30 W 26th St
New York, NY 10010
Hours: Shows: Tues-Thu 9p-12mid, Fri-Sat 10p-1a
Subway: 1,R to 23rd or 28th St
Written by: Emily Niewendorp
Hill Country brings true central-Texas culture—savory dishes and hot, gritty music—to New York City: dry-rub BBQ with all the fixin’s and American roots music—indie rock, southern rock, folk, blues and country.
Hill Country is a large, bi-level restaurant connected by a broad staircase. There are two huge screens upstairs featuring sports, especially Texas-related events and teams. The music venue downstairs is laid out with family-style, wooden tables in front of the stage. The space feels like a finished basement with brick and wood-paneled walls and a large patch-worked Texas flag hangs at the back of the stage.
The music offerings at Hill Country are intentionally as tasty as the food, and most often free of charge. Well-known Austin acts like the honky-tonk, The Derailers, and Heybale, who play on the venue’s anniversary each year, alternate with regional and local acts six nights per week. Rock and swing karaoke are a hit on Tuesdays. Hill Country’s music booker, Jack Grace, is a cowboy at heart and a professional musician himself, who says his philosophy is, “Never book a bad band and let the good ones play all night long.”
Hill Country feeds and cares for its bands, according to Jack, who says, “The younger musicians are blown away because they didn’t know they could be treated like that, and the older bands say, ‘Wow, I haven’t been treated this well since 1986.’”
Hill Country patrons love to choose their brisket, sausage, ribs and other dry-rub BBQ meats and classic southern sides, and then pick them up at the counter, wrapped in brown paper—true Texas road house fashion. Waiters bring drink orders to the table. The feeling is relaxed, greasy, bluesy and just deliciously Texan. Long-necked Lone Star Beers, Texas craft brews and wines or fine tequilas and bourbons help wash it all down and keep customers coming back for more. Hill Country is a fun, down home place where the live music continues into the night, long past dinner time.
Hill Country is inspired by founder Marc Glosserman’s childhood visits to his father’s family south of Austin in Lockhart—the BBQ capital of Texas. Texas BBQ’s natural partner is Texan music—folk and southern rock, country and Austin City Limits—and young Marc developed an affinity for both. In 2004, after returning from several years’ work as an entrepreneur in London, Marc found himself at a family reunion savoring seasoned ribs with the owner of Austin’s famous Kreuz Market BBQ, while listening to some down-home Texas music. Thinking out loud, Mark commented that opening a Texas BBQ-style restaurant somewhere else—like NYC—would be a great idea. Today he says, “I had no idea at the time that I would be the one to end up doing it.”
Marc found an old manufacturing building in the Flatiron/Chelsea district that was well-suited for Hill Country’s concept, but needed
proper restaurant utilities, like three 12-story smoke stacks for barbecuing. The building’s brick walls and old skylights fit well with the comfortably worn look Marc wanted—like a favorite pair of cowboy boots!
Plans for Hill Country’s future are bright. A venue in D.C. has opened and there are ideas for other markets too. A music CD compilation that inspired Hill Country is coming out and there is talk of its own record label.
State of the Bathroom: High ceilings and wooden doors—looks like a luxurious horse stable.