“Inconveniently located in the middle of nowhere…”
It all started in September of 1980 in an old Texas roadhouse and gas station on the Mason Highway 10 miles north of Fredericksburg when Johnny Nicholas and his new bride Brenda packed all their belongings in Johnny’s 1950 Buick and left their home in South Austin for the Texas Hills. Johnny brought a successful music career and Brenda brought her recipes and culinary wizardry. With lots of hard work, love and intense dedication to excellence (and help of their carpenter friend Leroy ‘Pretty Billy’ Petrie), they created a restaurant and gathering spot of iconic, almost mythical proportions! The Hilltop Café continues to be a place where food and music-lovers gather to enjoy the sumptuous fare, the unique Hill Country ambiance and great Texas music.
From the two-burner hot plate on which Brenda prepared succulent pots of Port Arthur style Gumbo and Texas Chile (no beans allowed Pauli), the menu evolved. Soon after, Johnny got a call from his friends, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, who asked him to come and lay down some piano tracks on their new album. On the way back from Dallas, they pulled the old Buick into a restaurant equipment store and bought a used grill and broiler with the proceeds from the recording session. Now the menu expanded to include fresh stuffed, whole Gulf flounder, hamburgers and steaks. And this is how Hill Top Café evolved, piece-by-piece, board-by-board, song-by-song and recipe-by-recipe. And just as the food and building quickly grew and gained recognition, so did its character! Once inside, you are surrounded by it’s fun, endearing and eclectic décor; a result of horse-trading, collecting and any and everything left behind by happy customers showing appreciation.
Always available: lots and lots of fresh garden vegetables, native fruits and meats, fresh gulf blue crabs, flounder, red snapper, Louisiana crawfish and more! Not to mention (OMG), the desserts — Brenda’s amazing pies and cakes! All were painstakingly prepared from scratch by her and then when business grew, by the amazing Miss Gladys. For thirty years, every piecrust has been mixed and rolled out by hand.
This is what Hill Top is all about — tradition and continuity. It’s about Uncle Medie holding court at the Juke Box table. It’s about Aunt Alice’s Greek delicacies. It’s about Aunt Betty keeping the kitchen staff in line (she ought to know how, having worked there for 25 years). It’s about RaRa’s salsa and juevos rancheros at Sunday Brunch (he’s been working there for 20 years). It’s about Oysters Bruton and so many other Hill Top creations. Most of all it’s about love: love of food, music, family and friends.
Johnny and Brenda both believe that anyone who shares their passions for all things real is part of the family. You are more than welcome, ‘cause like the old saying goes: “If you grin, you’re in!”