CASA GRANDE -- One step into Hideout Steakhouse & BBQ is a step into a one-of-a-kind experience. The warm, rustic decor of the restaurant greets guests as they enter, with a bright open concept that makes the large seating area feel spacious and welcoming.

The restaurant also features an open kitchen, giving guests an opportunity to watch as cooks prepare meals as they are ordered.

Then, there’s the friendly staff, equally welcoming as you step through the door. And let’s not forget about the food, as the restaurant boasts a menu with a wide array of options, including steaks, barbecue and even rich sides like baked beans and garlic mashed potatoes.

It’s one thing that Todd Gillespie, owner, says he gets a lot of comments on from patrons — how much the food and atmosphere remind them of being at home.

“I tell everybody, we don’t serve fast food, we serve fresh food,” Gillespie says. “I have people showing up here at 9 o’clock in the morning prepping fresh food for the day, and it shows. It really does.”

Before opening his first Hideout Steakhouse in Utah, Gillespie worked as a general contractor, building custom homes in the Valley. About 10 years ago, he and a former partner traveled to northeastern Utah to research the possibility of opening a barbecue joint near the oil fields. After finding the right building, they expanded the offerings to steaks as well.

The first Utah location opened in November 2013. Several years later, Gillespie opened up another location in Heber City, Utah.

Then 2020 came along, and the unexpected happened. Restaurants were among the businesses initially shuttered in the early efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Still a licensed general contractor, Gillespie returned to Arizona. He took on some contracting work and used the money he earned, in addition to federal government relief funding through the Paycheck Protection Program, to help make ends meet for employees at the two Utah-based restaurants.

While in Arizona, he received a call from a friend working in commercial real estate who tipped him off about possible leasing opportunities at The Promenade at Casa Grande.

That was in July 2020. Remodeling of the newly leased facility began just after Labor Day. By the first week of March, the Casa Grande Hideout Steakhouse & BBQ location had opened its doors.

“There’s a lot of growth going on down here (in Casa Grande),” Gillespie said. “It’s a good opportunity, there’s no steakhouse within 20 miles of here and we’ve found out in the few months that we’ve been open that people love our food.”

Since opening, Gillespie estimates that on average the restaurant serves about 500-600 people a day. He says the restaurant’s success, however, has a lot to do with the hardworking staff.

“I can’t take hardly any of the credit,” he said. “I’ve got a great general manager and a great staff.”

A good portion of that staff, including General Manager Arturo Laguna, worked at Mimi’s Cafe in Casa Grande. Laguna helped to open the Casa Grande location of Mimi’s Cafe about 12 years ago before moving on to help open up other Mimi’s locations.

As a Casa Grande local, however, Laguna decided he wanted to stay closer to home and accepted a position with Hideout. Three weeks later, the Mimi’s Cafe across the street closed unexpectedly.

According to Gillespie, Laguna was integral in bringing many of the employees that had lost their jobs as a result of Mimi’s closure on to work for the Hideout.

“We’ve got a great staff — a great team,” Gillespie said. “We have some happy people here. They’re good people, they’re local people and they enjoy coming to work. We try to treat them fairly and it shows.”

Gillespie’s dedication to the restaurant and his customers runs deep, so much so that he even has his cellphone number posted on the front entrance so customers can contact him personally.

The same dedication also extends to his employees, who are eager to ensure customers feel taken care of while they’re dining at the Hideout.

“Any problem, we’re going to solve that problem here at the restaurant,” Laguna said. “Because when the customers (walk out) that door, it is so hard to get it fixed. So we want to solve any type of problem here before the customer leaves.”

The son of a grocer in northeastern Arizona, Gillespie got an early start working as a butcher for the family business and even attended meat cutting school at 22. His experience and training has provided the strong understanding of the steak business that has ultimately set Hideout Steakhouse apart from other establishments.

“I always thought when I was in the butcher shop that it would be great to be able to have a steakhouse where you could butcher and sell steaks at the same time,” Gillespie said.

At the Hideout, Gillespie and his staff cut all the steaks in-house — one of several things he says makes the Hideout special.

The process starts with primal cuts of upper two-thirds Choice beef, which Gillespie says comes in just below Prime grade beef. What that means, he says, is that about 99% of the time customers are actually getting a Prime grade on their steaks.

“That’s what sets us apart,” he said. “Because of my experience I’ve been able to get pretty picky... about quality and it works well.”

He weighs and cuts each steak and also grinds his own meat for the restaurant’s selection of steak burgers, which use a combination of steak trimmings and lean meat.

“They’re a juicy burger,” Gillespie said. “They’re not as lean as most burgers and that’s what gives it the flavor.”

Whether it’s brisket, ribs, tri-tip or pulled pork, the restaurant does all of its own smoking in-house as well. Even the baked beans are made onsite, using a family recipe passed down to Gillespie by his father.

And that’s not the only side the Hideout makes in-house. They also make their own cream corn, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, cinnamon apples, croutons and sweet potato fries.

But perhaps the most popular dish on the menu at the Hideout Steakhouse is Steak on a Stone.

The Hideout prepares this particular menu item by heating up a stone to about 500 degrees. Steaks come to the table seared, but not cooked through, along with the heated stone.

“You can start cutting up that steak and putting it on that stone, and cook it from rare to well done,” Gillespie said. “Your last bite is as hot as your first bite. I’ve had people sitting out here (in the dining room) for 45 minutes and they’re still putting steak on that stone and it’s still sizzling as it’s cooking.”

The dish is a rare experience, which Gillespie says sets the Hideout apart from many other steakhouses.

“It’s just not eating a steak, it’s an experience,” he said. “I sell the sizzle not the steak and because of that I can’t justify buying a cheap steak. It’s gotta be good and it’s gotta look good because of the presentation on the stone.”

Whether cutting steaks, barbecuing, washing dishes or ensuring customers are getting the best experience they possibly can at the Hideout, for Gillespie it all comes down to one thing — passion for the work he does.

“They say that if you enjoy what you do you’ll never work a day in your life, and that’s how I feel,” he said.

The Hideout Steakhouse is located at 1269 N. Promenade Parkway, Suite 121. PW

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