Common Tread

Stuff that doesn't suck: Samrah's sky-high snack shack

Nov 02, 2015

STDS subjects are supposed to be obscure, hidden gems of motorcycling. Today’s subject isn't, for some of our readers. I apologize. But I'm betting if you don't live near Los Angeles, you're clueless that this man is alive.

Some quick background: The ZLA video team recently traveled to the L.A. area to test a few motorcycles. We shot some of the reviews along California SR 39. The section of road that runs through the mountains is a shade over 20 miles in length. It’s a twisty, motorcyclist's dream. Rock slides have created a natural, northern terminus, so it no longer reaches its original destination, the Angeles Crest Highway. Instead, the road now just serves as access to the national forest it runs through and goes up, up, up, high into the clouds. You're riding along with your nose in the sky.

So, long story short: there's a long hot road spiraling to the sky, and there is really no point even being on it. Now we’re all on the same page, right?

So on Day Two of our review, one of the cameramen suggests we shoot a portion of our review at “the cafe.” Yeah? Where’s that, buddy? He tells us to just keep going all the way up the mountain to the very top, and there’s a cafe up there. I’m thinking this guy’s loopy from the heat. The next morning, though, we head up, and sure enough at the top of this desolate mountain we find the Crystal Lake Cafe And Trading Post.

Quaint. Photo by Lemmy.

Almost as soon as I pull the key out of the bike, this middle-aged guy with a heavy accent is running around the ZLA crew. “You want coffee? Hot chocolate? How about eggs?” He’s a whirlwind. Over the next few hours, he vacillates between letting us work and offering us food like a sandwich-pusher. The coffee was piping hot and stronger than 10 men. I liked him immediately.

Adam Samrah
Our protagonist. Photo by Lemmy.

This fella, ladies and gentlemen, is Adam Samrah, the subject of today’s STDS. Adam was born in Cypress and raised in Lebanon, but his home is most definitely behind a sizzling flattop grill at the top of his mountain. He owns a small passel of cabins available for rent, including one he resides in. Maybe he sells Pepsi and chili, but the man is actually a dealer in hospitality.

“Tell the readers the best dish is the tuna. Or the chicken wrap, that’s pretty good. Also, the burrito! I tell people I’m not Mexican, but I make good burrito!”

The guy is filled with gems like these. I was up there for almost a whole week, and I saw him interact with lots of customers. This guy is living life con brio. He had a kind word for everyone, even the kittens that he lets roam the grounds. There's no shortage of views, food, and motorcycles riding in. I kind of wished I was a cat myself once or twice.

National Geographic-esque views, a belly full of cheese fries, and fuzzy little friends. This does not suck. Photo by Cheetos McDermott.

Adam’s been up on his hill for close to 15 years, at this point, though it almost ended when wildfires swept through in 2002. Adam hunkered down — swear to God I'm not making this up — in the middle of a pond near his property to keep from being burnt to death. He was hospitalized for burns, but the son-of-a-gun made it.

So evidently this guy’s not about to leave his home, and by that I mean both the mountain and behind that flattop, because he was cooking pretty much constantly for the several days I kept showing up. He makes a killer Frito Pie, according to my colleagues, and his tuna fish sammy apparently is damn tasty. I can personally vouch that the coffee he cranks out is hot, and that I’ve never eaten such a gooey grilled cheese. There must have been a pound of all types of cheese swirled together in it, and he crusted the outside of the bread with Parmesan. I feel like he needs to employ typography tricks on the menu to let people know what’s up. Call it “Grilled CHEESE” or something. Now insert some joke about Guy Fieri and Flavortown here.

Adam feeds three classes of folks from what I saw: cyclists, hikers, and motorcyclists. It should come as no surprise that in my few days up at Crystal Lake, I saw more motorcyclists than anyone else.

“The motorcycles, we get 100 a weekend! Harley, Can-Am. One time they came and in a weekend ate 200 brownies!”

In the time we were up there, I saw a whole mess of Japanese sportbikes, a CSC Mustang knockoff, a positively mint early-90s Honda ST1100, and a pretty badass baby Panigale. The XR I was on was right at home. RevZilla photo.

Adam is the cheeriest purveyor of chicken wraps I could hope to meet. His grub doesn’t suck, nor does his will to cling to his mountain. In summary: If you get on this road that leads to nowhere useful, you will meet a really nice guy who’s all smiles and would love to make you an ass-kicking grilled cheese. And you’ll ride 40 miles of super-fun mountain roads with no traffic on them, ‘cause “road to nowhere.” That doesn’t suck even a little bit.

Just like the entire internet, I'm a sucker for cats. Adam lets these little guys hang around. Normally I find animals begging for food annoying, but it melted me like a Crystal Lake grilled cheese. Photo by Cheetos McDermott.

Speaking of stuff that doesn’t suck — send me something. I can’t be responsible for finding all the stuff that doesn’t suck. Partially that’s because I suck a little bit, but also because the idea is to pick out the little gems that are not common knowledge. Send them to