The closest thing Philadelphia has to Ray’s Pizza in New York City – a seemingly ubiquitous restaurant name that has achieved legendary and comic status – is Nick’s Roast Beef. The most well-known, and probably the oldest, is Old Original Nick’s Roast Beef in South Philly. They have a couple suburban outposts, one of which is fairly close to where I live. There are also several other restaurants in the area that share the name – or a variation of it – but which have nothing to do with Old Original Nick’s.
I had an early lunch at the Old Original Nick’s Roast Beef in Springfield, PA, this morning. In fact, I arrived just after they opened at 10:30 a.m. and was their first customer, although a couple of their staff were enjoying sandwiches before the lunch rush.
I grabbed a seat at the bar and snapped a few photos while waiting for my sandwich.
There is nothing in particular that stands out about the interior. It’s a fairly typical bar with a handful of tables and a bit of a Philly sports theme. I imagine it’s a fun place to watch one of the local teams in action on TV.
The menu is short and to the point. They serve hot pork, turkey, ham and, of course, their famous roast beef on Kaiser rolls with or without Provolone cheese. And there is a small array of fried sides.
Nick’s also has its own set of slang words and phrases for ordering.
I kept it simple and ordered a roast beef sandwich “on the out” without cheese.
My wife was with me the only previous time I ate at this Nick’s and we tried an order of gravy fries. Their gravy is unlike any other I’ve seen or tried. It’s essentially shredded beef or pork in au jus that is extremely flavorful from having all that meat in it. It was a real treat, but I wasn’t up for more than a sandwich this morning.
I could see one of their roasts behind glass from my seat at the bar.
It only took a few minutes for my sandwich to arrive. It came on a paper plate that was barely bigger than the roll and it had gravy on it. I suspected I had a messy eating experience ahead of me, but it didn’t turn out that way. The sandwich stayed together nicely.
About a year ago, I wrote about what had to be the best roast beef sandwich I’ve ever had – at Ye Olde Ale House in Lafayette Hill, PA. That one also included pieces cut from the heavily-seasoned outer crust of the roast and was similar in style to the sandwich I had at Nick’s today. It set the bar extremely high, but given Nick’s big reputation, I thought they might reach it. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.
While the roast beef was extremely tender, its flavor didn’t pack quite the wallop that I experienced from the beef at Ye Olde Ale House, where they probably season the outside of the roast more heavily.
Having said that, it was still a very good sandwich that I’ll probably return for. And I may order it “overboard” next time. That’s with the beef gravy I described piled on top of the roast beef. I would think it would have to drive up the intensity of the flavor.
Would you believe I noticed yet another Nick’s Roast Beef that is relatively new – and unrelated to Old Original Nick’s – not far from where I visit my father and will probably stop in there soon to see how their version stacks up.