KINGSTON — Tradition and history are taken incredibly serious here in the Silver Valley. As an area with enormous amounts of both, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Some of these traditions can be seen as good, and some can be seen as bad. Same with the history — some good and some bad.
In the case of a local favorite “hole-in-the-wall” restaurant getting a remodel and reopening with an updated menu though, its safe to assume that this one falls in the “good” column.
The Hilltop Bar and Grill has been a fixture of Kingston for almost 100 years. Though it had certainly seen better days before its recent remodel, residents of the area continued to make the trip into the woods for some great food and to support a small business.
This makeover began when Dan Zadra purchased the business from the previous owners, Jack and Yvonne Conklin, earlier this year. The couple had operated the Hilltop for more than 30 years together.
His decision to snatch up the Hilltop was influenced by a variety of factors, but they all stem from a deep sense of tradition. Zadra was not raised here, but his family roots are deep in the area’s history. His ancestors first came to the Silver Valley in the early 1900s due to tough times in their native Italy.
Believing that the settings reminded them of home, Zadra explained “they came over here like everybody else…you could always come over here and get a job in the Silver Valley — and that’s what they did.”
Settling down in Black Bear, his grandfather worked at the Star mine in Burke until he and his family packed up and moved to Seattle some time later. Zandra said because of his small size, his grandfather was not a huge fan of working in the mining industry.
Growing up and living in Seattle, Zadra would visit the Silver Valley from time-to-time to see relatives still in the area. These relatives include individuals in the Albertini and Voltolini families. Both of these families, according to Zadra, periodically operated the small Haywire gypo mine in Burke Canyon when it was active.
After retiring (sort of) roughly 10 years ago, he said “the first thing I did was I moved to Coeur d’Alene…then eventually I just said ‘to hell with it,’ and moved to Wallace.”
His first experience with the Hilltop was when he would come over to the Silver Valley from Coeur d’Alene with his cousin. Zadra explained that he would tell him, “if you like good prime rib — I’m going to take you to a place that used to be a honkey tonk.”
“I just always liked it,” he added. “We always made it a ritual.”
When it comes to how Zadra learned of the establishments availability, much of it has to do with his nephew, Bobby Hendries.
“He called me one day and said, ‘its for sale.’”
Hendries is running the establishment with his uncle.
Admitting that he had never seen the outside of the Hilltop during the day before, Zandra did not fully realize the building’s condition until he acquired it and took a hard look around.
“I bought it without coming down,” he stated. “I knew nothing about the building. It’s really a 91-year-old tin shack, kind of, which I love!”
Hendries explained that locals place the Hilltop being built anywhere between 1923 and 1929. To meet everyone in the middle, the duo decided to go with 1927 as the original construction year.
In any case, the almost 100-year-old building was outdated and showed its age.
“We opened up the walls and there was no insulation in there, (it had) knob and tube wiring, and old ’70s tiles on the ceiling,” Zadra and Hendries recounted.
What set the tone for the remodel though was the finished hard wood ceiling that was preserved under the old tiles.
“We were depressed!” Zadra admitted. “Then he (Hendries) opened up the ceiling and we said ‘thats an omen — its cool.”
After resurfacing it, the two had a basis for how they would bring the Silver Valley icon back to life. Even with this small positive though, the road ahead would be long.
“If you looked at it on paper — this is a bar that is on a LITERAL dead end road,” Zandra said.
This is on top of him having no bar experience, the building being in rough shape, the equipment being in even rougher shape and the business itself not having a large established customer base.
With all of these challenges, one would wonder why someone would take on such a monumental project. Zandra said the answer to that question is an easy one.
“You buy a place not necessarily for the building, or the material, or even the business — but I think because of the tradition.”
“It really is a classic, old roadhouse,” he added.
Following a nearly four-month renovation period starting in July, the Hilltop opened its doors roughly two weeks ago, and the initial response from the public could not have made Zadra and Hendries happier.
“The one thing we didn’t count on was the mob of people that came in here,” Zadra said. “It felt like a rock festival.”
The new look of the place is essentially a more updated, cleaner, version of what it used to be. With the spirit of the old Hilltop fully intact, good food still on the menu and miner memorabilia hanging on the walls — Zadra and Hendries have made sure to honor both the traditions and history of the Silver Valley.
The Hilltop is located at 41845 Silver Valley Road in Kingston and can be reached at 208-682-3408. For more information and updates, check out “The Hilltop” on Facebook.