cafe samba

i meantioned a couple days ago that brad and i ate dinner at cafe  samba last friday night.

cafe samba

240 w. gilman st.

first floor

madison, wi

i had a groupon for cafe samba that i’ve been so excited to use because i’ve heard great things about it’s sister restaurant, samba brazillian grill. since the grill is a little fancier and harder on the budget, i figured cafe samba would be a great way to get some tasty food at a better price (especially with that groupon!).

as soon as i saw tapas on the menu, i was even more excited! this girl loves her tapas.

brad and i also timed it perfectly so we were there during happy house. we each were happy to choose a beer from their $2.50 pint list!

i got capital maibock and i forget what brad had, but we both enjoyed our beers as usual!

we also got excited to see their nachos on the happy hour menu for $4. score!

we loved these nachos. they had an awesome amount of toppings so that we weren’t left with a pile of chips and no toppings at the end. there were just enough chips to eat up the delicious black beans, jalapenos, guacamole, and cheese!


we also shared the warm crab dip as an appetizer.

we liked it but weren’t blown away. anything with avocado as a garnish is ok by me though! i’m not sure if we’d order this again.


for my meal i got the roasted vegetable sandwich.

the title sounded so good, but when it arrived, i realized that by “roasted vegetable” they meant “roasted tomato” and that’s it. bummer. it was still good, but not the veggie-licious sandwich i was anticipating.


brad ordered the special of the day – all you can eat fish tacos for $10.  sounds great, right?!?

not so much. they were so bland. i’m not sure what was up with them. there was a good sauce/salsa thing on them that was very tasty, but any bite without the sauce was almost tasteless. brad only asked for more once, which is so unlike him with an “all you can eat” meal.


so far, not terrible, right? well just you wait.

we got to the restaurant pretty early, so it was about 5:35 when we finished eating and asked for our bill. we got it around 5:40, paid at 5:45, got our receipt to sign at 5:50 and noticed a mistake – we gave her a groupon, but she ran our card for the full amount.

after some running around by our waitress and a lot of confusion, she admitted that she had put the groupon on someone else’s bill and run our credit card for someone else’s bill.

she promised to clear it all up, brought us a new receipt to sign at about 6:10. that one was still wrong. so she went to fix it for another long period of time.

finally, we got out of there at 6:35 – almost a full hour of receiving our bill. we’re still waiting for the transaction to show up in our account to make sure we didn’t pay 4 times or something.

in all of that time waiting, no manager or anyone came over to apologize, offer us a complementary drink or dessert while things were sorted out, or anything.

it was a really really terrible way to end a pretty mediocre meal and brad and i will not return to cafe samba again.


overall i give cafe samba:

on taste: c+. the nachos were amazing, but everything else was eh at best.

on cost: c. the prices were reasonable. if the food was good, it would be a great deal! but with the meh food and bad service, it was not worth the amount we paid even after the $20 groupon was taken off.

i do not recommend samba cafe.*

i hate writing negative reviews, but honestly, it was hard to find much to be positive about with this experience.

*note: i have heard great things about their sister restaurant, and that’s still on our list of places to try.


how do you deal with poor service and  food when you’re out to eat?

we hate tipping badly and it was clear our waitress was overwhelmed, so we still try to tip around 20%, but it was so frustrating that we were tempted not to.

Cafe Samba on Urbanspoon

*this post was submitted to urbanspoon, but i was not compensated for my meal or my time.


About sarah

hi, i'm sarah. i'm a graduate student, dog lover, newlywed, blogger, aspiring baker/cook, and a veggie lover. :)
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10 Responses to cafe samba

  1. Kelly says:

    That’s too bad that you had a bad experience! Samba has been on my list to try for quite a while now, and like you said I’ve heard great things about it, sounds like maybe I should stick to the original rather than trying out the less expensive option.

  2. oh man. that sucks. we have had some TERRIBLE service lately at restaurants. just the other week be left somewhere with a giftcard over a stupid misunderstanding that could have been taken care of so easily. very frustrating!

  3. I hate when you are looking forward to something and it doesn’t live up to your expectations:(

  4. Briana says:

    I’ve had fun catching up on your recent posts that I’ve missed 🙂

    It seems when my best friend and I dine together, we get bad service 9 times out of 10. We’ve been at places where we were “forgotten” or not assigned a server because we were the only ones seated outside. Since we both have worked in a restaurant before, we just say they were having a bad day and leave the same tip we were planning on anyways.

    But hey, at least the nachos were good!

    • Sarah says:

      yeah, i’ve never worked in a restaurant but i did work as a banquet server at a wedding and it’s really hard. i do understand that, so we usually give a good tip anyway (and we did). but i was so shocked that no manager or anyone came by to apologize or anything.

  5. Sonia says:

    How frustrating!!! I cannot handle having a poor restaurant experience. I used to send of a nicely toned email but nowadays I feel that they don’t get taken very seriously. I recently had a horrible sandwich (so bad I couldn’t take more than a bite!) at a local Italian restaurant. I sent it back saying I didn’t like it and couldn’t eat it. Nobody apologized or asked if I wanted something else, and it didn’t even get comped from the bill! When the person at the register asked how everything was, I was too shy to say anything…so I called the manager when I got home and they did not offer any type of refund or apology either. UGH. I was almost in tears after that happened…
    I have felt like I don’t get good food or service a majority of the time I eat out so I rarely go out anymore!
    Hopefully’s sambas sister is better!

    • Sarah says:

      oh no! that sounds like an awful experience too. i don’t understand how restaurants can treat customers like that. it’s so frustrating because i know i could have had better food and service at other restaurants for less money and they should realize that too and be thankful for those who patronize their restaurant. grrr….

    • Lidia says:

      I don’t think you realize how difficult it is to work in a restaurant. I’m a server at a local restaurant and it gets extremely chaotic very quickly. After a long day of class and going to my internship the last thing I want to do is serve you an overpriced meal. But I do it with a smile on my face and wonderful service anyway. Often when there is a complication with an order not only am I being yelled at by the kitchen staff but also my boss and managers. Then I have to come to the table and tell you why the meal when wrong and why we can’t give you your money back. Please don’t tip your server poorly! We do the best we can with the resources available to us. Unless your server is being a total bitch, tip them at least 20%.

      • sarah says:

        I appreciate your comment lidia. I think I made it clear in the post that we did tip 20% of the before coupon cost of our meal despite the major problems.

        however, we were majorly disappointed that someone didn’t apologize to us. it was unacceptable service.

  6. I can’t believe the manager didn’t come over either. Sorry for a bummer night out. It always so disappointing when you get excited to eat out and have a night off from cooking and dishes and it turns out you would have been better off staying home.

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