North of Boston, MA: Super Beef master thread

my weekend life slightly north of Boston has resulted recently in my glomming onto the North Shore-ish tradition of the roast beef sandwich that exists in this little Massachusetts geographic pocket. For the uninitiated, the Super Beef three way around here consists of: an onion roll, should be buttered and heated, piled high with rare roast beef, topped with a slice of American cheese and coated with mayo and James River BBQ sauce.

What the origin of this sandwich is, or how it relates to the Italian beef sandwich of Chicago, Buffalo’s beef on weck, the hot beef of WI/MN or the blade meat sandwich of SE Massachusetts, I do not know. They are all related, somehow. I also have no idea how that Smithfield BBQ sauce became the sauce of choice, if you do then please enlighten me.

Kelly’s on Revere Beach is sort of the traditional standard bearer here, though from what I read it aint what it used to be. And I haven’t had it. (Waiting for it to rain on a weekend so I can go to Revere Beach without hassle. Will also hit Bianchi’s, Thmor Da and Casablanca Bakery when this fortuitous weekend downpour happens!) There’s a good 2012 Serious Eats article (back from when they covered restaurants and weren’t just only Kenji Lopez Alt recipes) that lists 13 places in Lynn-Revere-Melrose-Everett etc & notes some area spots that make this sandwich. Don’t try going to Steve’s in Malden though, like I did–they just went belly up this month. I think all the other joints mentioned here are extant.

In any case, I’m trying to work my way through some of these and I was going to pile up a bunch and then make a giant post about them. But I’m going a lot slower than I’d hoped, so now I’m just putting up my first review in hopes that this master thread will guilt me into doing more. My plan now is to go to Mike’s in Everett tomorrow, so with any luck there’ll be a new update soon.

Anyway, first up: Bill and Bob’s Famous Roast Beef, Woburn. They have outposts in Peabody and Salem, too. This place is classic and run down, right up the road from Louie’s Pizza (who didn’t have any damned slices on Saturday!!! but I digress) and Roma Bakery. It’s a real throwback–I can imagine kids going here for food after a sock hop, and it’s heartening to see that it’s still a place where high school kids get jobs. The sandwich here was just OK–had the requisite attributes and the weird, dated atmosphere was a plus in my book, but the cheese could’ve used a little more melting, the bun didn’t seem to be buttered and the roast beef was fine but unexceptional. Maybe a 6/10 on the roast beef sandwich three way scale.

Well, that’s the first report from the front. I hope to add to this, so if anyone has any recs for places please do let me know.

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Round 2: went to Mike’s on Broadway in Everett today for a Super Beef. The place is another one that’s out of time, from the cartoony guy eating a sandwich on the sign to the way they yell your order into a microphone, even though the kitchen is just a few feet behind the register. There was also a hilarious bunch of locals all in there getting lunch, the roast beef was flying out of there.

Sandwich here was really good–roll was toasted on the griddle which gave it a little crunch, there were two slices of cheese all nice and melty and though my photo doesn’t show it since I took it from too high an angle, the roll was loaded with a good pile of tender & rare roast beef. There was actually more meat in this one than in the Bill and Bob’s, though it doesn’t really look like it.

Very happy with this one. Hopefully this place survives the casino-ization of Broadway, since I think they’re going to widen the road.

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Mike’s is my favorite, saucy and messy but delectable. Please stop posting in this thread, I have already gained enough weight this summer.

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heh, I have a LOT more places on my list! don’t know if any will be better than Mike’s, though. That was a seriously good sandwich.

Been a while since I have been to Mike’s but the onion rings used to wonderful. They made the string kind breaded, not the thick onions dipped in batter. I so prefer the strings.

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A few months ago my son and I went out of our way to get steak and cheese subs from here, and got a roast beef sandwich to tide us over on the 30+ minute ride home. So good, and so much fun. Totally a cartoon, and very worthy. We were saying that business might improve significantly when the casino opens from people who had stretched their betting dollars, so we hope it will survive. It will be an interesting cultural/sociological phenomenon to watch. Long live Mike’s!

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Strongly encourage a visit to Beverly to eat at Nick’s Roast Beef. Though the current owner seems to have had a little tax-payment problem, their sandwiches have never stumbled.

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Simard’s on rte 38 in Wilmington was originally a Bill&Bob’s. I like theirs well enough, but Kelly’s and the Woburn Bill&Bob’s are the only others I 've had, both about 20 yrs ago.

I need to get back on this project (next weekend, I hope!) but I thought it was worth mentioning here for posterity that apparently the owners of Mike and Pattys (where I have not been) will have a place in the upcoming Bow Market that will feature the roast beef three way:

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Really sad that they won’t be heading to Moody St. in Waltham. I have to admit, though, that I was worried about them on the other side of the High where it intersects with Moody. Much less activity there.

Today I had to go to the 99 Asian Supermarket in Everett, so I thought I’d try out a relatively new entrant in the super beef game that’s right around the corner from there. It’s called Fresco’s Roast Beef and Seafood, and it’s in Malden.

Since it’s new-ish, it doesn’t have any ramshackle air to it at all–it’s actually really clean and bright inside, located in a building shared with corporate monolith Domino’s Pizza. Going in I was a little skeptical, as I’m more used to getting a super beef in some place with dirty corners and sketchy characters. I was there at lunch, and it was clear from the outset that this place was really working it–they were taking orders like crazy, but it seemed like the staff were all in sync with the kitchen, and everyone was doing their thing. Really quality looking plates of fried shrimp and clams were coming out fast and hot from the back and there was one guy clearly running the show. Saw them open the oven to check the roast beef they had going for future sandwiches, so obviously all done in house. Promising.

