As a longtime northern New Yorker, I've often come into contact with the beef on weck. It wasn't very popular in my neck of the woods up near the Adirondacks, but any field trip or family vacation spent near Buffalo meant lots of roast beef. Thinly shaved meat, often served on kaiser rolls, beef on weck and its related sandwich counterparts were cheap and widely available. And, more importantly, it was way better than the Arby's on the thruway heading back.
You won't find the same proliferation of roast beef sandwiches out in Los Angeles, let alone the regionally specific beef on weck. But the recently-opened Top Round Roast Beef on La Brea now proudly serves the beefy specialty ($5.95), along with custard shakes, curly fries drowning in brown gravy, and some seriously kickin' horseradish sauce.
As the name suggests, Top Round Roast Beef only concerns itself with 100% USDA Choice top round cuts, slow roasted for half a day before falling under the whirring blade of a sharpened slicer. There's plenty of moistness retained in each sandwich, thanks to the au jus the beef comes with, but a thick smear of "atomic horseradish" should be more than enough to keep your bready bun from taking over. If anything, you'll be reaching for a fountain soda from the Coke Freestyle machine to help tamp down the burning in your nose, not the to relieve any dryness in your sandwich.
That roll is actually what separates beef on weck from other similar roast beef sandwiches that come with a dose of "horsey sauce." It's a light, compact kaiser variation often referred to as a kummelweck by old-timers with Eastern European lineage. The top comes crowned with sea salt flakes and caraway seeds (technically caraway fruit, but c'mon), while the split interior is dipped in au jus and given a light grilling. The result is a soft, slightly crusty roll that neatly wraps the lean beef, while the horseradish offers the punch that might otherwise be lacking.
The sandwiches at Top Round Roast Beef are a nice little window into the past for millions of small town folks (specifically Midwesterners and Western New Yorkers). These compelling flavors aren't easy to find outside of the regions they're born in, and even harder to scare up in Los Angeles. For those looking to recapture the sandwich of their childhood (and thousands more hungry folks who somehow ended up in L.A.), Top Round Roast Beef has managed to do just that.