Jumbo Grill & Pizzeria opens in place of Helen’s Roast Beef & Pizzeria

Jumbo Grill and Pizzeria, which recently opened in place of Helen's Roast Beef, is pictured on Feb. 19. (Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily)

Local Medford restaurant Helen’s Roast Beef & Pizzeria has closed its doors to the Tufts community, leaving a new restaurant, Jumbo Grill & Pizzeria, in its 321 Boston Ave. location as of Feb. 11.

Jumbo Grill & Pizzeria owner Alex Pryanishnikov said the previous business had been struggling for a long time. Pryanishnikov believes poor management and Helen’s ownership being abroad contributed to the business’ failure.

While Pryanishnikov said he knew the owner of Helen’s, he emphasized that Jumbo Grill & Pizzeria is under new ownership and management, and that he has worked with friends and business partners to bring in new staff. Nonetheless, Pryanishnikov knows the location has a cherished history, and he expressed excitement to forge his own.

Some things will carry over, Pryanishnikov told the Daily. The “Blue Zone,” a Buffalo chicken calzone with blue cheese dressing, a staple of Helen’s, will still be available for order.

Pryanishnikov was excited to provide new offerings, telling the Daily that the business was planning to be much more health-conscious then the previous ownership. Among these will be the Impossible Burger, a plant-based burger designed to be indistinguishable from beef, and a large amount of non-meat offerings. 

Pryanishnikov told the Daily the pizza is Italian style, unlike the other several Greek pizzerias in the area.

“[Each pizza] is stone-made, with fresh dough delivered daily,” Pryanishnikov said.

Jumbo Grill & Pizzeria is working to market itself to Tufts students, offering a 10-percent student discount. The restaurant hopes to accept JumboCash in the near future.

Although students are excited for the new business, several told the Daily they feel Helen’s will be missed.

Junior Catie DiRe reminisced on what Helen’s meant to her.

“I loved Helen’s, I ordered from them almost every day at one point.” DiRe said. “[I] associate [Helen’s] with Tufts since they were around since before my freshman year … my college experience has not been the same without [Helen’s].”

DiRe said Helen’s occupied a unique role in the Tufts community.

“I think for me and a lot of people at Tufts, you’d come back from a night out, get together with your friends and order Helen’s since [it was] such a Tufts staple and epitomized late-night college food. Other places, like [Espresso Pizza], just don’t seem to be as quintessentially ‘Tufts’ as Helen’s was,” she said.

However, DiRe says she expects the Tufts community to give Jumbo Grill & Pizzeria a chance.

“I do think that I, as well as other Tufts students, will give this new place a try because I think Tufts students are always on the look out for new food places, especially late-night ones.”

Junior Ross Hamilton noted the fierce competition the new business can expect. Jumbo Grill & Pizzeria’s neighbors on Boston Avenue include Espresso’s Pizza, Nick’s House of Pizza and Pizza Days. 

Hamilton told the Daily the success of the business, in his opinion, relies on the food being cheap and convenient.

“[Jumbo Grill & Pizzeria needs to] fit the style of the locals, a lot of which are Tufts students,” Hamilton said. 

He added that the Boston Avenue pizzerias rely on late-night business and “establishing an identity and a loyal following.”

Jumbo Grill & Pizzeria is now open, with the same hours as Helen’s Roast Beef and Pizzeria, Pryanishnikov said. It is open Sundays through Wednesdays until 1 a.m. and Thursdays through Saturdays until 3 a.m.