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Horrible Hilltop dinner report.

Sal Monella Dec 4, 2006 01:53 PM

I know I know, what am I thinking?

Let me start by saying that I had NO say in going to the Saugus Hilltop "steakhouse" last Friday night. The last time I ate there was around 1984 when I had no $ and knowledge of good cuisine.

Four ex-co-worker friends and I get together from time to time just to keep in touch so one of the guys thought that the Hilltop would be convenient and cheap enough for all. The food was absolutely horrible...not a big surprise really. The group ordered pub type apps...onion rings and some combination of potato skins, buffalo tenders and mozz. sticks. No of which was edible for me but the guys wolfed them down. For main course, I wanted to play it safe so I figured their "signature" steak (bone out ribeye) with the house seasoning (cajun?) and mashed potatoes would be ok all things considered. Sad to say it wasn't. Haven't had a more grizzled, fatty, ugly looking, bland piece of beef in a very long time. I could only have about 7 bites before giving up. The mashed potatoes were lukewarm and very bland...managed to eat about half as I was starving. One of the others steak tips were so inedible that he gave up (and he usually eats anything) Anyway, the guys wanted more punishment so we ordered some desserts. Bad idea all around except one of the guys liked their rice-cake type pudding. Go figure. The only aspects of the experience that were ok were the beer and the waitress. She was very nice and friendly...we left a good tip for her.

Suffice to say, I won't be going back until I turn 80 (for the early bird special) and won't care about anything but price and taking my senility medicine.

Stay away from this place.

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  1. MC Slim JB RE: Sal Monella Dec 4, 2006 02:36 PM

    Well, believe it or not, it could have been worse. I got dragged to the Braintree location a few years ago, and it was everything you described, on top of which the place was filthy: it looked like it hadn't seen a vacuum in weeks. Just revolting.

    1. hiddenboston RE: Sal Monella Dec 4, 2006 02:45 PM

      You're so right. All these great restaurants like Umbra, New Taste of Asia, and Buteco are gone (or soon will be) and yet the Hilltops of the world keep on going (well, the one in Saugus, anyway--the Braintree one is closing, if it hasn't already).

      4 Replies
      1. re: hiddenboston
        trufflehound RE: hiddenboston Dec 5, 2006 02:01 AM

        Mediocre food for mediocre tastes.

        1. re: hiddenboston
          xo_kizzy_xo RE: hiddenboston Dec 5, 2006 03:02 PM

          It hasn't closed yet. We stopped by there for lunch a month or so ago. We were the only people in the entire place. Scary. The food was nothing to write home about, but then again it never was.

          Heh, I just remembered how much my relatives loved the Saugus location. They weren't chowhounds by any stretch of the imagination, which is OK. The point was they liked it. That's all that mattered.

          1. re: xo_kizzy_xo
            Sal Monella RE: xo_kizzy_xo Dec 5, 2006 03:16 PM

            Interesting that you mention the "The point was they liked it". I'm usually of the same mindset when it comes to restaurants (especially when the dialogue involves "authentic" food)...I like what tastes good and that's pretty much it whether it's "authentic" or not. I also think that people only know what's in their frame of reference eg. if you only eat at Hilltop and think it's ok, you're happy. Once you start experimenting with other places but similar cuisine you start to realize what you've been missing and/or how bad you had it. This website helps to englighten.

            1. re: Sal Monella
              xo_kizzy_xo RE: Sal Monella Dec 6, 2006 12:23 AM

              I agree with you wholeheartedly *grin* And I'm not one to push the "enlightenment" angle unless it's asked for or insinuated in some way. If somebody, for instance, thinks Great Big Corporate Chain Restaurant is the greatest thing on earth, that's OK, although I'll probably cringe on the inside.

        2. b
          BJK RE: Sal Monella Dec 4, 2006 02:59 PM

          Suffice it to say, there's a reason Chowhound is a niche community. Unfortunately, most Americans still prefer a meal at TGI Friday's than at places like those we love so dearly.

          BK

          2 Replies
          1. re: BJK
            b
            Blumie RE: BJK Dec 4, 2006 03:04 PM

            My NY office is in Times Square: I just cringe when I come out of my office at night and see the lines for Olive Garden and TGIF. In NYC, for crying out loud! And my Boston apartment is near Park Square, where I can observe the out-the-door lines at Maggiano's and Legal's every night of the week. (I'm not a Legal's hater like some on this board, but I would never wait in that line for one of their meals.)

