Salsa Sam’s brings flavor of the West Coast to Irwin
After years of perfecting their salsa recipes, Sam and Jodi Murray are expanding from farmers markets to their very own Irwin restaurant.
The pair has opened Salsa Sam’s Eatery, at 209 Third St.
“I retired (from the Allegheny County probation department) on St. Patrick’s Day. We opened on March 21,” Sam Murray says.
Murray’s probation career began in Southern California, where the couple lived for 12 years. There they acquired a taste for fresh, made-from-scratch salsa. The Greensburg native and his family have lived in Westmoreland County since 1996.
Five years ago, with three of his four children in college, Murray says he bought a tent, made 15 salsas and began hitting the farmers market circuit.
The couple felt confident they would find customers, he says, because their invitations to parties often included a request for their salsa.
“People told us we should start making it and selling it,” he says.
“This (opening a restaurant) kind of evolved into a plan because we were selling 200 to 400 (containers of) salsa a week. We still go to farmers markets. We have a taco truck now, as well,” Murray says.
Murray’s recipes include some seafood, along with plant-based fillings including jack fruit, sweet potatoes and chick peas.
He also uses a non-soy meat substitute, Quorn.
Salsa Sam’s chili won this year’s Norwin Rotary Chili Cookoff and Wing Thing.
A revolving menu will soon include Penn State Berkey Creamery ice cream, he says, filling dessert cones and homemade choco tacos.
The restaurant serves breakfast only on Saturdays, but that may change, Murray says.
Breakfast items including huevos rancheros tostada ($6), traditional Mexican flapjacks with strawberry mango salsa, maple syrup or stuffed with Nutella and fruit ($3-$5) and hippie hash — a mound of potatoes baked with queso and topped with an egg ($7) — are going over well with customers, he says.
He also sells a Mexican Street Corn Bowl of brown rice, roasted red pepper, black beans, roasted corn, lime, avocado, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, cotija cheese and chipotle lime sauce ($8).
Taco Tuesday features $1 off all tacos (fish, jackfruit poblano, Baja shrimp), including choco tacos. Kids can dig into “cheezy” quesadilla, walking tacos and mac and cheezy, $4 each (also available in big boy and big girl portions, $6).
The restaurant is BYOB, he adds.
He plans to have a courtyard open by Memorial Day, and intends to grow a sustainable garden to provide some of the restaurant’s produce. Diners’ pets also will be welcome in the courtyard.
Salsa Sam’s is open noon-7 p.m. Tuesday; noon-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturdays.
Details: 412-559-5261 or facebook.com/salsasam87/
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter .