COURTESY OF DAN AHN
On Top’s signature hot dog, Bullet the Blue Sky, shown with all the fixings.
Last Friday evening, On Top made its debut in the former White Envelope space at R. House. The stall that used to sling Venezuelan arepas has transitioned into an American street food stand, serving burgers, hot dogs and fries.
Located in the nearby Remington neighborhood, R. House is a food hall with 10 permanent chef-driven stalls. They serve a variety of different cuisines, ranging from Be.bim’s Korean rice bowls to Molina’s pizzas to BRD’s fried chicken sandwiches. The 11th stall is reserved for pop-ups, one-to-two week segments where local chefs can test out a new concept in a low-risk setting.
White Envelope has been a favorite of mine due to the general sparsity of Venezuelan food in the city and the excellent execution of creative recipes. Chef Federico Tischler elaborated on why he turned the stall into this new burger concept.
“There are no burger places in R. House and few in the area, so we decided to bring them to Remington,” he said.
Tischler’s On Top is an all-American menu on the surface, but it also features a tinge of other influences.
“We decided to call it ‘On Top’ because we made it completely build-your-own,” Tischler explained. “You can put anything on top of your burger, making it bigger and better for you.”
Items at this stall are made from scratch, from the burger patties to the fries and various sauces.
“We are trying to turn the burger into something more than your average greasy mess by making it with great ingredients and bringing it together with care,” he said. “Street food can be honest food.”
The same team from White Envelope in R. House will stay on to work the new On Top stall.
“It is important that the team consists of Venezuelan people and feels like a family working at the same place; it is the best way to put a face to the Venezuelan-American community and share our culture,” Tischler said.
The arepa bar concept will be moving into a Washington, D.C. food hall. It will be known as White Envelope Arepa + Ceviche Bar. The format will be slightly different: a sit-down restaurant paying homage to Venezuela in the ‘50s and ‘60s, a time when it was a leader in Latin America in economic growth and artistic talent.
The burgers at On Top are build-your-own style. You can choose from the 13 different toppings and 12 different sauces, with options to make a roasted chicken thigh sandwich or vegan black bean burger instead of the typical beef patty.
The menu also offers other items including yuca fries, cheesesteak and a signature hot dog named Bullet the Blue Sky. It is a choice of chicken or beef topped with a strip of bacon, cheddar, cabbage, chili-lime mayo, ketchup, nata (house-made sour cream), garlic-mayo, mango-habanero sauce, corn-cheddar sauce, crispy tostones and cilantro.
At first, the long list of divergent flavors made me question if it would be too much.
This hot dog isn’t your standard ballgame weenie you paid too much for. Neither is it the dirty water hot dog such as the kind that NYC’s Eleven Madison Park sliced up and plated up for you. While I could not distinguish every item’s contribution to the quality of the dish, the elements were summed to something that is just plain delicious.
I ate the plain beef burger with caramelized onions and American cheese and corn cheddar sauce. It was exactly what I expected: a beautiful sandwich that wasn’t afraid to get a little messy. The pickle lacked a certain acidic bite that I would have liked to complement my decadent main, but the meal was still satisfying, considering it was a second dinner.
The opening night saw a packed food hall on a busy Friday night, and I have high hopes for what’s to come.