            1. re: BJK
              thegolferbitch RE: BJK Dec 6, 2006 03:06 PM

              Oh, AMEN. I listed Hilltop on another board as "Where You've Never Gotten a Good Meal". My DH is a North Shore kid and for him, the Hilltop is still the name upon whose mention all knees must bend in respect. That was THE steakhouse for folks who lived along Rte 1. For me, coming from the NH border, we also got our prime rib on Rte 1 but Rte 1 Hampton, the Galley Hatch. Anyway Hilltop-- He loves it, still goes there with bros, etc. Last time I was there it was for a mercy meal for MIL. It was appalling. I will say, the drinks were well mixed but everything else was awful. Soup dreadfully, dreadfully salty and slopped over the cum rim into the saucer. Fatty, cool beef. Cooked to the point of saying "ouch" vegs. And occasionally at the end of a rather....congealed???....meal, a good cup of scalding hot black coffee will wash everything down and make you feel human. I couldn't even get that. Lukewarm and pale coffee. Sigh. I'm sorry, Sal M.

            2. h
              hargau RE: Sal Monella Dec 4, 2006 03:18 PM

              I have not been there in years. Used to get dragged there alot as a youngster. Id always get the Lobster Pie which was actually decent, however i just looked at their website and noticed they dont even offer it anymore!

              1. ScubaSteve RE: Sal Monella Dec 5, 2006 03:56 PM

                gr8. i gotta attend a function there 2nyt. ARRRRRGH!

                9 Replies
                1. re: ScubaSteve
                  Sal Monella RE: ScubaSteve Dec 5, 2006 04:48 PM

                  Sorry Scuba...stick to the beer and perhaps fries...or eat somewhere else beforehand.

                  1. re: Sal Monella
                    ScubaSteve RE: Sal Monella Dec 5, 2006 04:50 PM

                    thanks Sal. but itz a political fundraiser and itz already paid 4. i'll just grin & beer it.

                    1. re: ScubaSteve
                      Sal Monella RE: ScubaSteve Dec 5, 2006 04:52 PM

                      Good luck. Let us know how you make out...

                  2. re: ScubaSteve
                    i
                    InmanSQ Girl RE: ScubaSteve Dec 5, 2006 05:02 PM

                    As someone who has been dragged there on many an occasion, simply embrace the fact that it will be comfort food instead of fine dining and you'll be fine. Get the prime rib (ask for horseradish sauce and to make sure it comes out hot)which is very hard to screw up, or the marinated steak tips (usually ok). The other route is to order the Filet Mignon, which is not expertly prepared or aged, but at under $25 for a huge cut, it will be the cheapest Filet Mignon you've ever had and if you order it done rear, they should manage not to kill it and allow you to avoid the whole fatty, gristly issue.

                    1. re: InmanSQ Girl
                      ScubaSteve RE: InmanSQ Girl Dec 5, 2006 06:13 PM

                      no ordering. we were given a choice of chicken or beef. Lord help me.

                      1. re: ScubaSteve
                        Sal Monella RE: ScubaSteve Dec 5, 2006 06:15 PM

                        Oh man! I recall the bread rolls were passable...with enough butter. Hanging or lethal injection?

                    2. re: ScubaSteve
                      Sal Monella RE: ScubaSteve Dec 7, 2006 12:07 PM

                      Hey ScubaSteve. Did you make it out alive? Give us the down and dirty from your night at the Hilltop.

                      1. re: Sal Monella
                        ScubaSteve RE: Sal Monella Dec 7, 2006 02:51 PM

                        oh my. all @ my table had the 'beef' option (others being chicken or fish, neither of which i tried) and although the portion of filet was generous and cooked to an attractive medium rare the beef did have a pronounced liver flavor and i saw several big eaters that left their's unfinished. sides were a roasted potato that was a little leathery and a mixed veg right outta the bag. we started with a smallish ceaser salad that they had stacked one on top of the other so if you got one from the bottom, the lettuce, while it may of been fresh to start, was really squished. and to finish there was vanilla ice cream (brighams'?) with strawbeery sauce, with little or no actual strawberry. the upstairs bar was closed and we only had a small function bar so i cannot weigh in on the bartending. needless to say the room cleared out pretty quickly as the last plates were being cleared.

