They’re taking down the cows

hilltopsteakhouseThe Hilltop has closed.

For those of you who live in New England – actually, I bet for a lot of people who live elsewhere – The Hilltop Steakhouse was legendary. It opened in 1961 and shut down yesterday. I guess there were too many competitors now and the number of customers had dwindled in recent years. What a shame. (First Border’s Books and now this…)

It was the first restaurant I went to where they took your name and you had to wait for a table. For a kid that’s a big thing. This place was so popular we actually had to wait for a table! And they would call our last name over the intercom while we waited in the bar upstairs – in the bar! So adult! – and we would go dine in one of the many “stops” housed in the giant restaurant: Dodge City, Virginia City, Santa Fe, Kansas City (you may notice a wild west theme here). This place made a kid feel like Sinatra.

“Sassone, party of four for Sioux City.”

For a huge restaurant that had a lot of turnover and probably over 100 people working each shift and what was probably a hectic kitchen, the food was really good. I read that at one point they were the largest independent restaurant in the country and had sold over 50 million meals.

I saw footage on the news, workers taking down the fiberglass cows that stood outside the restaurant, loading them on to trucks, and I got a hollow feeling in my stomach. Maybe a lot of people can’t get sentimental over a restaurant closing but I’m not one of those people. They interviewed a waitress who had worked there since 1967. That’s 46 years! Probably longer than a lot of you reading this have been alive. That wasn’t just a job to her. That was her life.

When I think of the Hilltop, I think of my mom, who loved the place. It would be a special treat for us, to go to the Hilltop after shopping at the mall (every trip out of town was special back then because there wasn’t even a McDonald’s in town). It’s one of the places that makes your mind flashback to a certain time, a certain feeling.

Since the closing was announced people have been stealing menus and ashtrays and other items from the restaurant. I obviously don’t agree with theft but I do understand why someone would want a piece of the restaurant’s history, because it’s their history too (except the bastards selling the stuff on ebay). It’s a shame it’s closing but I guess everything has to go away eventually.

Anyone want to chip in to buy a 70 foot cactus sign?

(pic via Flickr)

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