One door closes and another door opens. Chef Jacob Hilbert shocked fans of his well-respected Georgetown restaurant, The Hollow, when he sent out a letter on March 15 announcing that evening’s service would be its last. Still, the news did come with a silver lining; Hilbert is working on a new project at Jester King Brewery.
The Hollow, located in Georgetown’s historic town square, was a bit of an insider’s secret. It started as a modest French bistro in 2013, but the menu slowly grew in ambition, melding traditional techniques with Hill Country ingredients. The restaurant temporarily closed in summer 2016 to switch ownership and allow Hilbert to more sharply focus on the cuisine.
Hilbert’s letter did not give a specific reason for the shutter, instead offering a personal essay that extended gratitude to the restaurant's team and his wife, Lynda Hilbert. Towards the end, he offered a preview of the Jester King concept to come.
“When I first met with [founders] Jeffrey [Stuffings] and Michael [Steffing] from Jester King there had been much talking prior, however the question or the statement had not been made,” Hilbert wrote. “I said ‘I know this is crazy, but I want to make one of the best restaurants in the world.’ Without so much as a hesitation and in harmony the response was, ‘We want that, too.’”
According to Hilbert, the farmhouse restaurant will be more casual and accessible than The Hollow. The as-yet-unnamed concept will concentrate on historical techniques.
“[The restaurant will be] built on the cuisine of nomads and ancient peoples, there will be fire and spit roasting and vegetables cooked in mud,” Hilbert wrote. “We will muddle sauces in ancient ways and walk the land looking for tomorrow, we will bake bread and we will preserve things.”
“The goal is to have the restaurant completely self-sustained,” he continued, “growing all of the produce, milking the cows and goats, making the cheese, hanging the charcuterie.”
Jeffrey Stuffings, founder of Jester King and a recent James Beard Award semifinalist, confirmed to CultureMap that the restaurant was in the works, but said plans are “still very much in the formative stage.”
“Chef Jacob is someone we've worked with now for about five years through events at The Hollow and Jester King, and he's someone we have a ton of respect for," he said. "His philosophy is an extension of ours and vice versa, so we're really excited to be working with him in the months ahead.”
The restaurant isn't the only project in the works at the lauded brewery. In a March 13 blog post on its website, Jester King announced it was building a vineyard in collaboration with its farmer, Sean “Peppy” Meyer. Although several varietals will be planted on an experimental basis, the main planting will be two thick-skinned grapes: Black Spanish (also known as Lenoir) and Blanc du Bois.
Once the grapes are fully ready, the brewery will be using them to re-ferment its beer and eventually to make natural wine.
Jester King has not announced a completion date for the vineyard or the restaurant, but Hilbert estimated in his letter that the latter would be open sometime in 2018.