Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's?

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steaklover
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2007/09/15 20:42:23 (permalink)

Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's?

I know this is a tough one, but I remember reading about a steakhouse in Southern Massachussets during the 70's, (I think somewhere between Springfield and Boston on the way from Connecticut). It was written up in the New York Sunday Daily News, 2 full pages. I never went, my poor young budget didn't allow it at the time.

I believe it had an Italian name, I think they raised their own beef, they had 4 dining rooms, and it was always packed to the gills. Customers chose which room they would like to be seated in and waited to be called. People drove from miles around to eat there.

I know my information is vague, but like an old song that sticks in your head until you find the title, I can't stop thinking about it. I think I'd recognize the name if I heard it, but I can't find any information on the web.
Does anyone remember? I'd like more information.
Thanks.
#1

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    jvsmom
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/09/16 00:26:31 (permalink)
    Well, it's not Italian and it's not really between Springfield and Boston, but it sounds a lot like the Hilltop Steakhouse on Route 1 in Saugus. It has a big neon cactus out in front, and the dining rooms are all named for cities in the west - Carson City, Sioux City - I can't remember the others. There are at least 4 big dining rooms, and another one which I believe is reserved for private parties. You don't get to pick which dining room you go to, but that may have been different back then. You go in and tell them how many are in your party, and they give you a piece of cardboard with a number handwritten on it in black marker. Every few minutes, a woman announces a series of numbers over a loudspeaker and announce a city at the end. The customers holding those numbers then all go to the door of whichever dining room she just announced and then they are seated.

    The original owner was named Frank Giuffrida, and although the name of the restaurant is different, his name was always prominently displayed on the signs - maybe that's why you're thinking it's Italian.
    #2
    Jimeats
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/09/16 06:29:30 (permalink)
    Yep The Hilltop sounds like the place. The only other large steak house that I know of between Boston and Springfield would be Ken's.
    In it's heyday the Hilltop was quite the spot, serving thousands daily.
    You could request wich dinning room you wanted to be seated in, just ment for a longer wait.
    I'm not sure about raiseing their own cattle, but do know Frank had a strong working relashionship with Monfort of Colorado. Those wonderfull people that changed the beef industry, boxed beef.
    One of the Monfort brothers now owns the Hilltop along with another steakhouse in the Mid West.
    After a long absence on my part I returned there recently and must say I was plesantly surprised. Good meal for a fair price. Not sure if I would make it a destination type spot, but if in the area and hungry I wouldn't hesitate. Chow Jim
    #3
    buffetbuster
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/09/16 07:12:29 (permalink)
    I read about this place in one of Jane & Michael's old Roadfood books and it sounded rather interesting. Glad to hear it is still good. I plan on trying it the next time I am in the area.
    #4
    mayor al
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/09/16 09:16:11 (permalink)
    Please note that I moved this thread to the 'Prime Cuts' forum as it really had no connection with anything 'Breakfast oriented'. No big deal!

    About the Hilltop Steak House in Saugus. We lived a bit further North (Georgetown) while I attended Salem Statwe back in the mid-60's. I worked as a cook at one of the HoJo's on the "old I-95" in that area. Money was tight for a young family working thru college at that time, but we managed a couple of special dinners out in those years at the Hilltop, or at the Valle's that was built near it. They both advertised a one-pound Sirloin Steak dinner which was considered a very large steak serving at the time. I am trying hard to recall the exact price, but the amount was about $3.79 (or close to that). Both price and serving sizes seem to have increased a bit (nation-wide)since then! At that time HoJo's served an Eight Oz. Rib Steak (bone-in) for $2.65 including salad, veggie and potato.

    The only negative thing I will ever say about going to either one of those restaurants was that I hated to drive around the Saugus circle (Rotary). That was a life-threatening experience no matter what time of day you did it!
    #5
    rpalmer1
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/09/16 09:22:03 (permalink)
    From the location it sounds like Rom's in Sturbridge.
    #6
    acornlover
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/09/16 10:32:47 (permalink)
    It sounds more like Valles (sp?) to me, there was one just outside of Portsmouth NH too


    Kathy
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    jvsmom
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/09/16 11:33:33 (permalink)
    The Hilltop had another location in Braintree, MA which closed about a year or so ago. It was a bit less flashy than the original, but the food was the same, and since we used to go to the original one a lot, we liked it. But sad to say, after a while we couldn't help notice that the prices started going up and the quality of the food started to go seriously down.

