Where’s the beef? On Manchester Street in Concord, 40 years and counting

  • Two roast beef sandwiches with a side of Onion rings on their way to an expectant customer at the Beefside Restaurant on Manchester Street in Concord on Wednesday, August 8, 2018, while the restaurant celebrates 40 years of business. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Lisa Taylor with three regulars about to leave after another satisfying meal at the Beefside Restaurant on Manchester Street in Concord on Wednesday, August 8, 2018, 40 years after it opened. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • The Beefside Restaurant on Manchester Street in Concord celebrated 40 years of business on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2018. Maddie Vanderpool / Monitor staff

  • Tina Jeski (left) takes an order to go while Regan Naughton (right) moves an order slip to keep up with the starting lunchtime rush at Beefside Restaurant on Manchester Street in Concord Wednesday, August 8, 2018, 40 years after its grand opening.  Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • People at the Beefside Restaurant on Manchester Street in Concord enjoy good food and friendly staff while the restaurant celebrates 40 years of business on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. Maddie Vanderpool / Monitor staff

  • People at the Beefside Restaurant on Manchester Street in Concord enjoy good food and friendly staff while the restaurant celebrates 40 years of business on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • People at the Beefside Restaurant on Manchester Street in Concord enjoy good food and friendly staff while the restaurant celebrates 40 years of business on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Part time New Hampshire resident Jackie Perry and out of state daughter-in-law Nancy Perry at the Beefside Restaurant on Manchester Street in Concord enjoy good food and friendly staff while the restaurant celebrates 40 years of business on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Ken Schmitt a regular at the Beefside Restaurant on Manchester Street in Concord since it opened 40 years ago sits on their dog-friendly patio on Wednesday, August 8, 2018, after finishing his meal. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • People at the Beefside Restaurant on Manchester Street in Concord enjoy good food and friendly staff while the restaurant celebrates 40 years of business on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Lisa Taylor a manager at Beefside on Manchester Street in Concord walks through the dining room on her way back to the kitchen for another order during the lunchtime rush on Wednesday, August 8, 2018, 40 years after the restaurant opened.  Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • People at the Beefside Restaurant on Manchester Street in Concord enjoy good food and friendly staff while the restaurant celebrates 40 years of business on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Lisa Lachapelle, Carol Henderson, and Lindsay Webb are friends and regulars at the Beefside Restaurant on Manchester Street in Concord remark at the constant quality of the food and friendly nature of the staff while enjoying their lunch.  Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

Monitor staff
Published: 8/8/2018 7:45:55 PM

Once upon a time, many years ago, a man wearing a clown suit stood in a Concord parking lot, waved to passing cars and hoped people would take him seriously – and think his food was delicious, too.

The man wanted customers for his new business, and he’d soon be working 17-hour days, hoping one day he’d be a success. Wednesday was that man’s 40th anniversary as a restaurant owner, and he no longer wears a clown suit to attract a crowd.

“Yep, that was me,” Billy Ray, owner of Beefside Seafood restaurant, said by phone. “No one wanted to do it, but someone had to do it.”

Since that day, on Aug. 8, 1978, Beefside has emerged as a local breath of fresh air, owned by a onetime clown who lives in Concord, and operated by a group of area people who started working there decades ago and never left.

One is Lisa Taylor of Salisbury. She showed up at Beefside nearly 30 years ago, the day after graduating from Concord High School. She says she had four job offers back then and chose Beefside, feeling something positive from its owner.

She greeted me Wednesday, talking between orders of onion rings and decaf coffees. She’s been one of the managers at Beefside for 18 years.

“I made a career out of it,” Taylor told me. “I’m grateful for it.”

Food aside, employees loyal as Lassie have meant a stable of customers who, like Taylor, never left once they arrived. The list of managers and general managers and wait staff and hostesses who have built lives around Beefside is impressive:

Jay Corliss, who’s the same age as Taylor and started the exact same day; Bobby Doulitte, 38 years; Steve Shaw, 22 years; Tina Jeski, 15 years; Bonnie Comeau, 30 years, Heather Hamlin, 19 years.

The local flavor – tasted in both the food and the restaurant itself – is why former NBA player and Concord High graduate Matt Bonner once had his father Dave bring 45 Beefside roast beef sandwiches to Boston, where Bonner’s San Antonio Spurs were playing the Celtics. A lot of tall men learned what many here already knew.

In short, this is a fast-food joint that, unlike the giant corporate restaurants that dot Manchester Street and The Heights, uses familiarity and consistency to hold on to customers once they’ve taken their first bite of a sandwich or spoon full of corn chowdah.

As Jeski, who lives in Boscawen, told me at the register on Wednesday, “It’s like a family here, like a mom-and-pop shop. Everything is personal, and they take care of us the best they can. Sometimes I can look at the dining room and know nearly everyone’s name.”

I moved into the dining area for an example. There, I found Frank Woodbury and his wife of 59 years, Mary Woodbury. Sitting across from them was Bob Hackney of Chichester. Frank was Bob’s boss at a power company in Bow for more than 20 years. They went deer hunting together.

They’ve both since retired, from the job and the hunting. Their regular Wednesday lunch routine, however, lives on, long and strong.

“Oh God, a long time,” said Frank, when asked how long he and his buddy had been coming to Beefside on Wednesdays around noon.

When asked if 20 years was accurate, Frank said, “More than that. We retired together, so we eat together.”

They mentioned their love for the roast beef and the corn chowder and the fish chowder and the onion nuggets. When pressed a little further, they acknowledged that flirting with the waitresses through the years has been fun.

“They laugh,” Frank said.

“They flirt back, more or less,” added Bob. “Mostly less.”

Bob, Frank and Mary feel comfortable at Beefside, with Frank telling me, “They’ve been here as long as we have been here.”

Taylor mentioned that babies she’s seen toddle through Beefside have later brought in their own families. 

“Amazing,” Taylor said. “We’re not like a chain at all.”

Thank Ray and his wife, Susan, the co-owner, for that. They’ve created something uniquely local and delicious.

He’s from Lynn, Mass. He had been a cop in Swampscott, Susan a nurse at Boston City Hospital, when the couple bought what had been an ice cream shop, with room for walk-ups only and a staff at the beginning of four.

Susan wanted a more stable home life, Billy said. She didn’t get that 40 years ago, when her husband worked 100 hours a week.

“At first, that didn’t go over well,” Billy said.

People sit and eat there now, and the staff has grown to 29. Billy Ray said business is good. He says he’s “in and out, four or five days a week.”

“The people there care,” Ray said. “And there are people available to help, like Lisa Taylor. I take care of the people who take care of me.”

There are photos at Beefside, including something called Pet Corner, a hard left from the entrance, where pictures of employees’ dogs are on the wall. There’s a black Labrador retriever with the caption, “Black labs matter,” and a photo beside it showing a yellow Lab with the words, “All labs matter.”

The sign outside says, “Happy 40th BdayBeefside,” and includes a photo of Billy and Susan’s dog, Tucker, their golden retriever, plus a bull wearing a bow tie and suspenders, waving.

That’s where Billy Ray, 69, stood in that clown suit, waving to cars, once upon a time.

“I didn’t plan to be here for 40 years,” he said.

But he has.

And they’ve lived happily ever after.




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