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Scott Listfield Reminisces on the Hilltop Steakhouse

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This one's for my Boston people. My Massholes. My North Shore denizens, my New Englanders, my people buried under 16 inches of snow right now. This is the Hilltop Steakhouse, a defunct behemoth of a restaurant notable for having a 68 foot tall neon cactus sitting implausibly along a stretch of commercial highway just north of Boston. Route 1 in Saugus was home to some of the largest and weirdest restaurants in America and was a rare bit of Las Vegas glitz in Massachusetts. I used to ride along it sometimes on my way to visit my grandparents. In the mid 80's, Hilltop Steakhouse was by far the largest restaurant in the U.S. Just down the road was Kowloon, a massive Chinese restaurant which during it's 80's heyday was #4 or 5 on that list. And then there was Weylu's. A 1500 person capacity palace which lived and died on a hill overlooking all of Route 1. There were rumors that live deer roamed it’s interior.

When I was a kid, riding in the back of my parents' station wagon, peering out at the neon going by, it felt like a land of dinosaurs. Sometimes literally. For decades there was a large and slightly lumpy orange T-rex holding court over a mini golf course nearby. But like actual dinosaurs they were too big, too specialized, and unable to adapt to changing times. Weylu's did not last long, suffocating under its own impossible bulk like a beached whale. It succumbed in the early 90's, laying vacant and dormant for years. Kowloon, a tiki icon, holds on. But the orange dinosaur is gone, along with Hilltop, which bowed out in 2013, and it's giant cactus, which never totally made sense in New England.

In this painting I've relocated the Hilltop sign I remember from my youth to a more suitable habitat. Like a retired circus elephant it gets to ride out it's last years amongst its own kind.

- Scott