The first thing you notice about MGM Roast Beef —- assuming, of course, you can find the damn place to begin with —- is that the sandwich shop is tucked into the ass-end of the Capital Auto Auction warehouse, just across the street from the Brentwood post office, site of the 2001 anthrax attacks.
The second thing you notice is the meats, these glistening slabs of house-roasted top round, beef brisket, and bone-in hams, which the servers carve to order right in front of your slack-jawed face. The mere sight of these juicy cuts practically make you hyperventilate with expectation, like some dog who can’t wait for his owner to finally put that bowl of table scraps on the floor.
The third thing you notice is MGM’s funky ambiance. It’s a modern take on a retro diner —- well, more like a retro diner as filtered through the sensibilities of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In —- but with a distinct layer of steel-coated grit. It’s both cool and tough, right down to its location on this forsaken bit of real estate in the Northeast. The customers who traipse through here are a motley bunch, too —- police, undercover detectives, construction workers, postal workers, you name it.
My friend, Jim, took me here for lunch today, and you could say I liked MGM before I even took a bite. One of the three proprietors (who also owns the auto auction business) was behind the counter. He told us that MGM is an acronym, pulled together from the first letter of each owner’s given name. He proceeded then to help us put together our lunches, to the point of pulling out a freshly roasted brisket for Jim’s improvised barbecue sandwich.
When I finally bit into my hand-carved roast beef, I was hooked. The meat, piled high but perhaps sliced too thick, was perfectly rosy in the center and, more importantly, abundant in succulent beef flavor, thanks in part to the jus that the sandwich makers ladle on right after carving. Stacked on an onion roll slathered with horseradish and mayo (a fatty stand-in for cheese, which wasn’t an option) and topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion, my roast beef sammie was a seriously delicious handful —-and a bargain, too, at $6.75.
Of course, you can create your own sandwich at MGM. Aside from the meats, you have a choice of soft roll (onion, whole wheat, regular, etc.) and condiments (everything from cranberry chutney to horseradish). There are a number of tasty side dishes, too, including hand-cut french fries (with homemade gravy!) and a piquant coleslaw. The MGM is only open for breakfast and lunch, so you better get over there before 6 p.m.
If you can find it, that is.