Where the beef is, piled high and hot
Hot roast beef sandwiches come north from Bay State
By Susan Reilly firstname.lastname@example.org
The hot roast beef sandwich is a Massachusetts institution that folks miss when they move north to the Granite State. Sure, they get to keep an extra six percent of their salary in their pocket, but where’s the beef?
Not a foot-long roast beef grinder made from cold cuts at a sub shop, but a real sandwich. A mountain of hot and juicy roast beef piled high on a fresh, warm bulkie roll. Available 24 hours a day.
Unheard of, you say. Nope. In Massachusetts, there are more than a dozen roast beef sandwich shops that crank out sandwiches cut to order from fresh roasts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So faithful are customers to specific shops that there have been well documented “roast beef wars” amongst rival shops.
Andy Taylor moved to Manchester six years ago from Danvers, Mass. He misses the roast beef sandwich so much that a few weeks ago, on his way to Thanksgiving dinner with his family, he stopped at a roast beef shop first and had a sandwich.
“Forget the turkey, I was all set. When I get to Mass. all I want is a hot roast beef sandwich. Nothing stops me,” he said.
Locally, Taylor and other former Massachusetts residents get their fix at Giovanni’s in Manchester and Londonderry, and at Bentley’s in Amherst.
The most popular way to go is the classic “three-way” of mayonnaise, barbecue sauce and cheese. And not just any barbecue sauce will do; the most popular is James River, which Giovanni’s sells by the bottle. It is more savory than sweet and suits the sandwich just fine.
“The three-way is hands-down the most popular way to go,” said Chris Alexandro, owner of Giovanni’s.
Alexandro grew up eating junior roast beef sandwiches in Lynn, Mass. When he got laid off from his computer programming job in the late 1980s, he turned to his next love, food, and bought an existing Giovanni’s restaurant.
Today, he brings the taste of the North Shore to the Granite State.
“It is so funny when people walk in and see the vertical slicer and then look up at the menu. They know we sell the hot roast beef sandwiches they had in Mass. And they get so excited,” said Alexandro.
These roast beef sandwiches are typically made from roasts cooked that day. The beef is sliced warm to order and served on an onion or bulkie roll.
Ali Ewiess owns Bentley’s Roast Beef in Amherst and says that his roadside shop sells between 700 pounds (in the winter) and 1,000 pounds (in the summer) of roast beef each week.
Ewiess roasts and carves it all, as he has for the past 11 years. Originally from Lowell, Mass., his family were big fans of Kelly’s Roast Beef on Revere Beach.
“When people come in and realize that we are serving the Massachusetts-style roast beef, they go crazy,” said Ewiess.
Where’s the beef?
Bentley’s Roast Beef
134 Rte 101 A, Amherst 883-2020
giant ($4.95) and regular ($4.25)
Giovanni’s Roast Beef
379 S. Willow St., Manchester 644-5757
207 Rockingham Rd., Londonderry 434-9021
super beef ($5.25), reg. roast beef ($4.75) or jr. roast beef ($4.15)