From Hill Street Cafe Bus Boy to Owner, Juan Modesto Martinez Shows What Hard Work and Dedication Can do

Juan Martinez, owner of Hill Street Cafe. Photo by Ashley Erikson

Hill Street Cafe has been a house name for decades. The first location is in La Canada (still open) and the second restaurant opened in Burbank and got its name, and now with the new owner, Juan Modesto Martinez, who shows that hard work pays off.

Martinez started working at the La Canada location during his senior year of high school, bussing table as a part-time gig on the weekends.  After a few years dedicated to the job, the owner approached Martinez with the opportunity to fill a server position.  Martinez worked hard, was committed to the establishment, and a few years after being a server, the owner approached him with a new opportunity, this time as the manager.

In November of 2003, the Burbank location (3301 N Glenoaks Blvd) opened its doors and Martinez was the first one given the opportunity to manage the new restaurant. “I remember we sat at the table in the back, and it was around six o’clock for dinner,” Martinez says as he points to the table near the window that looks out onto Glenoaks Blvd. “There was literally maybe one or two tables here with customers, and I could see that things were not going right. He told me that he wanted me to come in here and be the general manager.”

Photo by Ashley Erikson

While managing the Burbank location, Martinez opened up a restaurant of his own in Covina, working days here in the city, driving to Pasadena to pick up his son from school, and then finishing the night in Covina. After years of back and forth, racking up hours, experience, and giving his all to the multiple businesses, Martinez was offered a deal on the Covina location and sold it, right as he was offered the opportunity to buy Burbank’s Hill Street cafe and become the new owner.

From bus boy, to server, to manager, and as of November 2022, Juan Martinez owns Hill Street Cafe in Burbank.  “There is no difference between me and my co-workers now that I am the owner. I treat them the same and we continue to do what we are doing,” said Martinez. “I told them that if you help me to succeed, I’m going to help you.” He hopes to be able to give the opportunities that he was given growing up in the restaurant business. 

Photo by Ashley Erikson

Hill Street Cafe feels like home with smiling faces that greet you upon arrival, and food that is made with care.  All of their soups and salad dressings are made in house and customers become regulars, filling the taupe colored booths time and time again. For breakfast, the customer favorites are the chilaquiles and omelettes, for lunch its the Chinese chicken salad and the Philly steak sandwich, and for dinner, everyone rants and raves about their pot roast.

Martinez has been quick to make updates to the eatery, adding TV screen menus that flash daily specials and house favorites.  He is also working on a new outdoor patio to make Hill Street Cafe a dog-friendly establishment. New specials will be presented and added to the menu if they are popular with the customers. 

He is also offering a complimentary glass of wine with dinner, which is served Thursdays to Saturdays, and has opened up to hosting events and fundraisers for schools and local organizations.

Visit Hill Street Cafe for St. Patrick’s Day to try their corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes, served with a side soup or salad for just $19.95. For more info, hours, and menu items, visit

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    1. This is a wonderful article about how hard work and perseverance has rewards. I wish this man well in the future.

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