    I believe that while Frank Guifrida's name is still attached, another company took it over a while back, and believe me, it shows. They expanded the menu a lot, but the food just wasn't that good, so it really doesn't surprise me that it closed.

    I haven't been to the original one in ages - I hope it hasn't suffered like the other one did.
    #8
    steaklover
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/09/16 15:10:46 (permalink)
    Thanks for moving the post. I didn't know I posted to brakfasts.

    It's the Hilltop. I now remember the name Giuffrida and the description of the dining rooms. Now I've just got to locate that old article.

    Thanks all, for getting that "song" out of my head.
    #9
    santacruz
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/09/26 14:31:12 (permalink)
    Could it be The Springs between New Ashford and Williamstown? They were a 60's - 70's quality steakhouse. If I remember correctly it was a very large place with excellent quality steaks and chops.
    #10
    Star0082
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/09/26 14:45:40 (permalink)
    I was suprised to see that someone was looking for a 70's steakhouse between Springfield and Boston. There was a Hilltop Steak Restaurant in Springfield on Route 20. It was just over the northend bridge over the Connecticut River on the Springfield side. It did a great business and then one day closed. I didn't know that it was part of a chain with another in Mass. Tom
    #11
    Pdasilva0324
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/09/27 15:29:35 (permalink)
    Actually I have been looking for information about another steakhouse I ate at a long time ago. Has anyone heard of Le Biftheque? I looked up some information online and seems this is a Canadian chain steakhouse with locations only in Canada and no mention of ever having locations in the USA. I KNOW I ate at Le Biftheque in Braintree, MA in the early 90s. This is a different restaurant from the Hilltop (I have been to the Braintree as well as Saugus Hilltops). Anyone else ever been to this restaurant, know when they entered and pulled out of the USA market, or even heard of it? BTW the logo for the Canadian chain is almost exactly how I remember the logo of the Braintree one!
    #12
    TwoJays
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/09/28 23:47:31 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Pdasilva0324

    Actually I have been looking for information about another steakhouse I ate at a long time ago. Has anyone heard of Le Biftheque? I looked up some information online and seems this is a Canadian chain steakhouse with locations only in Canada and no mention of ever having locations in the USA. I KNOW I ate at Le Biftheque in Braintree, MA in the early 90s. This is a different restaurant from the Hilltop (I have been to the Braintree as well as Saugus Hilltops). Anyone else ever been to this restaurant, know when they entered and pulled out of the USA market, or even heard of it? BTW the logo for the Canadian chain is almost exactly how I remember the logo of the Braintree one!

    I definitely remember the name, but don't think I ever went there.
    #13
    Mad Scientist
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/10/26 23:04:34 (permalink)
    I remember Le Le Biftheque form the late 70's/early 80's, but through I not-infrequently drive past the one off I-93/95 in Braintree, I frequented the one on I-93 in Andover (about 20 north of Boston). I recall it specifically from that period because they took out a full page 4-color advertisement on the back page of the Globe's Sunday Comics, just about every week, advertising Prime Ribs (possibly "all you can eat", IIRC) for some ridiculously affordable prize like $9.99, which had a real appeal to the skinny bottomless pit teenager I was at the time. The prime rib wasn't exactly great, but it was indeed identifiable as genuine prime rib, prepared in a reasonable fashion, with a fair facsimile of horseradish cream. unlike some things that have been billed as prime rib by various chains (Anyone remember Denny's "Prime Rib Fridays?" -- my kids were very small when that promo was out, and they (and I) liked it well enough for what it was, but I always felt bad that they had never experienced Le Biftheque at its -er- prime.)

