Sleek new brunch spot Hilda and Jesse opens this Monday, November 1, on a sunny corner in North Beach. It is the buttermilk dream of Kristina Compton (Avery, Atelier Crenn, Range, and Haven/Plum Bar) and Rachel Sillcocks (Cyrus, Nopa, and Range), a couple of fine-dining chefs who ran a popular Brunch for Dinner pop-up in 2019, before it went under during the pandemic (well, with the occasional pancake appearance).
The plan was always to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant, maybe out in the avenues, but with the pandemic, the duo got lucky in real estate at least, snagging this prime location on a corner of Washington Square. And now, after months of renovation, Hilda and Jesse is finally swinging open and serving unexpected brunch dishes in a wild diner-inspired space. So pour yourself a cup of coffee, and how about a good first look at the savory chicken porridge and that zebra-striped bathroom?
As with their pop-up, Compton and Sillcocks plan to continue to break boundaries with breakfast. Hilda and Jesse is opening with a brunch tasting menu, serving up three courses for $45. There is no set formula for those dishes, which will swap out seasonally, but for now the celery root cake is a play on a dim sum daikon cake, starring the sweeter root vegetable, crisped on both sides, and served with a dollop of whipped pumpkin and drizzle of brown rice vinegar. The savory porridge plays on congee, but relies on hominy for a little more grit, with roasted chicken piled on top, and fermented black beans and alliums adding depth. Manna is traditionally a Latvian mousse served with berries, but in this case whipped cream of wheat takes on almost a meringue texture, topped with coconut fluff and black sesame.
The chefs do encourage you to add on: Of course, they kept the fan-favorite buttermilk pancakes, served as a fluffy double stack, topped with grilled cranberry maple, with an unusual option to add shaved white truffles, playing on sweet and savory. The steak and eggs is a totally new dish, featuring dry-aged ribeye, soft-scrambled eggs flecked with herbs, and a jus whisked with mustard seeds. Defying toast expectations, the “Avocado Toast” is in fact a crunchy tempura-fried sweet potato topped with horseradish and dill for more “in your face flavor,” Compton says.
Drinks are definitely not bottomless mimosas: In addition to coffee and juice, there’s also a thoughtful wine list courtesy of James Butler, who is popping off with a dozen different sparklers, vermouths and sherries, and a couple of low ABV spritzes. “We wanted it to be just as awesome as dinner service,” Sillcocks says. “Why can’t you have bomb vermouth and sherry at brunch? We raised the expectations for a brunch wine list, and asked ourselves what sparks joy and makes us happy.”
It’s a quintessential San Francisco spot, at the corner of Union and Powell, with a sharpshooter Dirty Harry view into Washington Square Park. Designer Noz Nozawa did not hold back on a wild, colorful, and loosely diner-inspired renovation. The space was already drenched in natural light with floor-to-ceiling windows at the front, and it’s now filled with pastel pinks and aqua blues and black-and-white checkered floors. There are a couple of murals from artists Maya Fuji and Terrance Eubanks, Jr., along with grandma and grandpa portraits (Hilda was Compton’s grandmother and Jesse was Sillcocks’ grandfather). Caramel leather banquettes take a seat right alongside red vinyl swivel chairs, and vintage finds from the flea include mid-century mirrors and milk glass dishes. The whole restaurant is only 1,100 square feet and 30 seats, which makes this a cozy brunch party. But of course, they hope to add sidewalk seats eventually, so you can sip a cappuccino and silently judge the tourists trudging to lesser brunches on Columbus.
Hilda & Jesse opens Monday, November 1, with weekend brunch from Friday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and breakfast for dinner every Monday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Pop-ups and private events may take over the space on off days.