By: Barry Erickson – September, 2010
Did someone tell you to try Royal Roast Beef at 464 Lowell St Rt. 110 in Methuen? Did they said, “It was good.” It’s not good, it’s great! Royal roast beef is tender, juicy, and lean. Browse the web as I did and you’ll find it proclaimed, “The Best Roast Beef north of Boston.”
There are hundreds of places that stuff roast beef in a roll and pass it over the counter, but that’s not the Royal way. The moment you step through the door and smell the beef cooking, you’re hooked. Take a bite and you’ll agree – The Best Beef North of Boston!
There’s a reason for that title and it starts with The Royal Family. Peggy may greet you at the counter or her daughter Elaine. Elaine’s husband Sarandis may get your fries, Chris or Thamos, her brothers will make your sandwich while Zeno, father, husband, founder, and master chef prepares the roast beef. It’s a family business in every sense of the word.
Zeno Markos is fussy. “I buy only the best. Top choice cuts,” he says proudly showing sides of beef in the freezer. “Every other day we get fresh deliveries.” His cuts are better than I buy at the supermarket, but not good enough for him. He trims and cleans it, cooks it, trims again, cooks more, and doesn’t slice it until your order hits the back counter. Your sandwich isn’t warmed for you, it’s oven fresh! The sauce? – made fresh – a Royal recipe. Fresh vegetables sliced minutes before you eat them. Everything is a royal recipe and prepared fresh.
“People are smart today,” Zeno says, “Americans eat out a lot and you can’t fool them. They know when they’re getting the best. That’s what we do here. We give them the best and they come back. That’s all.”
Does that philosophy work? Absolutely, in a driving rain faithful customers poured in as they have since 1990 when Zeno and Peggy opened here in Methuen. “I wanted only the best here,” Zeno says again. “So I put up the walls, built the counters, laid the granite counter tops, tiled the floor, and brought in all stainless steel appliances.” No general contractor – Zeno did all the work.
Tour the sparkling kitchen and frig and you see the Markos philosophy repeatedly, “These fries are top of the line! I buy chicken, top of the line. We boil our own chicken and make our own chicken salad, our recipe. We marinate our chicken, our own recipe! We bread our own chicken.”
Salads are prepared fresh daily complemented by their own salad dressing. Seafood delivered every other day. “When we say haddock there are no substitutes,” Zeno bellows. In many restaurants slipping in cheaper pollock for haddock is a common trick. Not here and everything is prepared royally and served with their own tartar sauce. Fried clams – coming soon while Zeno still tweaks the recipe.
The Markos family knows food. There’s a hundred years of experience behind that counter, thirty-eight of which belong to Zeno alone. He began as a dishwasher working for Jimmy’s Harborside in Boston. “Some nights I’d work late and miss the train so I walked home to Lynn,” he says with a smile. That’s fourteen miles according to MapQuest!
Zeno is one of eight children all of whom own and operate roast beef, pizza, seafood and sub shops! It started with Nick’s Roast Beef in Beverly in 1968. It spanned out from there when Zeno opened Buffalo Bills in Beverly shortly after. In the mid seventies Zeno hired Peggy and in 1978, they married. In 1990 they brought the business to the rotary here in Methuen where Routes 93, 110 and 113 all come together.
Royal found a home in Methuen and Methuen found a friend. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas Royal brings holiday food to St. Ann ‘s in Methuen a church that runs a wonderful residential program and helps with special education to children. They’re also big supporters of the ALS Foundation, so when you tip at Royal, ALS gets the tips.
The Royal House of Pizza and Roast Beef – great food, great family, great customers – come and enjoy. Watch for their seafood menu coming in October!