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Mar 11, 2011 12:12 PM

Roast Beast (Allston)

Just stopped in this afternoon, a week or two after the place finally opened, and I'm pleased to report this is the real deal for roast beef sandwiches.

The beef is sliced just thick enough to provide a bit of chew, and tastes properly beefy. (It's arguably a touch underseasoned: I might should have taken him up on his offer of a little salt and pepper.) It's not fatty, rubbery or processed-tasting.

I went with the option of a toasted onion roll (white and wheat rolls also available) and the house sauce, a sweet-hot barbecue sauce that's got a surprising thickness and depth of flavor. They would do well to sell it by the pint during grilling season.

Sides are minimal: bags of Utz chips and soft drinks. The owner, D.J., said they were bringing in a fryolator in a couple weeks and reacted positively to my suggestion of tater tots as one of the deep-fried options. D.J., incidentally, is a South Shore guy who says he basically opened the restaurant because he was tired of having to drive all the way to Brockton for a decent sandwich.

This is the kind of place Chowhound was made for: it's a tiny place in a slightly awkward spot that's delivering considerably better food than I expected it to, and at popular prices: large sandwich (and it is!), bag of chips, side of homestyle sweet-hot pickles for $8.50. I was only hoping it would be better than the rather disappointing and sterile Kelly's up the road, but in fact, it was as good a roast beef sandwich as I have had inside the city limits of Boston. I'd love to see these guys succeed, and if word gets out and they can keep up the quality when it does, this could turn into a neighborhood institution.

It's located on the corner of Comm Ave and Naples Road, across the street (and the streetcar tracks) from the Packards Corner Star Market. Open until 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday. Later hours coming, supposedly.

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  1. I'm off work on Monday, think I'll go get me a roast beef sandwich for lunch!

    1. Have you tried Skampa near Lechmere? If so how does it compare?

      424 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02141

      3 Replies
        1. re: 5thAndNowhere

          Sorry, I'm almost never in that neighborhood. Never been.

        2. re: phatchris

          I'd be happy with a sandwich from either place depending on which was closer. Skampa and Roast Beast are the only two places in the immediate metro area which I think are worthwhile for RB. You can get out of each with a large, chops and drink for less than $10. Skampa also comes with fries.

          I think Skampa's sandwich is a bit more traditional in terms of Boston area RB 3 ways.

          The beef is comparable at both places. RB's may be a bit leaner and Skampa's a but juicier.

          I like the traditional James River type sauce at Skampa. The beast sauce at RB is good, and in time they may likely evolve into an overall better product with the combos of sauces, etc. that they are playing around with.

          The rolls are essentially the same IMO. Standard onion rolls which stand up with the sandwich. Nothing spectacular, nothing terrible.

          As pointed out, the owner of Roast Beast is a great guy who is willing to listen to customers and really wants to put out a quality product at a fair price. I sincerely hope he does well, and I think he will as there aren't a lot of good BU sandwich options. He also said they were going to start slicing turkey and some other meats to expand offerings a bit. There is ample meter parking right in front of RB, so don't hesitate to swing by. A Clear Flour cookie for dessert makes for a great calorie laden lunch.

        3. House sauce? Not James River?

          How does it compare to Billy's or Nick's? Or even Bill and Bob's? The lack of a deep fryer for the open implies to me that it's not a traditional roast beef place. Is that a fair assessment?

          4 Replies
          1. re: Fly

            It was explained to me that they didn't have a deep fryer at the open because they need a special self-contained unit that didn't require venting, and so it's on backorder.

            It's definitely a traditional Massachusetts-style roast beef sandwich -- the only difference I noticed was that you get a choice of sauces from the traditional (horseradish, bbq, etc.) to the less-so. I cannot claim to be an expert on every roast beef sandwich available on either shore and inside 128, so I'll stick with this comparison: better than Kelly's to the same degree that Regina is better than Pizza Hut.

            1. re: Fly

              Just curious. I'm not a Boston native and can't remember the last time I had 1 of these style RB sandwiches. It was probably at the place by the MGH.

              Roast Beast sounds great and I plan to try it soon. I'm on bike or T. Is this worth combining with a trip to the new Japanese fish shop? My Allston geography is weak..:)

              BTW, does anyone know why what seems to be a traditional Boston sandwich seems to use a bbq sauce that's named after a river in VA?

              Roast Beast
              1080 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

              1. re: 9lives

                Roast Beast is at Packards Corner T stop. Sakanaya is on the corner of Brighton Ave and Linden, which is three short blocks away. Five minutes walk, top.

