Jamie’s Roast Beef (Peabody, MA)

My brother’s visit to the States was a short one, and we soon found ourselves heading back to Logan Airport so he could catch his flight. Since we had a bit of time to spare, I decided to take the kindler, gentler route to the airport, which involves avoiding Boston itself and taking Route 1 down to East Boston. He mentioned that he had one last food craving he wanted to satisfy, and that was a “proper Massachusetts-style roast beef sandwich”, so I decided that the best thing to do would be a short diversion to Peabody, MA to visit Jamie’s Roast Beef.

While New England has several foodstuffs it can rightfully claim as it’s own (like lobster rolls, clam chowder, and johnycakes), the North Shore has it’s own particular specialty, the North Shore Roast Beef Sandwich. While the North Shore certainly isn’t home to either cattle ranches nor slaughterhouses, the region has had a fascination with piled-high roast beef sandwiches going back to the early 1950s. Most oral tradition claims it started with Kelly’s Roast Beef in Revere (which is another of those odd Offbeat Eats holdouts that I’ve visited and even photographed several times, but apparently not written up). Kelly’s has been serving piled high sandwiches of rare roast beef since 1951, but the entire North Shore is peppered with all sorts of other, competing roast beef sandwich stands, often named after the founder (e.g. Jasmine’s, Billy’s, and Nick’s, just of the ones I’ve reviewed). One of the better ones I know of was today’s destination: Jamie’s Roast Beef in Peabody, MA.

In the stiff competition of North Shore Roast Beef, Jamie’s is the brash newcomer; Jamie’s actually opened in 2020 during the pandemic era, but quickly became notable for both the quality of the beef and some of the more innovative toppings. It’s always a bit risky to try “elevating” a fairly simple concept like a roast beef sandwich, since in many ways, the beauty of a proper sandwich is in the relative simplicity: roast beef cooked to a tender, moist, and flavorful medium rare, piled high on a bun (like the Philly cheesesteak, the bun matters, with Piantedosi bakery being the gold standard), with relatively simple condiments (for me, a dash of either horseradish or actual horseradish sauce, but a not-to-sweet barbecue sauce works pretty well, too). But the toppings here are nicely conceived, with concepts like Boursin cheese, Bernaise sauce, and garlic aioli.

I decided to go with a fairly conservative twist on the classic: a super-sized Weekend at Bearnie’s. Basically a simple beef and cheddar with some Bearnaise and extra horseradish. A great way to see what Jamie’s is all about. First of all, the beef itself, the basic building block of the sandwich, was about as perfect as it comes. Cooked to a still pinkish medium rare, it was tender, juicy, and wasn’t overly seasoned, but also had a reasonable salt level. Layer upon layer of this added up to both the perfect taste and texture that I love in a good roast beef sandwich. The sauce was basically a Bearnaise-aioli blend, with rich notes of egg yolk, garlic, and tarragon, but not enough so to bury the underlying beef. A bit of horseradish for some bite, and served up on a lightly-toasted (gotta have a bit of that toast crunch) bun, and this was indeed one of the best North Shore roast beef sandwiches I’ve had.

Dan went for his own take, getting a regular-sized beef sandwich with lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheddar sauce. He rather enjoyed it, with the cheddar sauce again not overwhelming the perfection of the stacked-up roast beef.

They’ve got some other items on the menus, like subs, and a pretty good selection of sides likes fries and rings, although to be honest, the action here is staying with the classic sandwiches. I’ll definitely come back when I’m in the area, and probably try out either a 3-way (beef, American cheese, and BBQ sauce) or something loaded up with garlic aioli. It’s definitely one of the new standard-bearers for a classic North Shore Roast Beef.

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