Built on an unassuming street corner by the beach, the original restaurant is recognizable both for its takeout window and for its large, iconic sign in green neon featuring an apron-bedecked, toque-wearing chef holding a towering sando. Inside, a casual menu board (you order at the register) advertises Kelly's most famous items -- roast beef, naturally -- but also their seafood platters. Order a small roast beef on a grilled sesame seed bun, and, if you're feeling decadent, spring for a side of breaded onion rings.
Why is this sandwich so good? It possesses all of the necessary elements of a culinary masterpiece: texture, ample condiments, fat, and crunch. There is the height from the meat itself, but not too much stature. Does anyone want to use a fork to stab at their lunch's remains? The special sauce offers a slick of creamy richness, tempered by sweetness and acid from the barbecue sauce. One square of cheese is enough for a little creaminess. Onions are required, for bite and flavor. It is different, say, from a New York pastrami on rye, where the protein can tend toward the perilously dry, and the bread, on the stiffer side, doesn't give an inch when you hinge your jaw. A New England roast beef is soft, but not soggy. It yields. And a worthwhile gem should yield.
In my town, Courtyard Roast Beef was our Small Guy, the carnivore's delight piled high on an onion roll. This past year, it closed, after 36 years in business, leaving us beef-less, which is a sad post-script; no town should lose their mainstay. The Courtyard super beef was legendary. I dare you to find a sandwich with a better name. Super. Beef. Can someone resurrect this hallowed legend? Right now, space where Courtyard used to be -- a nondescript building with gray siding near both a traffic circle and the District Court -- is nothing more than an abandoned building. An Italian restaurant is slated to move in next, and it will likely be nicer than Courtyard was, with no built-in Formica booths, no yellow pallor accumulated from decades of grease traps.