My super beef three way came out on time, and it was dynamite. Just the way it should be–lots of cheese, a buttered and griddled onion roll, lots of the right bbq sauce and enough mayo to make it work. The roast beef was really good, perfectly rare and there was lots of it. I think the balance on this super beef was the best of any I’ve tried yet.

This place is really unassuming, and looks like not much from the outside, so my expectations weren’t super high. But this sandwich was really, really good. I also have to say that I was impressed with their organization and the way the staff were working. I could see myself going back here to try the fried calimari.

Surprisingly good.

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Today’s contestant in the Super Beef sweepstakes was Alamo Roast Beef & Seafood, a Medford Square hole-in-the-wall that I’ve never given much thought to until a recent Well Seasoned Gourmand super beef roundup where it cracked their top five. Since I agreed with WSG’s take on Fresco’s, I thought for lunch I’d see if Alamo measured up too.

But I have to say I thought this super beef was fine, but not great. Most of the components were quality–good roll, plenty of cheese, proper sauce. But the roast beef didn’t seem to be the right kind of rare, it was a little more done than I like it. Not bad, really, but as far as my rankings here go it’d slot it in well after Fresco’s and Mike’s.

Though the best part of this visit was a guy in there telling old stories about when he was a kid, including the time he almost ran into Willie Whistle on his bike.

My photo of this one is bad, but just for consistency:

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Already in Revere for pizza and Moroccan Pastries (and the necessary stop at New Deal for mozzarella, mortadella and arancini) decided on the way back to the Chelsea Market Basket to make one last stop for an update to this thread since Beachmont Roast Beef was on the way back.

Unfortunately, the sandwich here was not good at all. Bun was well griddled–but downhill from there, with the overcooked meat being not so much sliced as chopped, with an inadequate amount of the James River Sauce to quench the dryness. Two pieces of cheese couldn’t save this one. Not recommended.

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Yeah, that matches my Beachmont memories. I think the T-adjacent location is most of what keeps it going. A much better bet for that neighborhood is an almond dream from Torretta’s Bakery.

ISTR much love of Billy’s in Wakefield from a Chowhound thread back in the day; got a good roast beef sandwich from there once but they’re off the beaten track for me. Semi-relatedly, if you’re near Wakefield and they’re open, a Shnurble from Fred’s Franks can really hit the spot; maybe we need a hot dog thread.

Thanks for this thread, btw. High-end resto recs are just fine but it’s also nice to know where to get a good sandwich or similar when passing through a place.

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Had Mike’s for the first time in mid-September when I was in Everett to get a tattoo started. It was really great. I wish I had someone with me, though, as I really wanted on ion rings, but they only came in a large, and I didn’t want to waste them.

Time for another super beef! Today’s was from Liberty Bell Roast Beef in Melrose. The only real knock against this one was the single slice of cheese–otherwise it really made the grade with nice rare beef and just the right amount of sauce. Really good. According to the Well Seasoned Gourmand) the guy who ran this place used to have the Fresco’s Roast beef guy as a worker, and you really can taste the similarities in the sandwiches. Both kitchen ops are set up the same way, too.

Tried a side of fried calamari too which was crisp and not greasy, Tomato sauce on the side was OK, and for nine bucks there was a heaping pile of squid. Liberty Bell is a winner if you happen to be in Melrose, but just one catch–they are shutting down tomorrow to renovate the whole place.

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Just figured out that you are ginandcalamus.

ha! yeah, passing thru as a name was long gone by the time I got on Instagram.

as mentioned before in the pizza thread, I went to Lynn the other day. So of course, I had to go to Mino’s Roast Beef.

as you can see from the sign, this one goes back aways–to 1975. It’s a really tiny (maybe 10 seats in three booths) no frills spot that I had high hopes for. But the super beef I got wasn’t great on Saturday. The beef itself was more or less fine, it had plenty of cheese, the right sauce. But it had a little too much mayo which proved to be its downfall when it met the real flaw of this sandwich:

The roll. You can see it in the picture below–the roll is dry and cracking on the top, and the bottom was similarly arid. It wasn’t stale exactly, just maybe day old or frozen too long? In any case, it sort of ruined the whole affair. It broke apart during eating, the excess mayo busted out and though the beef tasted good this one overall was a bit of a fail in execution.

While a disappointment foodwise, I dug the place and would be willing to try again to see if I just got a bum roll on a bad day. Our side of onion rings was crunchy and well fried, so that was a plus. It’s also actually within walking distance of the Four Winds Pub & Grill, a spot that on this beautiful October day was hopping with folks eating burgers and drinking beers on the shores of Sluice Pond. We stuck our head in and it looked like a great place to do just that, though since I had already eaten pizza, a roast beef sandwich and onion rings that seemed like something to leave for a later date.

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it’s been a good long while since I had the opportunity to update this thread, but I was up in Wakefield yesterday so I thought I’d take in Billy’s Roast Beef and Seafood. It’s about a half mile down the road from Liberty Bell in Melrose, if you ever want to do a comparison shop.

The sandwich at Billy’s was quite good. A soft, fresh roll and a really great ratio of mayo, James River sauce and cheese. The roast beef was rare enough if not perfect and the combination of ingredients worked well together to make for a really nice lunch. Everything was proportioned well on this one, the bun was griddled and the cheese was well melted. Recommended!

Billy’s is an unassuming, no frills, mostly takeout joint though they do have some seating on the side where you can sit and eat. It’s OK, with windows and skylights letting in light and the view out the back is actually kind of woodsy. I have some other word that Billy’s also has good fried seafood and my girlfriend’s mother swears the lobster rolls here are excellent.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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