Review: Roast Beast

 If you're going to do one thing, you might as well kill it  
By MC SLIM JB  |  March 31, 2011

On the cheap at Roast Beast restaurant 

Running a restaurant that offers essentially one product is a high-wire act: it can be breathtaking, but you're working without a net, and if you falter . . . Food nerds like me root heartily for such places, having endured too many restaurants with long menus and no memorable dishes. We cheer the banh mi stands, hot-dog carts, ramen counters and grilled-cheese trucks. Roast Beast, a cash-only joint in a Packard's Corner basement, does a North Shore–style roast-beef sandwich — one of those rare foods upon which New Englanders can lay a unique claim — and not much else. Fortunately, within their tiny niche, they're keeping both feet on the wire nicely.

Kelly's on Revere Beach originated the model in the '50s: season a big hunk of top round, slow-roast it rare to medium-rare, slice it thin, pile it high on a soft roll, and add fixings like tomato-based barbecue sauce, American cheese, maybe some prepared horseradish. Roast Beast hews to this standard closely. The large ($7) is differentiated from the regular ($5) only by a big-big pile of roast beef versus just a big one. The roll — onion, deli, or wheat — is from Piantedosi, a local wholesale bakery that is a cut above national supermarket brands. The liquid-smoke-accented, house-made "Secret Beast Sauce" is better than mass-market bottled products. The optional cheese slice (25 cents) has been upgraded to pepper jack or Swiss. Bottom line: it's a terrific sandwich of its kind, appropriately dominated by the flavor and texture of the cool, tender beef. As a bonus, accompanying pickle chips from Alabama's Wickles Pickles are fabulous: at once garlicky, fiery, and sweet. Beef-eschewers can opt for Boar's Head roast turkey ($5/regular; $7/large), in which case honey Dijon or chipotle mayo might be more suitable condiments.

The usual sub-shop accompaniments abide: bags of chips and pretzels ($1), soft drinks ($1–$2), cookies and Yummy Mummy Brownie Bites ($1.25–$2). The mostly bare walls, unflattering lighting, and six counter seats in this former head shop won't encourage lingering. But you will remember the earnest hospitality of the two young gents running the place, the delectable smell of roasting beef as you enter, and the fact that within its narrow, nostalgia-driven furrow, that sandwich is excellent — never mind the freakish dissenters who might crave a firmer roll of the sort the nearby Clear Flour Bread bakes. One product, executed as well and canonically as Roast Beast's roast-beef sandwich, is entirely and exactly what a one-product restaurant needs to thrive.

Roast Beast, located at 1080 Comm Ave in Allston, is open Monday–Saturday, 12–7 pm. Call 617.877.8690

| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
    In food-nerd circles, the question of authenticity is a loaded one.
  •   OYSTER STEW AT STEEL & RYE  |  March 01, 2013
    Pity the poor would-be restaurateur in the city of Boston.
  •   PROVENÇAL FISH STEW AT SYCAMORE  |  February 13, 2013
    For food geeks accustomed to dining in urban Boston, it's easy to be a little dismissive of suburban restaurants.
  •   LAMB BELLY AT PURITAN & COMPANY  |  February 01, 2013
    By about the end of 2011, restaurant-industry PR people had already worn out the phrase "farm to table."
    As a South Ender, I find it easy to admire the smooth professionalism and crowd-pleasing instincts of the Aquitaine Group, which operates six of its eight restaurants in the neighborhood, including Metropolis, Union, Aquitaine, and Gaslight.

 See all articles by: MC SLIM JB