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Hilltop Steakhouse is gone, but the cactus is staying

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff /2012 file

Whither Hilltop Steakhouse? Closed since 2013, the landmark restaurant on Route 1 in Saugus is about to be demolished. That’s the bad news, at least for lovers of its marbled beef and baked potatoes. The good news is that the giant cactus that greeted patrons is staying put. The developer “recognizes that the cactus is such an iconic item that he couldn’t do any better than to reuse it,” Saugus Historical Commission chairman Stephen Carlson told us Tuesday. What’s going to replace the former restaurant isn’t clear yet, but a mixed-use development a la Lynnfield’s MarketStreet seems likeliest. The Hilltop was opened in 1961 by Frank Giuffrida, a butcher whose name is emblazoned on the 68-foot tall, 45-foot wide cactus. That won’t remain, apparently. We’re told the developer plans to retrofit the Route 1 icon with LED lights and replace the name. In its heyday, the Hilltop served more than 20,000 customers a week and grossed an estimated $27 million a year.