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Kelly’s Roast Beef to bring a taste of the Northeast to University Park

The owner of the sandwich chain, set to open locally in September, says he wanted to bring a taste of Boston to Sarasota.

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As Jeff Doward grew his portfolio of restaurants after moving to Bradenton, he hoped to include a taste of his old home of Massachusetts.

Doward, the regional director for RAVentures Hospitality Group, found an answer in a familiar staple from his childhood on the outskirts of Boston.

It was Kelly's Roast Beef, a regional fast-food restaurant in Massachusetts.

“I've been going there as long as I can remember,” Doward said. “To take such an iconic brand and franchise it in Florida was just a great opportunity.”

Kelly's signature item, the roast beef sandwich, is made with rare, slow-roasted beef, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce and American cheese.
Kelly's signature item, the roast beef sandwich, is made with rare, slow-roasted beef, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce and American cheese.

Doward said his new home has so many Boston-area transplants that the restaurant will have an immediate following.

"We are excited to give some of those folks a taste of home," he said.

The restaurant will be located at 5407 University Parkway in the building that formerly housed Sweet Tomatoes. The restaurant is scheduled for a mid-September opening.

Kelly’s has been featured on Rachael Ray's Food Network show, on PBS special "Sandwiches You Will Like" and in the movie "Good Will Hunting."

Neil Newcomb, the CEO of Kelly’s Franchising, said when the company saw continued success with the opening of a licensed location at Boston Logan International Airport in 2018, they began to consider franchising the restaurant outside of the state. They decided to test the Florida market.

The restaurant isn't just roast beef sandwiches. Doward said he will be offering lobster rolls, scallops, clams, fish, salads and onion rings. “We'll have a little bit of everything for everybody,” he said.

Kelly’s bills itself as the creator of the roast beef sandwich, claiming that before the its 1951 founding, the item had never been commercially available. The sandwich is said to originate from one night that founders Frank McCarthy and Ray Carey were working at a Revere Beach inn, the Paul Roger House. When a wedding at the venue was canceled, they decided to sell the beef cooked for the event on hamburger rolls. 

The roast beef sandwich at Kelly's offers a distinctive makeup. Newcomb said, “When we come to a new market, one of the things we want to communicate is that this is the right way to eat a Boston, North Shore roast beef sandwich — with roast beef that is rare."

He added that traditionally, the sandwich is made with mayonnaise, barbecue sauce and American cheese. However, he said, the restaurant will accept requests regarding condiments or cooking times.

Newcomb said nothing goes "freezer to frier.”

The restaurant will offer seafood imported from Massachusetts, but it might eventually switch to Florida seafood if the quality is similar.

“We’re going to find out,” he said.



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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