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Top of his game: Hilltop Bar & Grill as colorful as its own, David Albertini

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | August 29, 2020 12:00 AM

David Albertini is a character.

What, you ask, does that mean?

It means he’s colorful.

And serious.

Animated.

Friendly.

I got all that from a one-hour visit to his restaurant, the Historic Hilltop Bar and Grill in Kingston. Imagine what the locals know about this guy who once ran for mayor of Spokane, per the sign on the wall that says, “David Albertini for Mayor.”

“I didn’t even want to be mayor,” he said as he stopped to chat at our table. “But I got $200,000 worth of publicity.”

The Hilltop, which has been around since 1927, is one of those places, like its owner, chock full of character, an easy 27-mile drive east of Coeur d’Alene.

Colorful signs (the neon “Beer” sign overhead is the best). Cozy tables. A beautiful bar. Friendly staff. All under dim lights that give the place a warm vibe, where even outsiders like us didn’t feel like outsiders. And there’s outside seating, too.

Some places, it feels like they want to just get you in and out. Not so at the Hilltop. They didn’t mind that we sat and gabbed over dinner and drinks for at least an hour. They didn’t mind that I wandered around (well, they might have been suspicious) checking it out, admiring the tables, ogling the bar and reading the signs.

The service was quick.

The staff was friendly and professional.

As for the food, I made short work of the Hilltop Burger ($10.75) with secret sauce. A fine meal. I helped my wife finish off her beef stroganoff ($17.95).

Albertini, in our brief conversation, made sure to credit his staff for the Hilltop’s success and pointed to a man in the kitchen and said, “He’s the one who makes it work.”

Before he got to us, he joked with the people at the next table, regaling them with tales of shooting pool at One Shot Charlie’s in Harrison. He put on a terrific, impromptu show, and everyone laughed.

There are restaurants I have visited where I didn’t sense much in the way of personality. But again, not so at the Hilltop, which, by the way, is set on a hilltop.

It made me wish, in all these years of life in North Idaho, we had visited earlier. It happens to be the same exit, 43, that we would take to the Coeur d’Alene River Road on all those treks to the Snakepit in the days when Joe and Rosemary Peak owned it. They were two of our favorite people, so we just always went there. It was our hangout and we were loyal to Joe and Rosemary.

The Hilltop has that same kind of environment we look for — good people, good food, good beer, good prices. I think it might even be possible to discuss politics here and if you disagree with each other, you can still be friends. Imagine that.

Perhaps it’s time for another mayoral run for David Albertini.

Imagine the publicity.

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David Albertini, behind the bar, chats with customers at the Hilltop Bar & Grill.

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A beer sign sits high above customers at the Hilltop.

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Old signs decorated the Hilltop.

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A "David Albertini for Mayor" sign hangs on the wall behind customers at the Hilltop.