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How it started

The first Hillstone opened its doors in the spring of 1977. Hillstone’s founder, George Biel, recognized the need for a new type of restaurant that was non-existent at the time. It would be a place of high energy and would attract a broad range of people of all ages, where one could enjoy an upscale dinner of steaks, burgers, entrée salads, and other dishes representing a more flexible style of eating. With a longtime interest in cooking and recipes, George and his wife Carol set out to launch this new restaurant which would seek to marry consistency and quality in a way not seen before in more casual, full service restaurants. They brought in a minority partner to open their first restaurant in Nashville, which they named Houston’s in reference to their native state of Texas.

early Houston's sign
One of the first restaurants prominently featured this early logo on the building

This endeavor would be based on an unrelenting commitment to do things well, measured against the highest standards and manifested in careful attention to the smallest details. Early menus alluded to this philosophy on the cover, with a list of “the little things that make our quality unique” like squeezing juice fresh to order, using bottled soda and serving only ‘Certified Angus Beef’.

George and the small organization set out to carefully add locations, emerging from the company’s new southeast home of Atlanta, into cities like New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, and further on to Florida, Kansas City, Chicago, and New York. With the contribution of many talented individuals, Hillstone grew in a deliberate manner, eschewing rapid growth in order to safeguard the standards that brought the company success.

The Rutherford Grill
The Rutherford Grill, opened in 1994 in the heart of Napa Valley

In the early 1990’s, Houston’s made important moves to the west coast during a time when the culinary scene saw many influential figures transforming the way America ate. Restaurants like Wolfgang Puck’s Spago or Jeremiah Tower’s Stars introduced flavors inspired by different cultures to America’s palate for the first time. Inspired by California cuisine and finding a common interest in the importance of quality ingredients, Hillstone introduced these new directions to a wider audience with dishes such as the well-known Grilled Chicken Salad and Thai Steak Salad among others.

With creativity and a catalog of new recipes that progressed naturally from an ongoing pursuit of great taste, new restaurants were introduced with unique menus and designs. Among these, Rutherford Grill, Palm Beach Grill, Gulfstream and the southwestern regionally inspired Bandera charted new directions for the company. Fostering its ongoing interest in the multifaceted world of restaurant craft, the organization which would eventually be named Hillstone pursued a passion for learning extending to the fine arts, design, and architecture. Based now in Los Angeles, Hillstone operates restaurants under 15 different names.

The Honor Bar at Highland Park Village
Our newest restaurant: The Honor Bar at Highland Park Village in Dallas, Texas.

Today, Hillstone remains privately held and family owned, helmed by George and a long tenured executive leadership supported by hundreds of individuals dedicated to the quality of experience. George’s dedication to deliver higher standards to all aspects of the business continues to this day. Our newest restaurants in Aspen, Montecito, Bal Harbour, and Highland Park Village continue this vision into the future in new and exciting ways.

To learn more about Hillstone and our restaurants, check out what Andrew Knowlton had to say in the April 2016 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.

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