I’m a guy who grew up in the Western United States, and I grew up eating beef. That should explain why I was excited to read of the opening of a new restaurant in Louisville called Top Round Roast Beef. (There are only three other locations — in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Dallas.)
The eatery opened one week ago today. A few of my friends have eaten there and generally gave good reviews. So today was my turn.
Top Round Roast Beef is located in a building which formerly housed a Long John Silvers seafood restaurant. It’s on busy Shelbyville Road — at 4214. The fact that it is located in a former fast food place necessarily means that it’s small. But more on that later.
I was a little surprised to find that, for a place that markets itself as a roast beef restaurant, there were only seven roast beef selections on the menu. (There are actually more custard options — 10.) Most of the beef options looked appealing, although I did balk at one that contained “Cheese Wizz”, even if it is ‘homemade’.
However, for my first try, I wanted to taste the roast beef in the simplest form possible. So I chose the ‘OG Roast Beef’ sandwich which had only seasoned salt and Au Jus.
Great Roast Beef
I was highly impressed with the sandwich. The roast beef, sliced rather than shaved as is done at Arby’s and similar places, was extremely tender and flavorful. There was a little too much seasoned salt for my taste and the Au Jus was missing completely, but I was still favorably impressed.
As I mentioned, the restaurant is housed in a former fast food location. Thus the ‘dining area’ is rather small. (One could argue that Top Round Roast Beef is, itself, a ‘fast food’ establishment. However, it is my feeling that the quality of their principal ingredient puts them a step above that label.)
Aside from the small size, one thing I noticed was the lack of variety of seating choices. The restaurant currently has 10 four-top tables, but only one two-top table. I arrived at about 12:45 PM — somewhat the end of the lunch period. There were still about five people in line ahead of me and several groups still eating.
Since I was by myself, I was reluctant to take a seat at one of the available four-top tables and effectively deny that seating to a group of people. However, the only two-top table was taken — by a man eating by himself — so I chose to take my sandwich ‘to go.’ (Perhaps that accounts for the lack of Au Jus being included in my order.)
It appeared to me that there was room for at least two more two-top tables, although I admit I don’t know what fire regulations are for that size of establishment. Regardless, the location of the counter ensures that, if you are seated at any table in the center of the room, you are going to have people who are waiting in line standing around you.
This was my biggest peeve of the entire visit. Top Round uses a point-of-sale console which I have seen becoming more prevalent. You place your order and then, since you are paying ‘in advance’, you are asked to specify a tip — in advance as well.
In this particular case, I was prominently presented with options for a tip of 15%, 20%, 25%, or ‘other.’ At the bottom of the screen was a button — gray and far less prominent — which said “no tip.”
I, as I think most people do, define a tip as a gratuity for service performed. While we always anticipate ‘good’ service, for which American tradition indicates a 15% gratuity, we all know that service may be far better or far worse than just ‘good.’
The ‘service’ that I received — for which I tipped 15% — consisted of a woman dropping a paper bag containing my sandwich on the counter in front of me and saying “thanks.” That’s the same kind of service I get — and expect — from McDonald’s.
During the 15 or so minutes that I was in Top Round, I did not see any instance of anyone checking with patrons at the table for more drinks or anything else that they might need — a significant part of ‘service’ in a restaurant.
Overall — Thumbs Up
The quality of the roast beef is enough to take me back to Top Round Roast Beef. Knowing what I know now, I likely will not leave a tip — certainly not 15% to be handed a paper bag or tray. But, all in all, that small irritation is not enough to keep me from going back for an exceptional roast beef sandwich.