Photography by Daniel Walker.

First Bite

Top Round is Now Open and Serving Arby’s-Inspired Bites

Get your roast beef fix.

Newly opened Top Round will inevitably be compared to Arby’s. The similarities are glaringly obvious. The restaurant opened at the Toyota Music Factory in Las Colinas recently, though the small franchise boasts three other locations in Kentucky and California. Expect more, too. The place is begging to go nationwide.

Top Round’s close comparison to Arby’s causes one to assume their M.O. is essentially this: Take a well-known national chain’s menu and replace its poor-to-mediocre product with a slightly higher-end version. You draw in customers with familiarity or nostalgia and entice them with the promise of a better version of their old favorites. As Top Round proudly proclaims (painted boldly across their interior walls), this is “Chef-Driven Fast Food.”

The tactic is not a new one. Many small or local franchises have attempted to capitalize on the success of other larger corporations by providing a very similar but perhaps higher-quality product. Super Chix’s attempt to best Chick-Fil-A comes to mind, but there are others.

Therefore, one would expect that Top Round would be putting out some respectable roast beef. They are using USDA Choice beef, which is “slow roasted daily” on-site. Glancing over the menu, you’ll quickly see some familiar faces. The classic (or “O.G.”) roast beef sandwich is fairly plain, and only comes with au jus. It can be upgraded with their house-made sauce (the “Round Sauce”—a sweet, tangy version of barbecue sauce. Honestly, it’s their version of “Arby’s Sauce”). There’s a version of the classic beef and cheddar with a proprietary cheese sauce. The fries, of course, are curly. You won’t see any “horsey sauce,” but ground horseradish is available at the condiments bar.

But Top Round does add a few additions of their own. You’ll find chicken sandwiches, salads, hot dogs, and breakfast sandwiches.

I stopped in recently to sample the menu. First up, their beef and cheese, a simple sandwich with roast beef, cheese sauce, and their house sauce. It was fine, but not quite as superior to its Arby’s counterpart as one might expect. The beef was not particularly flavorful, the bun felt excessively soft, maybe even soggy, and the cheese sauce congealed quickly. I wouldn’t struggle to eat it again, but I’d probably think about another item at a return visit.

Surprisingly, Top Round’s chicken sandwich easily trumps the roast beef. Here the chicken is brined in buttermilk and pickle juice, fried crispy, and topped with a variety of options. I went with the simpler sandwich, “The O.G. Chicken,” which comes with pickles and mayo only. This was a successful sandwich. The chicken breast was juicy and full of flavor, the brine having clearly done its job, and the exterior is perfectly crisp. Next go round, I’ll go with the “Chicken Cali” with lettuce, tomato, avocado, and ranch dressing.

There were curly fries, of course. You can add cheese sauce (as I did) but you can also enjoy them with beef gravy, cheese, and onions should you feel so inclined. It’s hard to screw up fries, and these were respectable, though not quite as crisp as I’d have liked. But they’re worth pairing with the sandwich of your choice.

Lastly, they offer a number of frozen custard options. Grab one in a cone, cup, shake, sundae, or a concrete. I had the “Banana Cream Pie” sundae with vanilla custard, sliced bananas, chocolate sauce, Nilla wafers, and whipped cream. I mean, it didn’t transcend reality or anything, but I did eat the whole thing. It’s ice cream, after all. (Sadly, no cherry turnovers were spotted anywhere on site.)

As the Toyota Music Factory picks up steam, I imagine the crowds will be swarming the surrounding neighborhood for either pre or post-show grub. Top Round will do nicely with this crowd. It’s affordable and familiar fare; it’s good food in a pinch. The only thing missing is a drive-thru.