Boston Restaurant Blog -- April, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
It had been awhile since my last real food-based road trip, so it was definitely time to get one going, which I did this past Patriot's Day. This time, a friend of mine and I too advantage of the nice weather to go on a trip to the North Shore and Cape Ann, stopping by five dining spots along the way. And included among our stops were a couple of roast beef joints, as folks on the North Shore seem to take their roast beef pretty seriously.
Before hitting the roast beef joints, we decided to head to a hot dog stand in Rockport. Top Dog, which is located on quaint, charming Bearskin Neck, is little more than a weathered old shanty, with low ceilings, wooden beams, hanging lights, and a few seats and tables here and there. It looks more like a seafood shack than a hot dog stand, but it is indeed a place to get hot dogs, and the juicy, snappy dogs they have here are certainly something special. We both ordered the Golden Retriever, which is a hot dog on a grilled roll with macaroni and cheese laid out on top of the dog and the roll. You can order your dogs grilled or steamed at Top Dog; we both ordered them grilled, and they were cooked to absolute perfection. The macaroni and cheese would have been just ok if it were its own dish, but the combination of hot dog, bun, and mac and cheese was something I won't soon forget.
After wandering around Rockport for a bit, we hit the road, this time heading along the coast to Gloucester, where we stopped at our first of two roast beef joints of the trip. And while Supreme Roast Beef doesn't seem to be on anyone's radar outside of Gloucester (at least from the lack of coverage seen on the Internet), it sure was a hit to us. The roast beef at this place was tender and delicious, while the sauce had some serious heat. The cheese was half-melted (just the way I like it), and the roll was grilled just right. The interior of Supreme Roast Beef, was a bit dark and gloomy, but perhaps that stems from the fact that it is located in an old dining car with pretty poor lighting. My friend is a big roast beef fan, so when he raved about his sandwich, I knew we had a winner here, but even though it was excellent, the best roast beef was actually yet to come.
After a wasted trip to Ipswich (we wanted to try the Riverview Restaurant for some bar pizza, but it is closed on Mondays), we drove down Route 1 to North Beverly, where Nick's Famous Roast Beef awaited. Upon first glance, Nick's seems like the last place you would want to go, as it is right at a busy, ugly intersection with a parking lot that seems trapped by traffic waiting for the light to turn. And the outside of Nick's screams sub shop or generic pizza place. But it is all about the roast beef here, as we were soon to find out, and it ended up having what may have been the best roast beef that either of us has ever had. Sitting in the generic dining area with the harsh overhead lights, we were in roast beef dreamland, chomping away at beef so tender that it could have been cut with a slice of paper. And the sauce was every bit as good as the sauce at Supreme Roast Beef. The only negative was that the roll was barely toasted, and as I found out later, it seems that you have to ask to have it toasted more thoroughly. But this is a minor quibble, especially considering the quality of the roast beef at Nick's. This is a place that I will surely be going back to on future trips to the North Shore.
We continued down Route 1A through downtown Beverly and into Salem, where we stopped at a local breakfast joint and sandwich place called Red's Sandwich Shop. Located in the center of Salem but on a side street with little traffic, Red's seems like the kind of place that every town used to have; a friendly little neighborhood spot with counter seating as well as booths, good cheap food, and a waitstaff that it a bit salty, a bit rough around the edges, but very efficient and quick. I debated trying one of their famous breakfasts, but opted instead for a burger, while my friend ordered a Monte Christo. According to my friend, the Monte Christo was good, but not great, but my griddled burger was just about perfect. This was no 93% lean burger, and the juices threatened to spray everyone near me each time I bit into it. It was delicious, but unfortunately, the fries were every bit as bad as the burger was good. Limp, undercooked, and bland, these were the type of fries that I have one or two of, then stop. So overall, it was a mixed bag at Red's, but I'd like to try the place again, especially since it seems that their real specialty is their breakfast food.
After dining at Red's, we drove to Marblehead to get some ice cream at Coffey Ice Cream, but they were not open, so we continued through Swampscott, Lynn, and Revere, ending up at the Kelley Square Pub on Bennington Street. The Kelley Square Pub seemed like your typical neighborhood watering hold, with a dining area separated from the bar by one of those wood and plexiglass partitions that so many bar and taverns seem to have. There was also another dining area in the back, but it looked like it might be closed for the afternoon. After discovering that they were not serving pigs in a blanket that day (perhaps they only serve them when Eddie Andelman is there), we ordered a couple of pizzas and some beer; the pizzas were very good, though it was tough to categorize them. They were a bit like a bar pizza, though they had a lot of oregano and the outer crust was rather thick and puffy, making it more like a mix of a bar pie and a traditional Italian pizza. Our waitress was very nice, and seemed to be amused that we could only finish a couple of pieces from each pie, but little did she know that this was our fifth (and last) dining stop of the afternoon.
So what was the final consensus of our North Shore and Cape Ann food trip? And what, if any, restaurants might be featured on this site? Well, Top Dog and Nick's Famous Roast Beef were the cream of the crop; I could dine at these places every week if I lived closer to them. Top Dog, however, is a pretty well-known place that isn't exactly hidden, so no feature, unfortunately. Both Red's Sandwich Shop and the Kelley Square Pub were decent enough, though there are items on both menus that need to be tried before making a final judgement on these places (including various breakfast items at Red's, and burgers, steak tips, and pigs in a blanket at the Kelley Square Pub). Supreme Roast Beef has excellent roast beef and is completely unknown outside of Gloucester. the fact that it is a roast beef joint residing in an old diner doesn't hurt, either. So perhaps the bottom line is, one of the two roast beef places we went to might end up being featured. Keep checking for updates over the coming weeks...
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