By Faye Gaston
On August 11, 2021, the employees at the Hilltop Grill in Union Springs surprised the owner with decorations of streamers and balloons to celebrate the 10th year of being in business. The owner, Rebekah Farrar (Tompkins) Johnson, was named by a grandmother. Known as "Beck", she stated that the business is so popular that there is no need to advertise. She said, "It is an institution". It is in the Alabama Barbecue Hall of Fame, is on the list of recommended 100 places to eat in Alabama, and was voted the top restaurant in Bullock County. Among celebrities to eat here were former Alabama Governor Bentley, singer Hank Williams, Jr., and Bryan Henry, WSFA reporter.
Beck has been in the food business for 50 years. She ran the Dairy Deluxe in Union Springs, was manager of the Union Springs Country Club twice, and was a captain at the Capital City Club in Montgomery for eight years (being the only female of seven captains). She was in charge of the big parties there.
She bought the Hilltop Grill from Sherry McKey. The name "Hilltop" came from being located at the "top of the hill" on highway 82W. The business has been in this location for thirty years.
Beck is the daughter of the late Joyce and J.P. Tompkins, Jr. She raised her two children, Craig and Farrar, at the Dairy Deluxe. Her two grandchildren have helped at the Hilltop Grill. One grandchild, Erin, has entered her first year of college, and the other grandchild Jack, just entered kindergarten.
At one time, she and Mary Jane Tompkins were caterers. Beck still cooks cheese straws, jellies, jam, and pickled okra at the Hilltop Grill because health codes do not allow selling items cooked at home.
She said her greatest accomplishment was to know Wylene Rhodes and Alice Bald because she "learned a lot about the food business from these two great women".
Beck said, "It was fun to work. My customers feel like family. I have made a lot of friends. Hunting season brings the most customers. They come back every year, and also bring dollars to Bullock County at other businesses".
The Hilltop Grill is for sale because Beck wants to retire at age 65 and have more time to enjoy her grandchildren. She will be 65 this month but wants to sell the business before she retires. The pandemic made it difficult to find employees. She has a "good tight staff" but needs two more part-time employees. The business is open Tuesday through Saturday.