An acclaimed Texas chef is trading the big city for the Hill Country.
Chef Ryan Hildebrand stunned Houston in November 2019 when he exited his famed FM Kitchen & Bar. Now, Hildebrand is collaborating with two childhood buddies on Hildee’s Dine-Inn in Wimberley, with the name incorporating his and his grandfather’s nicknames. Hildebrand describes the concept as a “Hill Country bistro.”
“I can’t really think of a word other than bistro that leaves it open to interpretation. I don’t love the word bistro, but it gives you the ability to do everything,” Hildebrand says. “I used to call it a smokehouse, but people would immediately think that it’s a barbecue restaurant. And that’s not what it is at all.”
Hildebrand says he and his wife and their two young daughters settled in Wimberley after regularly visiting the Hill Country town as a getaway destination when they lived in Houston.
The chef has been working as hospitality consultant since his departure from FM Kitchen & Bar. He and his business partners purchased an undeveloped 1.6-acre plot in Wimberley a little over a year ago as a potential restaurant site. Today, Hildebrand is juggling this new venture and his consulting projects.
“I’m at a point in my career where I really wanted to step back into the kitchen a little more and get back to the roots of why I started all of this,” says Hildebrand, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
Renderings for Hildee’s, which will be on Winters Mill Parkway near Blue Hole Regional Park and Cypress Creek, show a no-nonsense rectangular structure with a rustic-looking brown exterior, a large outdoor porch, and a minimalist interior supplying plenty of natural light pouring through large windows.
Austin-based Maker Architects is designing the restaurant. Hildebrand says the restaurant, with more than 5,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, will feature a full kitchen as well as a full bar with cocktails, wine, and beer. It’s being geared toward brunch, lunch, and dinner service, as well as small private events like wedding rehearsal dinners.
Hildee’s menu will marry inspiration from both FM Kitchen & Bar and Triniti, the now-shuttered high-end Houston eatery where Hildebrand was chef. The new Wimberley spot will blend the laidback vibe of a smokehouse with touches of fine dining, Hildebrand says.
“I don’t want it to be uncomfortable. It’s very casual, very comfortable — just like Wimberley,” he says. “I really wanted to do something that worked well in Wimberley, that people can enjoy when they’re coming off the river or they’re camping and hiking or they want to have a nicer dinner.”
Items on the Hildee’s menu will include soup, salad, steak, brisket, smoked salmon, trout, quail, venison, fajitas, black pepper potato muffins, and burnt-ends rangoon. Hildebrand also plans to offer weekend picnic baskets packed with foods like fried chicken and fixins.
“We’re doing a style of restaurant that nobody else is doing out there,” Hildebrand says.
Construction on Hildee’s is tentatively set to start in February, with the restaurant on track for a July or August opening, according to Hildebrand. The restaurant, staffed by roughly two dozen people, will operate Wednesday through Sunday.