Competition | May 2014 | By Daniel P. Smith

Standout Store: Top Round

Los Angeles, California

Top Round gives roast beef sandwiches an upscale makeover in a retro setting.
Top Round gives roast beef sandwiches an upscale makeover in a retro restaurant environment. TOP ROUND
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With its nostalgic vibe and fine-dining approach, Los Angeles–based Top Round gives roast beef a fancy makeover, capturing plenty of rabid fans in the process.

The one-year-old shop features a menu of six inventive slow-roasted beef sandwiches, such as the Horse & Hole, made with Provel cheese, horseradish cream, and roasted mushrooms on a sesame bun; the Black & Blue, made with black pepper, Blue cheese, and caramelized onions on a sesame bun; and the shop’s signature Beef & Cheese, featuring a homemade Cheese Whiz spread.

Top Round completes its menu with hand-cut curly fries prepared in beef fat—Dirty Fries, featuring gravy, Provel cheese, caramelized onions, and the proprietary Round Sauce, have emerged a particular favorite—and a high-quality frozen custard program that includes more than 127 custom float combinations courtesy of the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine.

Jamie Tiampo, one of Top Round’s four founding partners, discusses the eatery’s creation, its nostalgic enviornment, and future potential.

How did Top Round come to be?

Really, Top Round is just four partners with deep roots in the restaurant industry coming together, finding something exciting and untapped with roast beef, and then running with it. Our thinking was to take the roast beef and up-tier it, applying an upscale aesthetic to the quick-service space.

How did Top Round’s unique retro look come to be?

It’s a converted doughnut shop, so Top Round very much feels like a nostalgic throwback. It’s certainly something that has caught people’s attention, and we’ve tried to tie that nostalgic feel into everything from our colors and logo to the materials used in the store. It’s a happy look that makes people smile.

How does the fine-dining background of Top Round’s four partners come into play at the restaurant?

From the quality of food to the attitude of the service, we take great care to curate the experience properly, and that grows from the fine-dining experiences each of us have. This is particularly evident with our roast beef. We take the whole top round from the leg portion of the cow, rub it with our all-natural spice rub, roast it for 12 hours, and then cut it thinly to order. It’s a careful, controlled culinary process that results in a high-quality item.

What’s next for Top Round?

Getting into the quick-service space was particularly exciting for us because of its expansion potential. We see maybe three to four units in L.A. first before moving on to another market. We feel we have a great product, but want to avoid expanding too fast. If we can consistently maintain control over the customer experience, we feel we have great long-term potential.