Kelly’s Roast Beef Opens in Sarasota—and Lives Up to the Hype

Kelly’s Roast Beef, a Massachusetts institution, recently opened on University Parkway. The Sarasota location, which is the company’s seventh concept, has been met with eager anticipation from New England transplants since Kelly’s announced that it was expanding to Florida earlier this year.

“Our menu and how we’re preparing it is nearly identical to up north,” says Kelly’s chief operating officer Ryan Dion. People have so many childhood memories of going to Kelly’s. We want to bring back those memories.”

For those new to the Kelly’s experience, you can expect a quick-service environment with food options running the gamut from its signature roast beef sandwich to New England-style seafood platters and even a lobster roll.

For Dion, it’s impossible to choose a favorite.

“I love to eat at Kelly’s. I always make sure to arrive very hungry,” he says. “The three-way roast beef sandwich that has barbecue sauce, cheese and mayonnaise is the best. The fried words with the bellies are also absolutely wonderful. Even the hot dog is incredible. It’s really about what you’re in the mood for.”

Kelly’s focuses on quality and an authentic New England experience. Its whole-belly clams are flown in four times a week from Ipswich, Massachusetts, Dion tells me.

Now, when it comes to a roast beef sandwich, I take a neutral stance. It’s not my go-to order, but I won’t shy away from one, either. When I arrive at Kelly’s, I know I must try its signature offering. So I order the recommended “three-way” preparation and throw in a cup of clam chowder for good measure.

The sandwich is loaded with thin slices of medium-rare beef doused in orange-y James River barbecue sauce with a slice of white American cheese and mayonnaise. Dion says that guests are welcome to ask for their roast beef to be cooked to a higher temperature if medium-rare is unappealing, but for me it’s perfect.

As I take my first bite, I’m struck by the tang of the barbecue sauce. As a southerner, I was skeptical of what a New England interpretation of barbecue sauce would be, but I’m satisfied by the vinegar undertones that are reminiscent of North Carolina ‘cue. The creamy mayonnaise and cheese round out the acidity and richness of the melt-in-your-mouth roast beef. It’s messy, but I’m dining alone, so no bother.

The clam chowder is done in true New England style, with a milky base, not a thick, cream-based roux. I am gobsmacked by how many clams are crammed into this small container, with just the right amount of potato to add some starchy bulk. Never in Sarasota have I come across a more authentic iteration of New England-style “chowdah,” and I imagine all the money I’ll save not having to fly north for one of my favorite soups.

Kelly’s Roast Beef is open 11am-9pm Sunday through Thursday and 11am-10pm Saturday and Sunday at 5407 University Parkway, Bradenton. For more information, call (941) 263-1911 or visit Kelly’s website.

Leave a Comment