In 1990, Susan Orlean published a book called Saturday Night, in which she set out to document how Americans spend their weekly reprieve from work. “Saturday night,” she wrote, “is when you want to do what you want to do and not what you have to do.” One thing people want to do on Saturday night is go out to dinner, so Orlean dedicated a chapter to the restaurant experience. She set this section of the book at the Hilltop Steakhouse, in Saugus, Massachusetts.
The Hilltop occupied a zoning-law-less stretch of Route 1 just north of Boston. A few miles to the south was Weylu’s, a maximalist Chinese restaurant that looked as if it had been airlifted to Essex County from the Forbidden City. A few miles to the north was The Ship, a seafood place in the shape of a schooner that had somehow run aground along the landlocked highway.