Another of our recent road trips was to the NH Seacoast area, primarily to go to the most excellent NH Hosta Nursery. Afterward, we explored the area, primarily by ducking over into Newbury, discovering two very nice craft breweries (Riverwalk Brewing and the NBPT Brewing Co). After enjoying both of these destinations, we were hungry for a bit of dinner, and decided to head up the road to Seabrook, NH for Jasmine’s Famous Roast Beef and Seafood. As I have mentioned in several other reviews of New England Roast Beef joints, the Roast Beef sandwich is a bit of an art form here: Once you get to the coastal region, all sorts of places are available that sell two things: roast beef sandwiches, and all variety of fried seafood. Not sure where the combination came from, but it’s a common one. But the thing that ties so many of these places together is the focus on a basic sandwich: roast beef.
One of my annual traditions is volunteering at one of the local FIRST Robotics competitions, usually as a Robot Inspector or a Judge. This year’s volunteer assignment was for the New England District Championship at Boston University’s Agganis Arena, and that gave me another opportunity to check out some of the Brookline area dining options. One particular place had caught my eye since I had walked by it several times on last year’s “Death March” (my annual tradition of walking ~20 miles through an urban area, exploring neighborhoods and eateries that I normally wouldn’t visit). That place is right in central Brookline in the basement of a building: Roast Beast.
The next planned stop on the Boston Death March was Liberty Bell Roast Beef. If I had to pick one particular sandwich that represented Massachusetts, it would have to be the roast beef sandwich. Sure, the Lobster Roll is a contender as well, but that’s more of a “Coastal New England” thing, whereas a quick trip through Massachusetts will show that there is no shortage of roast beef places. The epicenter is the North Shore, with no end of places selling roast beef sandwiches from small restaurants and shacks (most of which sport someone’s first name, like Nick’s or Kelly’s), but they are found throughout Massachusetts, with Boston lying on the bottom edge of what I call the “Roast beef sandwich belt”. And Liberty Bell Roast Beef was right on our route, so it was obligatory that we stop there for a break.
We love our MINI Cooper, but every once in a while something requires us to have to visit a dealer. This time, it was a warranty issue, and for various reasons we had to take it down to Mini of Peabody in Peabody, MA. However, we couldn’t really complain, it was a chance to do some shopping, test drive a nice new Mini Roadster, and find a new place to eat. Both of us were kind of craving a roast beef sandwich. And that’s a good thing, since the Boston area still has a lot of independently-owned roast beef sandwich shop (see my previous review of Billy’s, for example). This holds doubly so for the North Shore, with a dozen roast beef places within a 15 minute drive of Peabody. We ended up settling on one of the more respected ones: Nick’s Famous Roast Beef in Beverly, MA.
There are a lot of New England traditions I really enjoy this time of year. Snowshoeing. Winter Carnivals. Maple Sugaring. And community suppers. Almost every weekend in late winter, harvest, and game season, there are a wide variety of community breakfasts and dinners, sponsored by a wide variety of local organization, churches, fire departments, and clubs, all of which provide a good way to meet a good cross-section of local society, as well as have a good hearty meal. While there are many such local dinners, however, quality really can run the gamut from “cheap spaghetti dinner” up to “homemade top-notch feast”. And the Hartland Congregational Church (known locally as “The Brick Church” to distinguish it from the white painted church down the road) hosts a top-notch example of the later: the Hartland “Famous” Roast Beef Supper.
Every region of the US has it’s list of specialty foods, and New England is no exception. We all know about the New England style hot dog roll, the Lobster Roll, the clam strip, and Boston baked beans. Slightly less well-known is the area’s love of the roast beef sandwich, with several layers of steaming, rare roast beef piled upon a heavy onion roll, preferably with some sort of horseradish condiment. Think Arby’s, but done with actual meat and decent buns…