Our 2015 quest to understand the steak tip has fallen into the valley that lies somewhere in between unfinished and never-ending. Just when you think you’ve had your fill, you look up at a menu board, see another variation on the steak tip, and get drawn back in. Seasons change, friends come and go, but the quest remains.

Location: Sal’s Ristorante & Pizzeria in Southie: 205 L St, South Boston, MA 02127

Bracket: Wild Cards

Tip Source: None. Meade was confirming Sal’s had a chicken parm sub and saw steak tips on their menu

The Tale of the Tip:

Walking into Sal’s is like seeing a checklist for “Boston-area Italian pizza and sub shop” come to life: Teenager with braces taking orders. Pizza spinner on counter. Sicilia mural on interior wall. Sports on TV. Recent digital menu boards installed. Old timers coming and going. Office behind the counter and next to kitchen. Padre Pio icon on the wall.

And then there’s the smell, just right in its mixture of sauce, cheese, and crust. A little burnt maybe, or cooked just right, depending on where on the boot your family hails from.

There’s one key difference here though: There’s a half-dozen young people waiting for orders in their bathing suits, and the woman at the counter has her LIFEGUARD hoodie on.

Sal’s is located about three blocks from M Street Beach in Southie, and if you squint hard enough, the closer you are to the beach in Southie in the summertime, the more you just might convince yourself you’re in a New England beach town. You can smell the ocean. You can walk into a store, order some combination of sub, bagel, coffee, and slushie, and head down the beach. And the beach will be packed — not the water, that’s still and chilly, but the sand is a veritable wall-to-wall playpen of the tanned and tanning.

Hence the order: a large steak tip sub, lettuce, tomato, and hots, to go. I wanted to know if this hearty meal that has warmed so many winter nights could translate to being carried to the sun and sand within the confines of a sub roll.

The Verdict:

The sub contained maybe four tips sliced into about a dozen smaller pieces, cooked medium by default. Unlike most of the steak tips we’ve had, these tasted as if they were simply the steak itself – no sauce, no rub, maybe not even salt or pepper. Just bite sized pieces of cow. That may sound plain to some, but “plain” is often better over-sauced, especially when served in sub-form.

Sal’s steak tip sub may not be for everyone, but again, squint hard enough, and you can see evolution at work. A dinner meal placed in a sub, brought out of its typical sit-down and bar-food habitats, and enjoyed in High Summer, the shortest-lived of all New England seasons. This sandwich didn’t end our quest, but it did show us new variations to look for along the way

Essay & Photos by Dan Meade
Publication date: 07/23/2018
Date of visit: 07/21/18