Friday, July 8, 2011

Nick's Famous Roast Beef

Roast beef sandwiches are a North Shore phenomenon. If you find yourself in Massachusetts and making your way over to Revere, Saugus, Danvers, Beverly, or Salem and you don't see some small store front boasting its own "famous" roast beef, you must be really back-roading it... or swimming. (Hell, even if you're swimming you've got a pretty darn good chance of land-ho'ing it over to one of our roast beef institutions.) 
Why the North Shore grew to become a roast beef sandwich mecca, I'm not entirely sure. I know that Kelly's in Revere is allegedly the first to hawk delicious sliced rare roast beef on a roll sometime around 1951. I also know that a number of other stores sprang from the ambitions of family members and former employees of Kelly's. And, I also know that a lot of the roast beef restaurants came to be owned, operated, and associated with the hardworking Greek families of the North Shore. There's Kelly's Roast Beef, King's Roast Beef, Bill and Bob's Roast Beef, Sammy's Roast Beef, and in my humble opinion all are good, and deserve a slap on the back and your immediate patronage. 
But today I made a visit to what seems to be the North Shore favorite: Nick's Famous Roast Beef in Beverly, MA. According to the website, Nick's first opened in 1975, and was named for the two owners, both named Nick. Together, the two Nicks fostered a family business, producing their roast beef daily on  premise. It's a very humble little restaurant, located in something that can barely be called a strip mall. Upon walking into the restaurant, you've got a menu to the right, a place to order to the left, and to the far left, the slowest ATM machine of all time. Take note, this place is cash only, hence the slow ATM machine... takes three times as long to get your money as it does to order. 
When time to order, the immediate difference between Nick's and other roast beef institutions is the list of sauces you can choose to adorn your sandwich. For a super beef, you're not limited to the bbq sauce, mayo, and cheese at other joints, but can instead opt for a horseradish sauce, or top with pickles, among other condiments. While choice is nice, I'm a local girl. It's either a three-way (cheese/bbq sauce/mayo) or just sauce and mayo. An order of fries and onion rings are also essential to round things out, and provide a complete sampling from which to compare this restaurant to the others previously mentioned. 
Only a handful of minutes after ordering and gathering napkins, ketchup, salt, and duck sauce, your number will come up. And oh the beauties you will find!
I present to you the sandwich. This is a super beef with sauce and mayo. It's roughly the circumference of a DVD, and approximately two to three inches thick. The onion roll is warm, and a good platform for an excellent mound of thin-sliced roast beef. Behold the paper thin-slices, pink and rare, juicy and succulent, complemented by a tangy, slightly spicy house barbecue sauce and the richness of your standard, bought-in-bulk mayo. This is a deceivingly messy sandwich, but consider the new stain on your shirt as a sort of baptism of savory satisfaction. Every bite comes together to give you the feeling that you just ate something made by hand that someone really cares about and took a few hundred hours in the thinker position to perfect. It's got history and culture behind it, and not everyone really knows about it... unless they live in your town and have the phone number on speed dial. So remember, super beef + sauce + mayo. Oh, and the onion rings at Nick's are pretty incredible too... just if you need a little nudge on something not to miss. 
On various occasions, we're going to take a little study in North Shore roast beef on this website, as I have loyalty to a joint that is a bit closer to my residence in Salem, MA... jewel of the North Shore... maritime paradise. But, frankly, there are just too many good places to leave out, and it will be fascinating to decipher what makes each place unique. But for the time being, if you need to know a place to go to in order to experience all of the greatest hits required of a wonderful roast beef institution, you have a safe bet with Nick's Famous... and it truly is. 

Location Rundown:
139 Dodge St.
Beverly, MA
(978) 922-9075

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