                75 Linden St, Boston, MA 02134

                Roast Beast
                1080 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                  Thx, that what it looked like on googlemap.

            2. Thanks for the review - I was wondering about that place. I just recently noticed the sign indicating they'd taken over the dope paraphernalia shop that was there the past couple of years.

              2 Replies
              1. re: BobB

                I was in Roast Beast again the other day. The sandwich was excellent, though a bit removed from a traditional RB.

                However something else struck me while I was there in a deja vu kind of way. By the time I finished my sandwich I was quite certain that the owner was also the owner of said head shop which Bob is referring to. There were other customers so I didn't mention anything or ask why the change of business plan at the time. Perhaps he had some imperial entanglements and decided for a safer product. Now just don't ask me why I had occasion to be in there in its old incarnation...

                1. re: Gabatta

                  You are correct. The city closed down his previous business, scoffing at the argument that the wares being proffered were "functional art," and he decided to target the munchies instead.

              2. Just got back home from lunch , and I think everyone should run, not walk to try Roast Beast for themselves. I had the large on a toasted wheat roll with pepperjack cheese and "Beast" sauce (the house sauce). The guy preparing the sandwiches gave me some of the delicious sweet-hot pickles, some extra beast sauce, and a side of hot pepper relish. The relish gave the sandwich a really nice bite. I did add some salt and pepper as well. The owner was cutting up brownie bits, and offered me a corner from the fudge brownies (super good) and after I mentioned seeing this thread on CH (she had seen the thread, and was pleased), she insisted I try one of the peanut butter brownie bites as well (also excellent). Glad to have this great place in the neighborhood. Certainly the best roast beef sandwich that I've had in Boston, served by super nice folks!

                11 Replies
                1. re: kimfair1

                  Were the brownies made with any of the equipment or wares of the previous tenant?

                  1. re: kimfair1

                    Have you had the Roast Beef from Cutty's in Brookline? If so, how does it compare?

                    1. re: Gordough

                      I have had the roast beef sandwich at Cutty's and I liked this one better. I liked the roast beef more, and a large is $7, and is actually large. I do love Cutty's, but I could eat two of their roast beef sandwiches. You'd have to roll me home if I had two at Roast Beast.

                      1. re: Gordough

                        The roast beef sandwich from Cutty's is -- you should pardon the expression -- a totally different beast. Cutty's roast beef is fantastic, but it's not a MA-shore roast beef sandwich. It's too apples and oranges to really make a comparison.

                        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                          i've not had either sandwich and it sounds like you have had both. Would you plse describe how they are different and why you choose which one? thnx much.

                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                            The roast beef sandwich at Cutty's is topped with fried shallots and Thousand Island dressing on a rather peculiar roll that's best described as a sort of crusty brioche.

                            The sandwich at Roast Beef is a traditional North Shore roast beef sandwich: rare roast beef piled high on a toasted soft roll (white, wheat or onion) with a choice of sauces, barbecue sauce and/or horseradish being the most traditional. (Unlike most shore-beef places, Roast Beast offers around a dozen different sauces, as well as a couple kinds of cheese.) It's a simpler, larger sandwich than the Cutty's one.

                            It's not really a matter of choosing one over the other, as they're both excellent sandwiches. Although frankly, the Texan in me usually orders the ham and pimiento cheese at Cutty's instead of the roast beef: it's damned hard to find pimiento cheese up here unless I make it myself.

                            Roast Beast
                            1080 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                              The roll at cutty's is an iggy's black pepper brioche roll, same as you'll find on a number of burgers around town (canary square & regal beagle both use them I think, among others). It doesn't seem to inspire the same sort of disdain on their sandwich that the brioche-bunned burger has aquired.

                              I may just be selling high here, but I'm not sure I understand all the fuss about roast beast. It's a good sandwich, and I like the whole little guy/new effort thing, but I didn't find it particularly exceptional. I felt it under seasoned for one - maybe it's heretical, but a quick dip in a good salted beef broth would have done the meat wonders.

                              1. re: loper

                                I also thought it was a good sandwich, one I'd get if I were in the area but not so good that I'd travel for it. The roast beef was solid, but I can't say that I thought it was that much better than decent deli roast beef.

                                I haven't had Kelly's in years, so I'll have to try it again to see which I'd prefer. I do like to support an earnest small business that wants to get it right, though.

                                1. re: loper

                                  Coda uses it on their burger, too, and it doesn't offend me as much as most brioche burger buns.


                                2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                  We removed some replies that got into the details of pimiento sandwiches, hot mayo and tuna melts over to our General Topics board: