Hillside Inn restaurant

Hillside Inn re-opens restaurant;
lounge to open in early July

By Don Ward

MADISON, Ind. (June 2004) – Madison area residents who fondly recall dining in Hillside Inn’s bay-windowed restaurant overlooking the Ohio River valley several years ago are being welcomed back to the newly renovated hotel now that the restaurant has been re-opened.

Hillside Inn restaurant

Photo by Don Ward

Rita Tobias serves guests
on opening week.

The long-awaited opening of the restaurant took place May 5 after a week of practice runs for the staff. Owner Jerry Fuhs of Jasper, Ind., brought in Beechwood Inn chef Anthony Barba from French Lick to help set up the kitchen and develop an extensive menu of entrees that range from $12 to $23. Fuhs owns Beechwood Inn among other properties in the area.
Hillside Inn manager Gina Porter has been training with Barba to learn the restaurant business. She is a veteran of hotel management and has directed operations at Hillside Inn since it opened more than three years ago.
“Everything has gone very smoothly for us and we expect business to really pick up now that we have our restaurant open,” Porter said. “We’re very excited to be able to offer our guests a place to dine. So far, everyone has been really pleased with the food and the service. We plan to take it slow until we get everything right.”
Fuhs and Barba were present the first night in May when the staff went through its first practice run with invited guests. Barba, 36, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native who has worked for Fuhs the past year, said he is pleased with the progress so far.
“We’re very pleased with the response we have gotten in Madison, and we are lucky to have Gina on site to manage the day-to-day operations,” Barba said.
Fuhs, too, expressed his satisfaction with the opening and is hoping to offer guests some of the delicacies being sold at his other four restaurants – The Beechwood; The Gasthof restaurant in Montgomery, Ind.; Santa’s Lodge and a pizza parlor called Frosty’s, both in Santa Claus, Ind.
For example, Barba’s famous cheeescake, pecan pie, raspberry almond cake and other desserts are being sold at the Hillside Inn already. Fuhs hopes to eventually sell a special brand of ice cream at Hillside Inn that is made at The Gasthof, and wine that is made by French Lick Winery, housed in the basement of Beechwood Inn.
The final piece is the opening of the lounge, which Porter said should be open by early July, pending the approval of the alcohol license. Combined with the front dining room, a second interior room and the lounge, the Hillside Inn will be able to accommodate up to 120 people.
Barba grew up in the bakery business in New York and has worked in restaurants since age 13. He came to Indiana in 1997 when he was hired to set up The Bakery Store in Jasper. Later, he ran a restaurant at the Santa Claus Golf Course. He had met Fuhs while running the bagel shop and the two eventually hooked up in May 2003.
Fuhs, who also owns the former Meese building on the Madison riverfront, serves on the local historic preservation board in French Lick that was created to help decide on which company will build and operate the future Orange County casino. Only two companies are still vying for the job – one owned by Donald Trump and another whose partners include French Lick native and former basketball star Larry Bird. The board is expected to make its recommendation to the Indiana Gaming Commission in July.

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