First Look: A Little Hi Brings That Hi-Pointe Drive-In Magic to Ballwin

The smaller-sized spinoff opens the door for national expansion.


click to enlarge A bacon cheeseburger is one of the dishes available at the new A Little Hi in Ballwin.
Sarah Lovett
A Little Hi brings a smaller version of the Hi-Pointe Drive-In experience to Ballwin.

Ballwin residents can now get a taste of Hi-Pointe Drive-In closer to home, albeit as a pint-sized version of the brand. A Little Hi (15069 Manchester Road, Ballwin; 636-220-7176), a spinoff of the popular burgers and shakes spot, opened on October 23, promising big Hi-Pointe flavors in a smaller space.

"This has been an idea that has been in my partner Mike's [Johnson] head for a while," says co-owner Ben Hillman. "Part of it is that we wanted to focus on what we are really best at, and that's really awesome burgers. Also, we really loved the name."

Hillman, who co-owns both A Little Hi, Hi-Pointe Drive-In and Chicken Out with his business partner and Sugarfire Smokehouse founder Mike Johnson, says that this particular location felt serendipitous. The day he and Johnson finally decided to move forward with the idea for A Little Hi, they were driving down Manchester Road and saw that the former P'sghetti's standalone spot was available. Both the feel of the building and the location felt right for what they were trying to do with A Little Hi, so they immediately looked into taking over the building. Within two days, it was theirs.

click to enlarge The pint-sized version of Hi-Pointe Drive-In features the brand's greatest hits. - Sarah Lovett
Sarah Lovett
The pint-sized version of Hi-Pointe Drive-In features the brand's greatest hits.

The pair and their team have transformed the former casual Italian restaurant into a vibrant, whimsical spot that matches the spirit of the brand. The small, counter-service space is painted in red, blue and a pale yellow, and nostalgic knickknacks decorate the order counter. The seating area consists of a handful of booths and tables, though guests can also dine outside under the cheeky eye of a vintage, pompadoured Big Boy statue at one of the several patio tables. The restaurant also offers a drive-thru for those who want to get their burgers on the go.

Hillman sees A Little Hi as not simply a way to bring the Hi-Pointe Drive-In brand to West County; he believes the concept makes it possible for him and Johnson to expand to other markets around the country, as this smaller and more nimble type of restaurant is easier to replicate.

"We wanted to be more flexible with our expansion and wanted to be able to go into smaller spaces that are focused on takeout and speed," Hillman says. "That meant pairing our menu down to the greatest hits."

click to enlarge Chef Adam Pritchett and co-owner Ben Hillman are excited to share Hi-Pointe's food in a new location. - Sarah Lovett
Sarah Lovett
Chef Adam Pritchett and co-owner Ben Hillman are excited to share Hi-Pointe's food in a new location.

As for those greatest hits, diners at A Little Hi can expect Hi-Pointe Drive-In's signature smash burger, its Frisco Melt, the outstanding Belgian-style fries and shakes such as the Jungle Love Ore-Oreo and Raspberry Cheesecake. Hillman and Johnson also promise a rotating menu of over-the-top specials, such as the Fat and the Furious, which pairs a double cheeseburger with a Wagyu hotdog, fried mac and cheese and a special sauce.

"We will really push our creativity with specials," Hillman says.

Though they are not ready to announce exactly where they will be headed to next, Hillman teases that there are additional A Little Hi restaurants on the horizon. Between these smaller-scale spinoffs and the original, he and Johnson will have a suite of options to choose from as they move forward in developing their brand.

"I think the sky is the limit with Hi-Pointe," Hillman says. "The goal is to represent St. Louis on a national stage. I think we have the creativity, the environment and the team to make that happen."

A Little Hi is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Scroll down for more photos of A Little Hi.

click to enlarge Cheese fries and over-the-top burgers are sure to satisfy. - Sarah Lovett
Sarah Lovett
Cheese fries and over-the-top burgers are sure to satisfy.
click to enlarge The new restaurant offers counter service and a drive-thru. - Sarah Lovett
Sarah Lovett
The new restaurant offers counter service and a drive-thru.
click to enlarge Special burgers will round out the menu. - Sarah Lovett
Sarah Lovett
Special burgers will round out the menu.
click to enlarge A vintage Big Boy statue stands guard over the patio. - Sarah Lovett
Sarah Lovett
A vintage Big Boy statue stands guard over the patio.
click to enlarge A Little Hi is now open in Ballwin. - Sarah Lovett
Sarah Lovett
A Little Hi is now open in Ballwin.


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About The Author

Cheryl Baehr

Cheryl Baehr is the dining editor and restaurant critic for the Riverfront Times and an international woman of mystery. Follow her on the socials at @cherylabaehr
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