    I must admit however, that I ate at a few Le Biftheques in Canada (one just north of Montreal springs to mind), and as excited as I was to "sup at the source", it wasn't even as good as the one in Andover. In fact, unlike the Andover Le Biftheque, the Montreal one could have passed for a Hilltop [Saugus] franchise. I *believe* that the original Le Biftheque came first, but there was clearly some deliberate imitating going on. Sadly, at the time of that visit, Hilltop itself was having a real decline in standards, and The Montreal Le Biftheque seemed to be mirroring that as well (e.g. ridiculously overly tenderized)

    It's sad how steak chains seem to inevitably decline. When I was a kid, one could get a fair steak at Bonanza/Ponderosa or York Steakhouse, I remember them slipping a bit before my life changed (and all the local ones closed) It was 20 years before I vistited one again, but though I still visit one rarely out of nostalgia, it's hard to call what they serve now "steak". It's more some sort of processed meat product. [Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy the Ponderosa food experience in its own way. It's just not steak.]

    I have absolutely no intention of being harsh here. If I come across as anything but affectionate, blame it on ribeye intoxication. I hadn't been grilling this year (it's been an unseasonable summer), but a few weeks ago I made the best damn steaks I've had in years (if not "ever") and the ones I made tonight made the last batch look like mud!

    Maybe it was just a fluke (I'm a darn good home chef, but erratic on steaks), but that heavenly 2-in ribeye is what sent me prowling the internet, and eventually brought me here
    #14
    Michael Hoffman
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/10/26 23:20:54 (permalink)
    I didn't realize that Valle's was in Massachusetts. For some reason I thought it was a Connecticut thing. I never went to one, but I used to see one in West Haven when I'd come through on I-95.
    #15
    jvsmom
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/10/27 00:10:27 (permalink)
    Yes, there were at least a couple of Valle's in Massachusetts. In fact, I believe the Braintree Hilltop was originally a Valle's, and I know there was one somewhere in the New Bedford/Fall River area.
    #16
    Billfish
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/10/27 02:10:42 (permalink)
    Oh sure,there was a Valle's in Saugus,darn near right across US 1 from the Hilltop.Also one in Kittery Maine I think.I never set foot in either one.
    #17
    mayor al
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/10/27 08:55:23 (permalink)

    Billfish
    We ate at the Saugus Valle's when we saw the line was long at Hilltop !! (1965-68) I recall seeing the Kittery store, but never stopped there.
    #18
    tmiles
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/11/01 13:50:30 (permalink)
    It is not really a "steakhouse" but the Salem Cross Inn is between Springfield and Boston on Rt 9 in the middle of the state. www.salemcrossinn.com I don't know how often they serve their own beef, but they used to serve it at their famous "Drover's Roast". They do still have a nice herd of Herefords, but getting animals processed in a USDA inspected facility is getting tough here in New England, since a few places have closed. We all hope that the plant in Athol Mass will be rebuilt soon.

    Several small state inspected plants offer good service to hunters and folks who grow an animal for home use, but a place like Salem Cross needs to serve federally inspeced meat that has been handled to commercial standards.

    They were in business in the 70s (even the 1870's, I think, lol) and they do (or did) serve their own beef. Maybe this is the place??
    #19
    cecif
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/11/01 22:15:52 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by jvsmom

    The Hilltop had another location in Braintree, MA which closed about a year or so ago.


    Dagnabit! Are you sure it is closed? I just looked it up and found it still listed on boston.com (& mentioned it to someone on another thread too! oops...) I have not driven south in a long while.
    #20
    wheregreggeats.com
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2007/11/02 06:27:51 (permalink)
    there was also a Vallees in Springfield, by the bridge, by the radio station and tower.
    #21
    bannedinBoston
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2008/02/12 01:44:57 (permalink)
    The building/location for Valle's, LeBifthique and Hilltop in Braintree MA (Exit 17 off Rte 3/93/95) are all one and the same. They've all come and gone. A car dealship is being built on the site as of this posting. Hilltop bailed out almost one year ago.

    Don't feel too bad about missing Hilltop. (1) I seriously doubt they "raised their own beef"--typically beef cattle are not raised in MA (2) while the original restaurant in Saugus MA was good, the Braintree location never quite lived up to expectations set by the Saugus anchor location. By the time it closed, more tables were vacant than full and word was out food quality had seriously declined while prices went sky-high.

