The North Shore of Massachusetts is known for its beaches, historical towns, and seafood, among many other things. Over the past several decades, the region has also become renowned for something else: its unique roast beef sandwiches.
History of the Roast Beef Sandwich
The sandwich’s presence on the North Shore goes back to 1951 when Kelly’s Roast Beef opened on Revere Beach. Originally, the sandwich was created as a way of using beef left over from a canceled wedding, but the roast beef sandwich quickly caught on.
Kelly’s roast beef sandwich quickly became a staple of the area. Recently, Kelly’s Roast Beef announced that they are expanding outside the North Shore and will be rebranding its name, logo, and restaurant.
Numerous food establishments followed Kelly’s and began selling roast beef, even focusing their businesses around the sandwich. These early roast beef shops included Bill and Bob’s in Salem, Harrison’s in North Andover, John’s in Lynn, Londi’s in Peabody, and Nick’s in Beverly.
Bill and Bob’s was the first roast beef shop to slather sandwiches with sweet and tangy James River BBQ Sauce—today used on almost every roast beef sandwich in the North Shore. The iconic recipe is the “three-way”: roasted beef on a toasted bun with mayo, cheese, and the signature barbecue sauce.
The sandwich’s evolution did not stop there. Roast beef shops began to innovate with new methods such as sous vide, which seals the beef in plastic then immerses it in warm water to cook over the course of hours. This method allows the beef to be the perfect temperature on the inside so that it can quickly be warmed before it is served.. Many different roast beef shops now use this method.
Photo courtesy of the Modern Butcher
North Shore Roast Beef Culture
As roast beef shops proliferated and places began to perfect their recipe, a sports team-like culture developed around the North Shore, with each person having their favorite place.
Andy Ferg, a lifelong North Shore resident who grew up in Danvers, was so passionate about the sandwich that he “decided to start a Facebook page dedicated it just to roast beef sandwiches. “[It was] kind of a joke” Ferg says. “I didn’t expect it to become as huge as it became.”
Followers of Ferg’s Facebook page, “North Shore Beefs,” which mainly consisted of his friends at first, has now ballooned to almost 30,000. The page consists of people rating roast beef sandwiches from across the North Shore according to “a scoring system that uses acronyms to describe the beef,” Ferg says. The acronyms, such as “flavor of beef” (FOB) and “beef to bun ratio” (B2B), allow for shortened and consistent reviews.
“What I realized was that I wasn’t alone in my love for this sandwich. I knew it was popular. but I didn’t realize how many spots there were and how passionate people were about their spots.”
The Best Roast Beef Sandwiches on the North Shore
With so many good roast beef shops to choose from and the controversy surrounding which is truly the best, here is our roundup of some of the North Shore’s favorites:
Atha’s Roast Beef & Pizza
Atha’s continues to put out outstanding roast beef sandwiches year after year. The Boston sports memorabilia inside makes all the locals feel at home while they eat classic North Shore roast beef sandwiches. Between the tasty flavor of beef and the perfect sauce to mayo ratio, Atha’s should be on everybody’s radar.
10 Sylvan St., Peabody, 978-536-9915, athaspeabody.com
Bella’s Roast Beef
This old-school roast beef shop in North Andover is family-run and has perfected their sandwich over the years. All of the ingredients in the sandwich—meat, bun, cheese, mayo, and sauce—come together to make it one of the very best on the North Shore. Although an old-school beef shop, the interior emanates a clean, modern feel in addition to offering very friendly service.
1211 Osgood St., North Andover, 978-258-1123, bellasna.com
Harrison’s Roast Beef
For nearly four decades, Harrison’s Roast Beef on Chickering Road in North Andover has prided themselves in serving delicious roast beef sandwiches. The interior of Harrison’s includes a large retro dining room and rock ‘n’ roll vibe. The family-run business also serves a selection of other sandwiches and food.
80 Chickering Rd., North Andover, 978-687-9158, harrisonsroastbeef.com
Jamie’s Roast Beef
Jamie’s Roast Beef in Peabody excels at the classic roast beef sandwich with Mathew Marquis, a Peabody High School graduate and trained chef, seasoning, roasting, and thinly slicing the beef himself. Jamie’s also has different variations of the sandwich such as the “Full Send,” which is topped with truffle aioli, melted taleggio cheese, pickled red onions, and baby spinach topped on a pile of beef.
44 Margin St., Peabody, 978-531-9942
Londi’s of Peabody
Londi’s in Peabody combines generous portions with fantastic-tasting food. One of the early roast beef shops, it has been selling beef for several decades and it shows. Their roast beef sandwich remains in many people’s hearts as their favorite in the area.
515 Lowell St., Peabody, 978-535-1300, londisroastbeef.com
Nick’s Pizza, Subs & Roast Beef
Nick’s on Essex Street in Beverly remains one of the best old-school roast beef shops. Nick’s is known for making a roast beef sandwich that consistently ranks among the top on the North Shore. Anybody passing through the area should be sure to check this place out.
207 Essex St., Beverly, 978-720-8972, nickspizzabeverly.com
Niko’s Roast Beef and Seafood
Opened in 2005, this family-run business has made a name for itself around the North Shore with its great roast beef sandwiches. Niko’s also has additional items to customize your sandwich, or you can choose from a range of their other delicious food.
194 Elm St. #1805, Salisbury, 978-463-8887, nikosroastbeefandseafood.com
Pomodori in Newburyport was opened by Peter Nikolopolous in 2019 after opening locations in Ipswich and Georgetown over the last two decades. Pomodori prides itself on creating an excellent roast beef sandwich and has recently launched “Beefie Boys” food truck to take the sandwich on the road.
192 State St., Newburyport, 978-255-1722, pomodorinbpt.com
Route 110 Roast Beef and Seafood
Route 110 Roast Beef and Seafood stuffs their sandwiches with tons of delicious beef along with other classic ingredients. Across from Hodgie’s Ice Cream in Amesbury, this place offers a hefty sandwich that should be on the list of any serious fan of North Shore beef.
66 1/2 Haverhill Rd., Amesbury 978-388-3800, rt110roastbeef.com
Supreme Roast Beef
Supreme Roast Beef on Maple Street in Danvers offers great food and service at an affordable price. Their roast beef sandwich has become renowned throughout the area for its mouth-watering taste and classic style.
18 Maple St., Danvers, 978-776-3130, thesupremeroastbeef.com
The Modern Butcher
Although sold only once a week, on Saturdays, The Modern Butcher’s roast beef sandwich has taken the North Shore beef scene by storm. Its beef is sourced from within 150 miles of Newburyport, and the owners make sure that the animals on the farms are healthy and treated well. It is well worth waiting for their superb roast beef sandwich sold on Saturdays, or you can grab another one of their delicious daily special sandwiches throughout the week.
226 Merrimac St., Newburyport, 978-465-6500
Zeno’s Roast Beef and Seafood
Although Zeno’s doesn’t get the same attention as some others on this list, their roast beef sandwich is among the best in the area. The family-run business makes exquisite roast beef sandwiches and has other items, such as seafood, which keep people coming back for more.
40 Central St., Ipswich, 978-312-1497, zenosroastbeef.com