses, is that [the restaurant be] be busy and vibrant. I’m excited by the challenge. I think working at Trinity Groves with Phil Romano helped get me excited.”
“I want Bob’s to be everyone’s go-to restaurant,” he says. “That’s what you strive for.”
By license agreement, the core menu will remain the same. But look out for specials.