    I used to shop at the attached Hilltop "market/butcher shop" and if that place was representative of the quality of food and cleanliness in their restaurant, I wouldn't have wanted to eat at Hilltop. The market was filthy. If there's any such thing as "seconds" in fruits/vegetables, Hilltop marketplace sold them!

    I read Hilltop opened a new, smaller butcher shop in neighboring Weymouth but have not visited. Hopefully the Weymouth Board of Health is more diligent than the Braintree Board of Health was.

    Do not dispare, steaklover. Given your description of the location of the steahouse in your original query, Hilltop may well not be the restaurant you fondly remember, as it wasn't called Hilltop in the 70's but was known as Valle's. Braintree is not located on the Boston to Springfield run but rather is approx 10 miles south of Boston, heading towards Plymouth and Cape Cod. I don't think Braintree qualifies as "Southern MA".
    #22
    wheregreggeats.com
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2008/02/12 06:58:40 (permalink)
    banned ...

    Welcome to RF and thanks for the update.

    #23
    i95
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2008/02/12 08:06:59 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by jvsmom

    Well, it's not Italian and it's not really between Springfield and Boston, but it sounds a lot like the Hilltop Steakhouse on Route 1 in Saugus. It has a big neon cactus out in front, and the dining rooms are all named for cities in the west - Carson City, Sioux City - I can't remember the others. There are at least 4 big dining rooms, and another one which I believe is reserved for private parties. You don't get to pick which dining room you go to, but that may have been different back then. You go in and tell them how many are in your party, and they give you a piece of cardboard with a number handwritten on it in black marker. Every few minutes, a woman announces a series of numbers over a loudspeaker and announce a city at the end. The customers holding those numbers then all go to the door of whichever dining room she just announced and then they are seated.

    The original owner was named Frank Giuffrida, and although the name of the restaurant is different, his name was always prominently displayed on the signs - maybe that's why you're thinking it's Italian.



    quote:
    Originally posted by Jimeats

    After a long absence on my part I returned there recently and must say I was plesantly surprised.


    Great historial write-up, jvsmom. And, Jimeats, I've been a patron of the Hilltop for over four decades and, too, recently returned there after a long absence expecting the worst but was very pleasantly surprised at both the quality and service. Great, decently-priced lunch specials, too.




    (Now, if they could only find a way for you to reach this Saugus, Massachusetts landmark WITHOUT taking your life into your hands when pulling off or on Route 1...)
    #24
    wheregreggeats.com
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2008/02/12 08:12:25 (permalink)
    I did some web surfin' and came upon a Valle's in Portland, Maine ... There is almost nothing about the place, but it doesn't seem to be the old chain I remember -- what with the Mexican influence I see referenced.

    Anybody know about the place?

    #25
    Belcamp Sharon
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2008/02/12 08:31:40 (permalink)
    The Valles in Portland Maine closed a couple of years ago. Some of the dining websites need to be updated.

    #26
    djmsalem
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2008/02/12 08:35:03 (permalink)
    I haven't been to the Hilltop restaurant in Saugus since I was a kid, maybe 40 years ago, but have always liked the butcher shop there. I've been going there, off and on, for more than 20 years. During that time it expanded to sell some produce, which is OK, if not what you'd get in a really good supermarket.

    I think the beef is probably all Select grade, but even for Select inexpensive compared to nearly everywhere else in the Boston area. And if you do feel as Banned does (welcome, by the way!), you can buy many cuts as primals, right from the packer, in cryovac.
    #27
    cecif
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2008/02/12 10:51:28 (permalink)
    Has anyone around here been to the Saugus Hilltop recently?? I ask because I had one or two friends here (Boston) tell me they ate there in the past 6-12 months and they claimed it was terrible. I was pretty sad to hear that, so I wonder what you experts think??

    #28
    exsquidao
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2008/02/12 11:04:38 (permalink)
    Yeah BinB when I was stationed at SOWEY I went to the Hilltop in Braintree baically because of it's rep but it didn't live up to it's past glory unfortunately.
    #29
    exsquidao
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    RE: Steakhouse in Massachussets in the 70's? 2008/02/12 11:07:17 (permalink)
    Hey MF yeah I remember that Valles from years ago when I was a kid it has been long gone and the building went through a few resturants I think it's current occupant is an American Steakhouse something like that.
    #30
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