October 22, 2013

Meant to post on this news when I heard about it the other day. A true New England icon bites the dust. The Hilltop Steakhouse was famous for the big “Frank Giuffrida” sign that stood out at the top of the hill on Route 1 South in Saugus and the plastic herd of cows that watched the traffic pass by for more than half a century. They even put elves hats on them at Christmas time. Back in its day there would be lines out the door – you could see from the road all the people’s faces in the window staring at those cows out front as the lady at the hostsess stand barked out numbers and room locations in machine-gun speed:

“14, 242, 313, 219, 522 for Sioux City!

17, 97, 111, 142, 149, 188, 330 for Kansas City!”

And so on. As they called out the numbers, everyone would look down at theirs to see if theirs was close, but there was no way to really tell, I don’t think they ever gave a number in any kind of sequence in all the years I went there.

Our family used to to the Hilltop every Easter – I think we did it for, like, 35 years straight starting in 1969 or 70. It was a gathering pace for generations that came and went with time and travel, and our tables varied over the years from a low of around eight to as high as fourteen or fifteen some years. It was a place to touch base with everyone as to what was happening in everyone’s life, a gathering to show off your newest girlfriend – I think over the years I must have brought six different girls. There was the year my cousins’ Aunt Sylvia came and the liquor was really flowing – more than a few of us left bombed out of their minds. You could probably recite what everyone ordered from year to year, because it rarely varied – those who ordered the lobster pie, those who wanted their dressing on the side, those who insisted on the rare or well-done cut, those with the sweet tooths who always ordered dessert. Very fond memories, to be sure. They had a unique salad dressing and beautiful logo cocktail glasses, and I’ll bet there’s many a New England cupboard with one or two of those glasses taken as a remembrance of a fine meal. (I’ve still got four of them and use them for my Johnny Walker Red nitecaps!)

As the years went by, there was a lot more competition from other steak house chains so that you didn’t have to drive all the way to the Hilltop for a good steak. The family that owned it made a big mistake trying to expand to additional locations and they lost their shirts. The crowds started to dwindle, and the original location became way too big for the numbers that came. The upstairs dining rooms, reserved for larger parties, went from busy and boistrous to dark and shuttered, and the place just had the feeling of being passed by. The last time we went, a couple of years ago, the service was awful and it was sad to see such a proud tradition fall to the passage of time.

So it’s not a surprise to anyone that the Hilltop has closed. Time can be kind of a harsh mistress and nothing stays the same. But the Hilltop Steakhouse will never be forgotten around these parts, especially when an Easter Sunday comes around.

Hey, at least the Kowloon (right across the street) is still in operation. When that goes, what’ll be left?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 18:32 | Comment (1)
1 Comment »
  1. Drive by it every Saturday.

    I’ll miss that Restaurant.


    Comment by Ron "Cubby" Myerow — October 23, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

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