A little off the ‘Top’

By on January 28, 2015

 

The new sign went up last week

The new sign went up last week

The new sign went up last week

After 13 years, Jon Speros simply knew he needed to make a change. Scuttlebutt around Ephrata started Sunday, Jan. 18, when the familiar sign for his restaurant, which used to be known as The Hilltop Inn, was suddenly replaced with a new sign with a new name: The Hill.
“I wanted to make a change. It was something I knew we needed to do. Tastes are changing and we needed to add a few things and remove a few things,” said Speros shortly after re-launch. “The style of The Hilltop started to change; it became more casual.”
The most notable change is to the menu, which officially went into service Monday, January 26. In an effort to streamline the selections, Speros replaced traditional entrees with a selection of baskets and bowls-some new and some familiar. The eclectic flavor of the old menu remains with the Spanish Rice Bowl and is accentuated by a Thai Noodle Bowl and a Bunh Bowl (Vietnamese spring roll served atop rice noodles with scallions, bean sprouts, cilantro and a special sauce). Gone is barbecued chicken, roast beef, and the pork chop. Other entrees like meatloaf and crab cakes now find themselves on the extended sandwich selection. For those who might miss a traditional steak (like the former filet mignon and Delmonico) the new menu offers a prime rib and a beef tenderloin sandwich. Entrees will come back as evening specials once the restaurant gets its footing with the new menu.
“I started doing my new specials in September and they were really popular,” said Speros.
Along with an extended list of sandwiches, The Hill also added three more burgers to its arsenal: a pizza burger, a bleu burger, and a Santa Fe burger. Speros added a brand new pizza oven to the kitchen and hand makes dough for deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza. Judging by his excitement, this addition might be his favorite. The Hill offers traditional varieties as well as specialty pies like Tex Mex and The Greek.
“We still have the same quality of food, we just wanted to make it more fun,” said Speros.
When it comes to fun the salads have it. The fifth page of the new menu is dedicated to “Salads in a Bucket.” Literally, the eight, meal-sized salads are served in a metal bucket. The grilled prime rib in the Pittsburgh salad and the poultry for the blackened chicken salad come served on a skewer driven deep into the bucket of greens.
As for the interior, not much has changed. The tabletops are graced with new Ball jar-style mugs for water and new condiment caddies, but the majority of the physical changes are yet to come.
“There’s the old sign,” said Speros pointing to the southern wall of the front dining room. “The plan is to make that wall a history of the restaurant.”
Over the past few years Speros has been collecting various items to add to the restaurant as part of a change, including the hood to a Cadillac, which will be installed soon. The area’s largest collection of agave-based spirits has survived the transition and Speros said he would actually like to expand on his collection of fine tequilas.
“We also wanted to increase our offering of craft beers,” said Speros.
Speros added selections from craft powerhouses Stone, Sierra Nevada, and Bells while adding a few local craft beers to their list (they already served beer from Stoudt’s, Victory, and Troegs): St. Boniface’s Libation and Lancaster Brewing Company’s Hop Hog. Conventional and craft beers share space on the tap and popular imports can be found in bottle.
While the wondering about the name change stirred conversation throughout Ephrata, diners have taken well to the new menu. On Tuesday, several groups of regulars were delighted by the new selections-even though some came expecting entrees. Even after they are gone Speros defended the former entrees, especially the steaks.
“I’d put my filet mignon up against anyone’s. We served quality food for years-and we still do-but The Hilltop was not fine dining. This is more casual,” said Speros.
The new motto at The Hill is “Great Food & Friends.”
Michael C. Upton is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review, specializing in arts and leisure subjects.

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