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A New Regional Style Roast Beef Sandwich: Bowery Beef

guttergourmet Mar 3, 2011 01:34 PM

Just as pizza, burgers and hot dogs have unique regional variations, so do sandwiches whether you call them heros, hoagies, subs, wedges, grinders, po'boys, torpedos or zeps. Narrowing that down further we have roast beef. Not to be confused with Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches, there are some interesting local and regional variations on roast beef sandwiches which are now available in NYC. Interestingly, the Chicago version, popularly referred to as Italian Beef, whose most well known purveyors include Mr. Beef and Al's #1 Beef, the rivalry between which is as intense as Pat's vs. Geno's for Philly Cheesesteak supremacy, is not (yet) represented here in NYC. Chicago Italian Beef sandwiches are served on long Italian hero breads and covered with giardiniera, pickled vegetables in olive oil. There's also Philippe's in Los Angeles, credited for inventing the "French Dip": a hot roast beef on a baguette submerged in the au jus drippings.
As for local styles of roast beef, we have the following: Brennan & Carr's wonderful shack opened in1938 on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn which, like Philippe's, moistens (or drowns depending on your preference) it's roast beef sandwiches, here served on rolls, in it's famous broth. Roll-N-Roaster, coincidentally also originated in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, has been around for a mere 40 years and is a step closer to it's Philadelphian cousin by the addition of cheese (cheez?) whiz to it's hot roast beef sandwiches. The Staten Island boys best known for the rapidly expanding Artichoke pizza joints, have opened This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef in the East Village, paying homage to both Roll-N-Roaster with their cheese whiz laden "This Way" and to Brennan&Carr's au jus dunked "That Way" sandwich selections. Finally, we must mention DeFonte's, born in 1922 in Red Hook and thankfully exported to Manhattan on Third and 21st, who serve huge roast beef Heros with homemade fresh mozzarella, natural jus and an optional slice of fried eggplant for added crunch.
Now the Bostonian's have entered the fray with Bowery Beef, located just around the corner from This Little Piggy in The Bowery Poetry Club. Bowery Beef is modeled on a relatively new regional style of roast beef sandwich started in the 80's in Massachusetts, North Andover to be precise, called Harrison's. Bowery Beef's owners, obviously caring about authenticity, even snagged Patrick Sweetra, a nice Swedish boy and long time slicer at Harrison's, to oversee the operation. But what is this unique regional roast beef sandwich you ask? I observed the whole operation. Industrial hamburger buns are branded with a miniature flame torched brand so that each bun displays a "BB" so as not be confused with the competition. Not to worry, since there are no comparisons with the Brooklyn born roast beef sandwiches. Thinly sliced rare hot fresh roast beef is shaved onto the bun and hand formed into a thick compressed pile. You then have a choice of white American cheese, mayo, mustard, horse radish and the de rigeur, James River sweet tomato based BBQ sauce from (where else?) Virginia! I got mine (2 of them at $6 each) with cheese, sauce and horse radish. Messier than even a fully submerged Brennan&Carr sandwich, it was nevertheless delicious and strangely satisfying. While I may prefer some of the other styles, there is certainly room enough to welcome a unique roast beef sandwich into the ever expanding melting pot of NYC sandwichdom.

Bowery Poetry Club
308 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

Bowery Beef
308 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

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  1. princeofpork RE: guttergourmet Mar 3, 2011 02:31 PM

    I absolutely love the roast beef sandwich from Defontes with the fresh mozz and the fried eggplant. I have never had B&C but have has Roll N Roaster many times. For me RnR is barely a step above Arbys. I havent had it in years but it never impressed me.

    1. p
      pranksy RE: guttergourmet Mar 3, 2011 03:09 PM

      I tried Bowery Beef on Saturday. The beef on the slicer looked beautiful but once the sandwich was made and all the fixing were put on all I could taste was the bbq sauce and the pickle. Next time I'm going to order the sandwich just naked.

      Bowery Beef
      308 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

      1. m
        marjorya RE: guttergourmet Mar 15, 2011 03:07 AM

        Forget Harrison 's. The best roast beef in Boston or NY ,is at Cutty's on Washington St. In Brookline village. Check it out. Totally amazing, plus porchetta on Saturday's. Worth the trip.

        1. Wilfrid RE: guttergourmet Mar 15, 2011 06:01 AM

          The Bowery Poetry Club is in no sense just around the corner from This Little Piggy. It's about seven or eight blocks away. Work up an appetite.

          Bowery Poetry Club
          308 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

          1 Reply
          1. re: Wilfrid
            coasts RE: Wilfrid Mar 28, 2011 09:22 PM

            yeah, plus two avenues. not around the corner...

          2. k
            Kenny48 RE: guttergourmet Mar 15, 2011 10:28 AM

            Sounds like a very expensive version of Arby's. LOL

            1. 2slices RE: guttergourmet Mar 15, 2011 01:00 PM

              I went to college in Boston in the 90s. We'd get these when we were drunk at 4am. I remember loving them, but not so much that we ate them sober.

              Just googled for the names, Kelley's was the one at corner of Harvard and Brighton. The other was somewhere in the west end.

              3 Replies
              1. re: 2slices
                squid kun RE: 2slices Mar 15, 2011 10:51 PM

                What did you think of Harrison's up in North Andover? It seems to be the model here.

                1. re: squid kun
                  2slices RE: squid kun Mar 16, 2011 12:25 PM

                  couldn't tell you. I partitioned my brain drive and can only store 10 years of sandwich memories. Should've asked me last year :)

                  Also, I dont know where North Andover is so I probably couldn't have answered anyway

                  1. re: 2slices
                    squid kun RE: 2slices Mar 17, 2011 12:17 AM

                    >couldn't tell you. I partitioned my brain drive and can only store 10 years of sandwich memories.

                    Sometimes I think I backed up mine then misplaced the flash drive. It's probably stuck to some long-discarded greasy paper wrapping.

              2. k
                kjordan882000 RE: guttergourmet Mar 28, 2011 06:13 PM

                Just tried Bowery Beef. I don't review often, but this place is different. The roast beef sandwich is so unique, I've never seen the likes of it in New York. First off, the roast beef is truly cooked to perfection, next a special BBQ sauce is added, and it sits on a fresh bun. I like light mayo on mine, with a slide of cheese. The combination is mouth watering. After just one sandwich, I was so hooked I went there 3 days in a row. In fact, I could almost eat them morning, noon and night. Don't challenge me, I could do that for a month straight, and still not tire of these delicious creations.

                Bowery Beef
                308 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

                2 Replies
                1. re: kjordan882000
                  coasts RE: kjordan882000 Mar 28, 2011 09:19 PM

                  don't review often? it's your first post...

                  i was at Bowery Beef this weekend and left thinking i would eat it again, but only if i wanted a snack and was in the area. i travel far for This Little Piggy, but don't see myself doing the same for BB. the sandwich was good, don't get me wrong. the meat is truly perfectly cooked and sliced, but that's where it ended for me. the bun, the cheese, the horseradish...meh. it's quite cheap, but they're quite small. i had two and left hungry.

                  Bowery Beef
                  308 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

                  1. re: coasts
                    deabot RE: coasts Mar 28, 2011 11:41 PM

                    I had it last week and was shocked at how small it was. Compared to This Little Piggy it's half the size and .50 cents more. However, I did like the roast beef it was very soft and more rare this TLP. So while I do like the sandwich the size and cost is off putting.

                2. f
                  FoodDabbler RE: guttergourmet Mar 28, 2011 06:23 PM

                  Fans of Boston-style roast beef sandwiches might be interested in this thread on the Boston board: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/771557

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