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.