With its rooftop pig made of license plates and offset smoker out front, Top of the Hill Grill is easy to spot on the commercially dense road that is Route 9. Once you're there it turns into an oasis of rustic charm, with great views—particularly in autumn—of the natural beauty past the West River. You order from a window, they give you a playing card (mine was the Jack of Spades) and announce when your order's ready. You can then take it to the patio with open or covered outdoor tables, or to a heated indoor space further back. There's even an indoor bathroom in a separate structure.
The barbecue menu features pork ribs, pulled pork, brisket, burnt ends,
turkey and two kinds of sausage. Chicken is grilled. The boneless meats
can be had on a platter, a sandwich, a tortilla roll up.
But for an outdoor shack, the non-barbecue and non-meat options are myriad. There are a few burgers and patty melts. There's a turkey Reuben. Sliders include pulled pork, lamb, jerk chicken and Andouille sausage. Cajun selections include grilled catfish, Cajun rice, red beans and rice, gumbo and jamnalaya. In the mood for Mexican? There are tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, burritos and enchiladas. Vegetarian fare features tempeh (roll up, burrito, burger or over greens), roasted root vegetables, roasted or twice baked potatoes, black beans and rice, a grilled portobello and an entree-sized mac and cheese.
There's not much flexibility as printed on the menu, as the only combo lists two fixed meats, a third meat selectable from two choices, and two fixed sides, but for a $1 up charge you can swap in a different meat or side. I ponied up an extra $2 to get ribs, pulled pork and brisket with cole slaw and macaroni and cheese.
I stopped by solo for a Saturday lunch while passing through on an errand.
Athough I considered the chili, this was a quick stop, so no appetizers this time.
Ribs: St Louis cut pork ribs, ordered on a Combo platter (three meats,
slaw, beans and cornbread, $18.95), supplied a trio of diminutive bones
all shorter than 4 inches. Crust was adequately formed and bumpy;
color was just slightly pinker than monotone brown; moisture was just barely enough not to say they were dry. A few of the bites were a little on the cold side. I don't mean room temperature; I mean cold. Doneness was just about right. Though not smoky, they did taste smoked. All around flavor was lacking once you got below the sauce. All things considered, below average.
Brisket: Where do I begin? With the fact that it's deli sliced and oh so thin? That it's still refrigerator cold even after a 15 minute wait time? That it's pale gray? That the edges are both soggy and flabby? That it's lower on the flavor scale than the ribs? That it's dry? Let's just say this is bottom 10% brisket, but you probably already know that from the photos.
Pulled pork: Easily the best meat on the combo (that is, average instead of below average) and the only one that wasn't cold. Flavor was light in both porkiness and smoke, but texture wasn't so bad. The pieces were gentle without being mushy and the sauce worked well with it rather than looking like a failed attempt to hide things.
As far as I can tell, there's only one kind, draped liberally over all of the meats as standard practice. While I take issue with the practice, I have no issue with this sauce. Though a little ketchupy in the photos, it's a darker, not-too-thick, not-too-thin, tomato-based sauce with some surprising complexity. I wouldn't be surprised if I learned there was coffee or chocolate in there. It's sweet but savory at the same time. Probably my favorite item of the visit.
Cole slaw: Crunchy, yes. Flavorful, no.
Macaroni and cheese: Usually when macaroni and cheese is offered as an entrée size, it means there's effort and pride behind it. I was considering ordering the $7.95 portion, but was told I could swap in mac and cheese as one of my sides for one dollar, so I did that—less for the savings and more for the reduced portion commitment in case I didn't like it. This is a very cheesy, very baked-in rendition that reminded me of a Greek pizza. Not my thing, but it might be yours, so give it a try.
The service was quite friendly, and it was obvious that there's good camaraderie and teamwork going on.
The Bottom Line
The service and the space succeeded more than the food, but there's something
to be said for a view and a menu diverse enough to have something
for everyone. It's probably only for these reasons that I'd consider giving Top of
the Hill Grill another try someday.
Yelp reviews of Top of the Hill Grill
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