Sam’s Café serving the community late at night


There are many restaurants in Carbondale, and each offers different cuisines that attract town locals. However, few restaurants are open late at night. 

Sam’s Café is open as late as 4 a.m. depending on the day of the week. It is located at 521 S Illinois Ave. and dates back to 1990. Currently, there is only one location. However, there once was a café located in the mall before they relocated to Illinois Avenue 

John Manderhach, manager of Sam’s Café, along with the owner, lead a team of five workers. The restaurant specializes in fast food, primarily cheeseburgers and gyros. 


It’s open six days a week, and we’re open for two different shifts. The first shift is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and we reopen at 8 p.m. and stay open late at night,” Manderhach said. 

The café is not open late at night on Mondays due to understaffing. However, it stays open until 3 a.m. every other day except Friday and Saturday when it is open until 4 a.m.  

So, let’s go back to the food! There are many food options on the menu. For first-time customers, it could be a challenging task to select something good to eat. 

When discussing some of the most popular food items on the menu, Manderhach said, “The heart attack is one. It’s a double cheeseburger with bacon and gyro meat. You also can’t go wrong with the traditional gyro and cheese fries.”

A new item on the menu, according to the café, is the fried catfish meal. The catfish is prepared in a seasoned batter. Manderhach believes that it could soon become a popular item.

Sam’s Café is currently working under its busiest season. 

“Back to school time is the busiest time for us. The strip is so busy and we get a lot of support from the other businesses, offices, and bars,” Manderhach said.


An unnamed Sam’s Café cook said, “When Stix gets a line, we get a line.” Stix is a local pool hall-inspired bar within walking distance of the Café.

Some people could say Sam’s Café’s appeal is its late night availability and food delivery option. Customers can call the cafè directly or use food delivery apps such as Grubhub to pay extra for food delivery. But, how is the food according to the customers?

Courtney, a senior at Southern Illinois University, said, “I think it’s nice that they have a wide variety of stuff you can get in one place. I like their steak sandwiches.”

Also, Lady Anderson, a town local, said, “I love the restaurant! I’ve been living here in Carbondale for almost five years, and this was the first place I tried. I love the garlic fries and wings.” 

Kendra Kendricks, on a Google review of the café, wrote, “The owner is unbelievably awesome! My husband & I visited a few weeks ago for the first time and Sam (the owner) was the only one working. He had call-ins but was still able to greet & welcome us and multi-tasked very well.”

Finally, Suman Saurbach wrote, “You’re jamming your arteries with unhealthy but out of this world tasting food. Very nice people and service too.”

The Café has been around for more than 30 years, in large part due to its late night hours. Whether students are studying late before a weekday exam or on the strip after leaving the bar, Sam’s Café is open late for them.

Staff reporter Mannie Henderson can be reached at [email protected]