Billy Rapaport admits the only thing he knows about the restaurant business is where to get great food. But the freelance TV and film producer, known best for his work providing every image for NBC’s Kentucky Derby Breeder’s Cup coverage, says his first visit to Top Round Roast Beef in Los Angeles got him thinking about adding a second vocation. The food was so good, so beyond his expectations, that he and wife, Elizabeth Rapaport, will become the company’s first franchisee when they bring the brand to Louisville this spring.
“As we ate these sandwiches for the first time, Elizabeth and I were looking at each other thinking, ‘Have you ever eaten anything like this? This is insane!’” said Rapaport. The couple has a home in nearby Santa Monica, Calif., and in Louisville’s Crescent Hill neighborhood. “The next thing you know, every time we’re in Los Angeles and we’re going there to get food, to get sandwiches to take with us on a plane wherever we were going.”
Not long after, he approached Top Round owners about becoming a franchisee. Founded by restaurateurs Anthony Carron, Noah Ellis, Steven Fretz, and James Beard Award winner Jamie Tiampo, the chef-driven fast-food concept’s lone unit is a humble one: a walk-up window with tables outside and a small counter for service inside. It won’t change much when the Rapaports open their first one in an idle Long John Silver’s location at 4214 Shelbyville Road.
The menu centers on seven beef sandwiches made from top round slow-roasted 12 hours in CVap ovens made here at Winston Industries. Add in three hot dogs, two chicken sandwiches, a handful of salads and sides, shakes and frozen custard, and you get the picture: simple and duplicable, but incredibly high quality, Rapaport insists.
“People say to us, ‘So, your competition will be Arby’s, right?’ And I’m saying that’s not our competition at all,” he says. “Once you’ve tasted what we do, it’s so different from anything anybody in Louisville has ever tasted, you’ll be blown away.”
The drive-thru on the first Louisville location will replace the outdoor walk-up window in the first location. Louisville’s four distinct seasons, Rapaport says, make year-round patio seating impossible.
He plans to conduct a soft opening in late April, but it’ll likely happen in early May. Given his all-consuming Derby-time duties behind the lens, the restaurant opening could also present a problem during that time period. Regardless, he and his wife will soon begin training in California, and after that, she’ll run the operations.
“My feeling is we’ll take a long month going slowly to make sure we have everything running perfectly before we have any sort of grand opening,” he says. “After that, we cut the ribbon, kiss the babies and shake the hands: open!”
An unashamed carnivore, Rapaport calls Top Round a stop created for those proud to be at the top of the food chain.
“Yeah, much to my doctor’s dismay, this is the kind of food I like,” he says.
If you’re old enough to remember McDonald’s fries in its early days, you’ll be happy to know all four of Top Round’s French fry options are fried in beef fat.
“They’re so good, let me tell you, so good,” he says. The Dirty Fries sound particularly palate-friendly, yet cardio-averse: covered in beef gravy, Provel cheese, caramelized onions and Round sauce. “Like nothing you’ve ever had, I promise.”