                        1. re: ScubaSteve
                          Sal Monella RE: ScubaSteve Dec 7, 2006 03:02 PM

                          Pretty much along the lines of what was already discussed.

                          At least you lived to tell about it.

                          Thx.

                    3. jillyju RE: Sal Monella Dec 5, 2006 05:08 PM

                      I grew up in Marblehead, and a trip to Saugus to Hilltop was always an event. I liked everything from the cows out front, to the rooms with different names of Western Cities, to the huge portions. The long waits made it seem all the more exciting. Those were the days...

                      Of course, I'm talking about a time that was well over thirty years ago, so maybe the food was actually good, and it isn't just that my palate was rather undeveloped at the tender age of 10.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jillyju
                        n
                        NoShoGrl RE: jillyju Dec 7, 2006 02:47 AM

                        oh my, you just described to a tee my childhood, once a year trip to the hilltop with my grandparents!!!!!!

                      2. Bob MacAdoo RE: Sal Monella Dec 6, 2006 12:12 PM

                        It is sad, but inevitable, to see just how far the Hilltop has fallen. While it was never a prime steak place, it's Saugus location once was a fabulous locale for oversized cuts of USDA choice meats that were well seasoned and prepared. Of course, this was back in the 1980s when it was a family-owned and operated establishment.

                        As Jillyju aptly noted, going to the Hilltop back in the day was an event, complete with insanely long lines )just to put your name in for a table), more waiting over watered down cocktails, followed by a feast that included enornmous (and as I recall, decent) salads, giant baked potatoes and the aforementioned meat.

                        Like everything in life, time passes and institutions fade. Que sera.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Bob MacAdoo
                          h
                          hargau RE: Bob MacAdoo Dec 6, 2006 12:36 PM

                          Yea i remember as a kid waiting for what seemed like hours in that long long hallway line. The baked potatoes were huge!

                          1. re: hargau
                            i
                            InmanSQ Girl RE: hargau Dec 6, 2006 12:49 PM

                            Me three!! That's why I still get dragged there occasionally. My grandparents moved to FL back when they were still good and like to go now when they come and visit for memories's sake. Do you remember the place mats with the cow seperated into cuts of meat? I used to think that was the neatest thing (when I was like 9;)!

                            1. re: InmanSQ Girl
                              h
                              hargau RE: InmanSQ Girl Dec 6, 2006 01:06 PM

                              Sounds like we are aprox the same age.. Yea i remember those, I liked them too, also loved the plastic cows and the one room where you can look down over the kitchen from above. I also remember it was the only salad i would eat because i liked their special dressing. I would always get the lobster pie or perhaps the steak tips and one of those huge potatoes.

                              There used to be a local tv show back in the 70s i forget the name but it was sorta like frontline i guess. They would go to local places. I remember they did an episode on hilltop with tons of impressive statistics, etc...

                              Funny how things change.

                              1. re: hargau
                                i
                                InmanSQ Girl RE: hargau Dec 6, 2006 01:40 PM

                                HA! The only place I would eat the salad was Bisuteki (which was also the only place I would eat the vegetables without whining) :) I spent my whole life thinking I didn't like vegetable and salads much because I was always served bland iceberg salads (flavorless iceberg topped with granular store tomatoes, cucumber, and goopy creamy italian dressing) and frozen veggies steamed to death in the microwave!

                                This is exactly why restaurants like Hilltop continue to thrive. If people don't know better, they think it is good. Like my mom who grew up with canned veggies really thought frozen-microwave-of-doom veggies were an improvement! Worse yet, if you have enough bad experiences, you won't be willing to experiment (can't tell you how long it took me to convince my mom to try sushi...which she loves not, btw). As long as there are old people who think Hilltop is an improvement on the way they overcook meat at home, it will thrive.

                                I'm 29 BTW, so show's in the 70's might have been a little too early for me ;)

                                1. re: InmanSQ Girl
                                  h
                                  hargau RE: InmanSQ Girl Dec 6, 2006 03:04 PM

                                  heheh ok im old... thanks...

                                  Yea i forgot i would eat the salads with japanese homemade dressings on them too!

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