As many locals in the Greater Boston area can tell you, the South Shore is generally bar pizza country while the North Shore is mainly roast beef country. So does this mean that the only places to get good bar pizza are south of the city while the only good places for roast beef are north of the city? While there is some truth to this, it's not completely accurate, as a few spots north and west of Boston do have great bar pies while a handful of places outside of the North Shore have terrific roast beef sandwiches. And one such spot in the latter category is actually within walking distance of downtown Boston (albeit a long walk), making Skampa in East Cambridge one of the best options for city dwellers who happen to be roast beef lovers.
As is the case with many, if not most roast beef joints, Skampa doesn't look like much from the outside or the inside, though its hanging sign out front (complete with a picture of a roast beef sandwich) is appealing in an old-school kind of way. The interior is pretty much what you would expect from such a place, with a tiled floor, brick walls, portable fans, a soda machine, a handful of tables with hard chairs, and a counter with the menu items shown up above. Unlike a lot of other roast beef places and sub shops, there are no fluorescent lights so the lighting is actually more dim than overly harsh (thanks to relatively weak track lighting).
Skampa has a lot more than just roast beef on its menu, including such items as pizza, calzones, pasta dishes, shrimp and scallops, burgers, wings, meatball subs, cheesesteak, mozzarella sticks, onion rings (and these are particularly good), and much, much more. But the roast beef is definitely the thing here, with the thinly-sliced meat being lean, tender, and slightly warm and topped with BBQ sauce that doesn't overwhelm the sandwich, with the beef being stuffed in a classic onion roll. The sandwiches come in three sizes (junior, large, and super beef) and can be ordered "three-way" (sauce, cheese, and mayo), with a dinner option including fries, rings, or rice pilaf. In addition, if you are really hungry you can order a version with a fried egg on top, which pretty much necessitates the use of a knife and fork. The roast beef sandwiches at Skampa are good enough to compare nicely with some of the best found on the North Shore, though the quality of the beef at the absolute top-of-the-heap North Shore places such as Nick's Famous in Beverly give some of those places a slight edge.
Skampa is proof that you don't have to go to the North Shore to get a good roast beef sandwich, and because it is only a few minutes from the busiest parts of Cambridge, Boston, and Somerville, it is very convenient for a large number of roast beef lovers. It may be tough to compete with the likes of Nick's Famous or some of the other top-tier roast beef spots north of the city, but Skampa is about as good a place as you will find outside of that area.
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