Chef Jacob Hilbert seemingly popped up out of nowhere in 2013 when he opened the Hollow restaurant on the square in Georgetown and steered the casual but sophisticated spot to a place in my annual Austin Dining Guide.
Using local ingredients and refined European technique, the colorful North Carolina native brought fine dining to an unexpected locale and developed a local following. Hilbert, who ran the restaurant with an assist from his wife and in-laws, shuttered the Hollow in the spring, and there were some rumblings that he might partner with the owners of Jester King Brewery on a venture South of Austin. But Hilbert surprised diners once again when he recently reappeared in yet another unexpected place, this time an hour north of Austin in Salado.
With the backing of customers he met while at the Hollow, Hilbert helped open Ramble Restaurant and Farmhouse Grill in August. The restaurant sits on three partially wooded acres and features a garden from which Hilbert intends to source much of his herbs and vegetables. The property is also home to a cotton gin Hilbert says they intend to convert to an events space in the future.
As for the menu, diners can expect shades of the Hollow, though Hilbert says it eschews any direct cultural, regional or ethnic ties. Salado has likely never seen many of the types of dishes and ingredients that Hilbert has brought to the table. Sure, a simple salad of fresh ricotta and tomatoes, poached shrimp with lemongrass aioli or rib-eye with puréed potatoes might not seem too adventurous, but something tells me lamb belly pancetta with hyssop jus, oxtail with kuri squash gnocchi, and a Flemish stew of snapper, oysters, leeks and hen of the woods mushrooms will turn a few heads.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have touched folks enough to inspire them to believe in my cooking and my team,” Hilbert said. “The goals of the restaurant are essentially simple: to create uniquely delicious cuisine informed by the environment we are in. The philosophical underpinnings are truly no more forged than that.”
Ramble is located at 109 Royal St. in Salado and is currently serving dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. More information at ramblerestaurant.com.
Just a few weeks after opening the market, cafe and bar called Artista Rosso, the owners of that business have their eyes on another project in the same development.
South End Connection Pizza & Bar will take the place of the former Vox Table in the Lamar Union complex. The pizzeria and bar, which management hopes to open by Nov. 1, will set up shop directly across from the Alamo Drafthouse, which serves plenty of pizzas already. Artista Rosso and South End Connection Pizza & Bar are both operated by the owner of Barley Bean.
South End plans to serve dinner Tuesday-Sunday, with daytime service on the weekend.
Parkside will host a five-course dinner prepared by a roster of some of Austin’s top female chefs on Sept. 25. The dinner, which costs $85, will benefit the scholarship program of the Austin chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier.
Participating chefs include Jennifer Nguyen (Parkside), Juliann Stoddart (Parkside Projects), Jo Chan (Eberly), Lindsay Flagg (South Congress Hotel), Bonnie Wright (Olamaie), Natalie Gazaui (Ramen Tatsu-ya), Abby Love (L’Oven), Sarah Heard (Foreign & Domestic) and Kendall Antonelli (Antonelli’s Cheese). Each of the chefs will create a dish inspired by a strong woman in their lives. The dinner will be preceded by a cocktail hour featuring craft cocktails from Tara Davies (Parkside) and Tacy Rowlands (Midnight Cowboy), and the meal’s wine service will be spearheaded by sommelier Krista Church (Eberly).
“This dinner is about bringing a community of stellar women together to create an evening of excellence unparalleled to anything else we have had here in Austin,” Stoddart said.
The dinner, which takes place on the second floor of Parkside (301 E. Sixth St.), runs from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online via a link at Facebook.com/parksideaustin.