Customers Have Beef with News that Hilltop Steakhouse Is Closing Down

On October 20, the iconic Route 1 spot will be no more.

The lights will dim on the large 70-foot cactus sitting alongside Route 1 in Saugus on October 20, when the Hilltop Steakhouse, a fixture along the roadway, closes its doors for good.

According to the Saugus Advertiser, who obtained a letter sent to the Board of Selectmen from the management team at the steak restaurant, a “dramatic change” in the volume of the eatery’s business has led them to make the decision to shutter their doors.

The letter said:

Tremendous efforts have been made over this period by our management and staff with the cooperation of the town to make improvements and overcome this decline. However, the continued change in the demographics of our customer base, increased competition and the increased cost to run this fabulous landmark has been too great to overcome. We therefore have no choice but to close our restaurant.

The accompanying butcher shop owned by the company, in Weymouth, will live on, but after 52 years in the business, the Route 1 location that has become a staple for families dining out will be no more. “We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all the departments of the Town of Saugus and its wonderful residents for their support,” the letter from the restaurant’s management team said.

The news of the closure was first reported by Boston’s Hospitality and Tourism blog, and later confirmed by other restaurant news outlets.

The steakhouse, which had a Braintree location that closed in 2007, was known for its large, 18-ounce slabs of beef served as entrees, and the iconic fiberglass cows grazing outside the restaurant’s entrance.

The Hilltop Steakhouse was a regular winner of Best of Boston’s “Best Meat, Use of Cow” category in the eighties and nineties.

News of the closure, of course, elicited a massive response from people online, including childhood memories drudged up once word got out that the steakhouse would soon be put out to pasture.

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  • Frederick Wright

    An abomination. A blot. An embarrassment. Good riddance. Even the most kind-hearted nostalgic person won’t tolerate a restaurant which withholds the waitstaff tips.

    • agingcynic

      I actually knew the “gentleman” who bought Frank’s house in Lynnfield. An oil-fired furnace fed pipes under the (looong) driveway so snow removal was a non-issue. Amazing what you can afford when you stiff the people around you.

  • Jim Shields

    Back in the day the Hilltop was a great restaurant. Many great memories there it was always a treat when you parents took you there. Too much competition now the place hasn’t been updated for years. Went down hill after the Giuffiradas sold the place. But it was still a great place.

  • former waitress

    I had work there 8years ago for 15 years the management was a disgrace,the older waitress were mean,greedy,and I am shock they stay in business this long for the quailty of meat and service.But Susan was a very nice person and a few other but far between.

  • Barbara Schneider

    We used to love hilltop, but forgot about it with all the new restaurants.
    They say they tried everything. Did they ever advertise?

  • Rich

    The food sucked the last few years. We gave it one last try a few months ago and it was terrible.

    The memories are great. Used to go there regularly years ago, but it’s time to RIP, Hilltop.

    PS. Saw a video interview with some representative there who said the steak and potato craze is over. Where have they been? If the food was good and the price right there would still be lines out the door!

  • Zipskid

    I
    went to a “wake” of sorts last evening with my oldest son Joe and Lorraine. We (I really mean me) needed to go one
    last time to the Hilltop Steakhouse where my family has been feeding for 50+
    years. It will be closing its doors for good on October 20th.

    This
    relationship started about fifty years ago. In the early 60’s (according to its
    website the year was 1961) Frank Giuffrida bought an old club and turned it
    into a steakhouse.

    Now
    there’s a little insight into my family (father) that makes this story bring a
    little bigger smile to my face.

    My
    dad was a stay at home kind of guy. Once the workday ended (some of my dad’s
    work-days were 48 plus hours long) he didn’t really want to do much. Worked
    around the house, caught up on his rest and took my mother to do errands she
    couldn’t complete by walking. To give you a better understanding of his
    thinking around driving was one of our family stories about my dad and a nice
    Sunday afternoon. After dinner, it was suggested we “go for a ride”. “Where?”
    my father asked. “ What about Marblehead?” was the answer. The answer is in the
    form of a question because we knew what was coming. Now, Marblehead, MA was a
    town away from where we lived. Not a great distance at all but with a beautiful
    old New England seaside community, and some old and beautiful homes. Marblehead
    was the East Coasts Sailing Capital where as Beverly, MA was the birthplace of
    the American Navy. The first ship was commissioned in Beverly and Marblehead is
    where the Hanna (first US Naval
    vessel) was built.

    Dad’s
    answer, “ Why do you want to go there? We’ve been there before?” He really
    meant it too! He didn’t like to drive. If we’ve been there, why go again!

    What
    made the Hilltop really super special for us was that it was 15 miles away! He
    discovered it because one of the police officers he worked with stopped there,
    with my dad, on the way back from dropping a prisoner off in Boston. And that
    was the beginning. On a rare day off, my father took us to this “ neat place”
    to eat steak.

    Besides loving to go out to eat steak,
    my father also loved seafood at Heck Allen’s in Winona Square in the 50’s &
    60’s. A story for another time![1]

    My
    recollection of the original Hilltop was of a small cinder block building with
    several tables at which you could sit and eat, and while you waited, watch them
    cook the steaks on an indoor grill in the kitchen area.

    Frank’s (I feel I call him that) next
    building was a bit larger and “fancier”.
    Then there were the 5 additional expansions. The Hilltop took no reservations.
    When you arrived with your party, you meandered your way through the folks
    waiting and gave how many there were in your party. You were then given a
    number. When your number was
    called over the mike, it would be 76 for Dodge City or 23 for Kansas City or 46
    for Sioux City. It was your number
    and your special dining room. How
    great is that!!

    That’s
    how it started. This is where our birthdays, anniversaries and many other
    celebrations and non-celebrations were held. In the sixties and seventies you
    could feed a family of 5 steak dinners for $50, which included the tip! Filets
    and sirloins were the price of a hamburger today, maybe even cheaper.

    In
    the 80’s he was serving about 2,000,000 meals a year! We’d go there with
    friends and family and wait in long lines for an hour or more to get a seat in
    this restaurant that had a seating capacity of 1200 to 1300.

    Grossing
    $12,000,000 in the late sixties and by the late eighties this place grossed 27
    million dollars a year. The parking lot alone was 12 acres of land.

    At
    the end of the evening we went out to the front of the restaurant to take some
    last time pictures. There have been huge, fake steer “grazing” there for most
    of the years the restaurant has been serving. Every once in awhile some high school and or college kids
    would try to relocate one or two of the herd. Opportunity knocked and my son Joe hopped onto one of the
    “animals” and with a big smile on his face said, “Since I was a little kid I’ve
    been wanting to do this!” It doesn’t get any better!!

    Saying
    goodbye to the Hilltop last night was both sad and happy for me. There were so many happy memories but
    last night was like having mom and dad sitting there with us for one more time.

    [1] Some of the
    numbers above were gleaned from a Boston Globe article from the 80’s

  • Tom

    Thank you , People of The Hill Top. Wife and I drove down from Vermont for One last time at Hill Top