Hilton Village is a Norman Rockwell painting. From its annual July Fourth parade down Main Street to its yearly neighborhood egg hunt at the ravine, this Newport News historic district exudes community.
Kids come from all over the city to experience the epic trick-or-treating on Halloween, and there’s nothing like walking your children (and the dog) down to the waterfront school, overlooking the James River, every morning. The former World War I housing project, built in 1918, always looked more like an elf village when we were growing up. It was fun to imagine that dwarves and trolls inhabited these structures with sloped, slated roofs and heavy, oval shaped doors. We would ride our bikes to Blue Star Diner for lunch, Monty’s Penguin for ice cream and The Village Soda Shoppe for a game of checkers and a cold limeade.
Some of the names have changed but the experience is still the same for Hilton-ites. Shops like Plantiques, Rooms, Blooms and More, Primrose, and The Red Feathered Nest feed our need for any and all things vintage or shabby chic. Indulge Bakery and Couture Cakes by Nika satisfy our sweet tooth and Circa 1918 is the “go to” for fine, farm-to-table dining. The Peninsula Community Theatre serves up some stellar performances, and between Act II and Chelsea’s Closet, parents and kids are all set on gently used threads.
The newest Hilton addition is Kismet, an American bistro owned and operated by Gary McIntyre, Sean Pepe and Joe Illes. These guys definitely know a thing or two about running a successful business in just the right spot. The Barking Dog in Hampton and The Deadrise in Fort Monroe, owned by the same restaurant group, are thriving and have been enthusiastically incorporated into their adopted neighborhoods and all of Hampton Roads.
Hilton shop owner Jennifer Gambill says, “Primrose is celebrating 16 years in Hilton Village and we couldn’t be happier to be part of such a vibrant and charming community. We are very fortunate to have a great group of merchants who support each other and welcome new additions. Indulge and Kismet have been tremendous assets to our commercial district. It’s wonderful to be able to recommend a great place to grab a bite, especially within walking distance! Our clients love it, and they rave about it time and time again!”
We talked with Kismet’s owners about Hilton and plans for this unique, already well-received restaurant…
Anna: I’m not gonna lie, I had to Google it but, “kismet” means “destiny” or “fate.” What does the name mean for your newest restaurant?
Kismet: Kismet was chosen precisely for its definition. It has a certain magical and anticipatory feel to it. It also looks nice on signage and menus.
Why did you guys settle on Hilton Village, specifically?
We were all in agreement that Hilton Village has vast potential as a retail and social destination. Someone needed to help jump-start it. Hopefully, more entrepreneurs will take advantage of this gem hiding in plain sight.
Before there was Kismet, there was 99 Main. Judging by social media comments, their regulars feel like this is a pretty hard act to follow. What will be the same and what will be different?
99 Main is gone… the only thing we have in common is a physical address. Potential customers have to realize that we’re going to follow our own vision. We believe in our people and product and are confident that our customer base will grow if we stay the course. We see new faces every night and they are energetic and fresh.
What advice can you give to other restaurateurs and small business owners?
Don’t start a venture without a cushion. Don’t buy used refrigeration, and be flexible with your game plan.
You guys are on a roll. What can we expect for your next venture?
We’re looking at a very casual, coastal concept and a lively, high-energy, ethnically driven destination.
For more info, click here for their Facebook page.