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A Meal at the Tip Top Grill
Customers at the Tip Top Grill can enjoy classic grill food and a great view. Pictured (L to R): a chili slaw dog, a cheeseburger, fries and a glass-bottle Coca-Cola.
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The View from Tip Top Grill
The Tip Top Grill’s outdoor seating is especially popular in the summer, when customers can enjoy warm weather, live bands and a view of Shades Valley and Red Mountain.
Tip Top Grill
588 Shades Crest Road • 978-8677
Summer hours: Monday-Saturday, 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
At the top of a cliff in Bluff Park, a tiny restaurant is serving burgers, hot dogs and one of the best views in Hoover. Despite its limited space, the Tip Top Grill has become a local favorite during its 10 years in business.
The Tip Top Grill is housed in a former full-service gas station built quite literally on the edge of a cliff. The restaurant serves breakfast and classic grill foods such as burgers, sandwiches and chili cheese fries, but it’s the view that steals the show. As they eat, customers can see miles of Shades Valley and the distant Red Mountain.
“You can’t just recreate this. Anybody can cook a hot dog or a hamburger or chicken fingers, but given what we have to work with, we feel like it attracts a lot of people,” said owner John Morris. “Unique is the best word I can come up with.”
The grill attracts a regular crowd, especially in the morning. Morris sees the same group of garbage collectors each day at 6:30 a.m., followed by businessmen who get a bite to eat on their way to work around 9 a.m. Around a dozen retired men from the area have also made the Tip Top Grill their regular breakfast spot.
“They might just get coffee or they might eat breakfast, but they’re here every morning,” Morris said.
Morris himself was a regular customer before he bought the restaurant in March 2013. He owned his own business, AGF, Inc., which installs and refinishes gym flooring in schools across Jefferson and Shelby counties, but decided he wanted to try his hand at running a restaurant as well.
“I’ve been coming up here for years as a customer and just loved what it was and knew that with a little TLC, it could be a lot more,” Morris said.
Though he has “zero restaurant experience,” Morris has made several changes to draw more business to the restaurant. The Tip Top Grill now has an active Facebook page with more than 1,000 followers. During the busy summer months, Morris brings in local bands on Fridays and lengthens the restaurant’s hours to 7:30 p.m. so customers can enjoy the sunset with their dinners.
However, there are challenges that come with the Tip Top Grill. The grill relies on outdoor seating, which means business drops on cold or rainy days. The small kitchen space also limits menu options, since large items like walk-in freezers cannot fit and there is no room for expansion. Morris has many ideas he would like to implement, like serving milkshakes or alcohol, but the costs are too high to make those a reality.
“I have crazy ideas, but will they ever come to fruition? I doubt it,” Morris said. “So, we have to be creative and not try to be everything to everybody, but just do what we do better than most.”
Instead of trying to make impossible changes, Morris focuses on customer feedback to improve everything the Tip Top Grill can already offer.
“I love talking to people. I love getting to know them,” Morris said. “They tell you what you’re doing good, and sometimes they tell you what you’re not doing good. And we try to adhere to as many of those as we can.”