A cobb salad at Hilltop Kitchen & Bar in Syosset.

A cobb salad at Hilltop Kitchen & Bar in Syosset. Credit: Newsday/Marie Elena Martinez

For the Arahovitises, the restaurant business has always been a family affair. From 1966 to 1972, Nicholas Arahovitis’ grandfather owned Syosset Coach and Grill in the space adjacent to their new Hilltop Kitchen & Bar, which takes over an old Friendly's.

Until early 2020, the younger Arahovitis, along with his parents George and Sandy, owned the Holbrook Diner. Nick’s wife Sara, sister Kristina, brother Victor and fiance Nicole joined for the long-anticipated opening of Hilltop, which brings Syosset an all-occasion, neighborhood restaurant.

The Arahovitis family grew up in Syosset, frequenting Friendly’s after chorus concerts and Little League games. No remnant of the nostalgic chain remains in the immense, modern building that lords over Jericho Turnpike. What grows is a convivial spot to meet friends for drinks, grab a quick lunch, impress a date, or wrangle whatever crew needs wrangling for a leisurely dinner.

“We grew up here,” says Arahovitis. The project began in 2020 with the original intention of opening in early 2021. Enter COVID. Hilltop finally opened its doors earlier this month.

Open for lunch and dinner, Hilltop is “American with a twist,” as Arahovitis calls it, featuring elevated comfort food. The Bang Bang Tacos ($15), made with chicken and sauced with a just-right signature tang, and the skirt steak ($38), a hefty cut of beef served over airy, honey-glazed potatoes and snap-perfect asparagus, and piled high with crispy onions, are two standouts. Kids (and grown-ups) will relish the Bavarian pretzel ($12), a pillowy, big-as-your-head specimen, and “dancing” shrimp ($15) presented vertically on skewers and wrapped in Middle Eastern kataifi dough. The menu also features burgers ($18-$21), a rib eye ($65), fish and chops. Loaded salads, rich soups, cheesy pastas and sandwiches like the BLTB ($16), a BLT with "dirty" bacon and Brie cheese, round out the selections.

Ian Russo, of Plainview’s now-shuttered DirtyBurger, helms the kitchen and he’s brought his “dirty” concept — a spice blend made from cayenne pepper, cumin, allspice, black pepper, and paprika (to name a few), that caramelizes into a sweet and spicy condiment when honey is added during the grilling process.  It's an option for proteins and fries, and even the bar menu gets in on it; the Dirty Paloma uses "dirty" simple syrup to jazz up a classic cocktail.

 “We spoke about what would be smart, keeping prices down with items people could share, and catering to a growing gluten-free dining population,” says Russo of the current menu. Of note, all gluten-free options have menu designation, and there are many.

The no reservations policy has produced long waits in the restaurant's first few weeks. Arahovitis says  they’ll move to a reservation system, as well as unveil a happy hour menu, soon.

Hilltop Kitchen & Bar, 150 Jericho Tpke., Syosset; open Sunday — Thursday from noon to 10 p.m., Friday — Saturdays until 11 p.m.; 516-921-7748, hilltopkitchenandbar.com

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