You're right on the money.
I had originally started with a Surly LHT as my poorman's Riv. After lusting over lugs for a year, I decided to sell my LHT frame and trade up for a Sam Hillborne. I couldn't be happier with that decision.
I see a number of people suggest strange geometry and overpriced frames as a result of marketing....and to be fair, I kind of agree with them. The frames DO look a little off with the top tube slopes. Also, the marketing IS a bit overbearing at times. But in the end, Riv makes some awesome bikes that are a great value. When taking it for what it is, makes extremely comfortable bikes that are fun to ride.
In continuing with the point of this thread, I'll mention that I spent enough time to put a thousand or so miles on a Surly CrossCheck....great bike and it reminds me of the versatility of my Sam. Great for the dirt and the road depending on what tires you happen to have on the bike. With any of the Surly offerings, I think a Brooks saddle, leather bar tape, and fenders will do the trick to make the good candidates for a poormans Riv.