HillGarten outdoor venue set to open in Old Hilliard by July 4

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic changed numerous things in the world, including the plans of Marty and Sandy Nowak to open a new “German-leaning” restaurant in the Old Hilliard district. 

The married business partners still plan to open HillGarten by July 4, but instead of the traditional walled dining room and restaurant they envisioned pre-COVID, they will offer a warm-weather, outdoor venue. 

“Why take the risk now during COVID and an uncertain economy?” Marty Nowak said. 

The Powell couple bought a residence at 4131 Main St. and had it demolished in 2018, intending to build a restaurant on the site, joining Old Hilliard’s growing district of food venues, but as that plan was nearing completion, the pandemic struck. 

An aerial rendering shows the layout for HillGarten, which is expected to open by July 4 at 4131 Main St. in Old Hilliard.

“We wanted to add to the momentum of what was happening in Old Hilliard,” Nowak said. 

The couple became familiar with Old Hilliard because of the volunteer work Sandy Nowak does for Patches of Light, a Hilliard-based nonprofit organization founded by Mindy Atwood. It provides financial and material assistance to the families of children with life-threatening or fatal illnesses. Nowak said he will donate to Patches of Light if the business is successful. 

“We would go to restaurants (after visiting Patches of Light) and became familiar with the area,” he said. 

Nowak said he and his wife decided to proceed with their restaurant concept after the Crooked Can Brewing Co.’s plans for the Center Street Market and the city’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, coupled with city programming at Hilliard’s Station Park, began attracting larger numbers of gatherings. 

The city added HillGarten in its DORA program, which includes 11 venues and will operate from noon to 9 p.m. seven days a week between June 1 and Oct. 31. 

Nowak said HillGarten is “German-leaning” but “won’t embrace the whole German theme.” 

He said he wants to create an atmosphere that recalls his upbringing in an Italian family near Rochester, New York, as well as the “incredibly charming” restaurant district he saw on Rainey Street while on a business trip to Austin, Texas. 

Nowak, an executive with an advertising firm, and his wife, an accounts manager for a national retailer, will maintain their full-time employment, Nowak said. 

This rendering shows the street-level view for HillGarten, which is expected to open by July 4 at 4131 Main St. in Old Hilliard.

HillGarten will operate as a seasonal restaurant and will serve craft beer, wine and spirits, and “light food,” he said. The menu will include sandwiches and “unique pretzels” made on site. 

Live music also will be a frequent feature, he said. 

After opening this summer, HillGarten’s proposed hours of operation will be from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday  and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. 

The restaurant’s season will be from May 1 to Nov. 1. 

Plans are for an outdoor area with a patio, umbrellas, a fire pit and an “event space” that resembles a greenhouse, Nowak said. 

The site can accommodate only five parking spaces and will rely on off-site parking. The restaurant capacity is for 60 to 85 people, according to the application to the planning and zoning commission, and will have up to seven employees. 

The planning commission approved the concept in October 2020 for a 560-square-foot kitchen and walk-up bar, said David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard. The remainder of the lot will have outdoor seating and landscaping, Ball said. 

The application shows the landscaping will include Limelight hydrangea, Sweetbay magnolia, threadleaf coreopsis and Russian sage. 

Tim Kauffman, executive director of Destination Hilliard, said the business will further enhance the district’s vibrancy and is a good fit in the DORA. 

“HillGarten is an exciting new outdoor option that adds to the family-friendly mix of Old Hilliard’s restaurant and visitor attractions,” he said. “This unique, German-inspired restaurant will also add to Hilliard’s summer DORA offerings.” 

Libby Gierach, president and CEO of the Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce, said HillGarten “will be a welcome addition.” 

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo