If Elsie the Laughing Cow had a boyfriend, he'd probably look a lot like the mascot on the sign in front of Beefside. It's a nod to the early days of this 30-year-old family restaurant, when its mainstay was the roast beef sandwich. Nowadays the roast beef shares menu space with the fried seafood and a small barbecue section. The wood paneling and old school decor offer a comforting environment that seems very much at odds with what you'd expect for a barbecue joint.
For barbecue, Beefside offers pulled pork and pork ribs only, having phased out the beef ribs because they were hard to procure with consistent quality. Rocking the pendulum back to the beef side at Beefside are the burgers and the signature roast beef, available in three different sizes. Fried seafood options include clams, shrimp or scallops on platters or rolls, with haddock also available on platters. Baked seafood platters occupy a smaller section, as do steaks and other assorted sandwiches. They even serve breakfast.
My wife and I visited Beefside for a Saturday afternoon lunch, joined by another couple who are barbecue competition cooks.
We started with some seafood chowder, which was described by our server as being clam chowder with seafood and very good. She nailed the "clam chowder" part. I can't really vouch for the "seafood" part (didn't notice any) or the "very good" part, but it was pretty good, if typical.
We also ordered a batch of onion rings, which were the thin batter crunchy kind. I'm guessing they were home made and I'm saying they were very good.
The men shared a barbecue combo platter that includes pork ribs, pulled pork, beer battered fries and cornbread (no love for the slaw, I guess).
Family restaurant, homespun vibe, so-so chowder—not exactly the setup for high expectations on the barbecue. But I could smell the smoke on the ribs before the plate hit the table. The platter was served with sauce on the side without our having to ask.
The crust on the meaty ribs was well-defined, though there wasn't much visible rub. They looked a little dry, but cutting the bones revealed the meat to be fairly moist, with a very potent smoky taste and some good use of spice to heat things up. There was enough fat to provide flavor but not so much that it got in the way. The ribs were tasty with or without the sauce.
With so many barbecue-only joints overcooking their pork routinely, we surely expected such—as well as a lack of smoke—from a "family restaurant" that only sidelined in barbecue, but neither was the case here. The pork was extremely smoky, perhaps too much so. The smoke might have sold itself better if there were some other flavors to balance it, but this was a one note song. I wouldn't call the pork overly moist or overly dry, but right down the middle.
The sauce served with the barbecue combo was a dark brownish red that we guessed may have used Sweet Baby Ray's as a base, but I also detected some tomato. I wasn't crazy about the sauce by itself, but it was okay on the ribs, which were moist enough to eat without the sauce. It was too thick and too sweet for the pork.
The beer battered fries were interesting, with a much lighter batter than the description would suggest. They reminded me a little of tater tots. Cornbread was excellent, with a deep corn flavor, a nice grainy texture and a little bit of crispness on the edges.
The bottom line: Beefside isn't going to compete with the titans of New Hampshire barbecue, but it's real barbecue for sure. Think of it as an old time family restaurant with benefits: one of those places where, if you found yourself in a car with a group of hungry people and needed to please them all, you could please them, get barbecue for yourself and have it be much better all around than you'd ever expect.
Yelp reviews of Beefside
Urban Spoon reviews of Beefside