For 56 years, Hilltop Restaurant has been located on Guide Meridian between Lynden and Bellingham. So, when owner Tom Kilpatrick made the permanent move from Kirkland to Bellingham in 2001, he knew he had acquired a piece of Whatcom County history.
“Hilltop really is an icon in Whatcom County,” Kilpatrick says. “It has sustained itself through five generations of customers.”
Tom and Barb were introduced to Whatcom County when they would take their boat to Semiahmoo and explore the area. When Barb mentioned maybe they’d move here someday, Tom says she was probably thinking when they retired. But Tom says he took it a little more literally.
Three years after acquiring Hilltop, Tom moved it to a new building in the same lot. The small café turned into a classic diner open 14 hours a day, seven days a week. The 70-year-old owner says Hilltop’s central location allows him, a hands-on owner, to have interactions with all sorts of characters. He has a certain affinity for people and their background, asking me about my Norwegian roots before diving into his Irish heritage.
In 2004, Hilltop added a full-fledged catering service that now services weddings, corporate events and social occasions of all types. Hilltop is proud of its ability to wear multiple hats. It’s the type of place you hear Ariana Grande’s music softly play in the background while a waitress donning a traditional white apron asks if she can top off your still half-full coffee.
Equally important as the atmosphere is the food, and chef Steven Herzog has been whipping up culinary specialties at Hilltop since 2004. For breakfast, start with the wild salmon eggs Benedict. Poached eggs rest on an English muffin with charbroiled wild salmon slathered with Hollandaise sauce and a side of hash browns ($12.49.) While Hilltop is known for being a classic restaurant where everything is made from scratch with the freshest ingredients, it does have a few surprises up its sleeve. Listed under the “Classics” section of their dinner menu, Hilltop’s Jaeger Schnitzel might be something you would find in a German or Austrian restaurant. It’s a lightly breaded and pan-fried pork cutlet with mushrooms, shallots, white wine, and cream and is a unique and tasty dish ($12.99).
You may not expect to find a restaurant like Hilltop while cruising down Guide Meridian, where no strip malls, apartments, or business parks are nearby. But judging by a mileage marker in front of the restaurant pointing to everywhere from Timbuktu to Shanghai, Hilltop has been and will continue to be the center of it all.
5645 Guide Meridian, Bellingham
360.398.2462 | hilltopcooking.com
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