Atmosphere: Sophisticated elegance inside, casual patio outside.
Hours: Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, 6 to 11 p.m.
Price range: Light entrees, $4.75 to $9.50; dinner entrees, $11.50 to $15.25.
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa.
Reservations: Suggested for dinner or large parties.
Special facilities: Not accessible to patrons in wheelchairs.
Hilda's, refreshingly modern with a tastefully designed and furnished dining room and an outdoor terrace, serves up-to-the-minute nouvelle cuisine.
The history of Hilda's is interesting. As Hungry Hilda's, it was a hole-in-the-wall, two-table carryout featuring homemade yogurts, elaborate quiches, unusual salads, delicate hors d'oeuvres and a host of main courses that were part French, part Hilda's own inventive style.
Eating at Hungry Hilda's was a pleasant experience on a warm summer evening when you could sit on the outdoor steps and balance your plate on your lap, but it was far from the haute cuisine setting many of the dishes deserved.
Fair weather and foul, Hilda built up a following that presumably followed her a few storefronts away to the terrace level of a smart-looking office building.
It is still pleasant to eat at the new Hilda's on a warm evening, seated at tables set out on the terrace. But now it is also pleasant to eat dinner there inside, out of the rain, snow, sleet or hail.
The new dining room is one of the prettiest around: coolly refreshing with sleek, modern lines and subdued colors accented by bright paintings on the walls. It is not a setting for toddlers or children unable to sit still through a meal, but for youngsters who enjoy a special dinner out in a "grownup" restaurant, Hilda's is just right.
We took our children there to celebrate several rites of passage: final exams, creditable report cards and a birthday.
Among the many major changes at the new Hilda's are the menu and its prices. The dinner entrees, which feature the light nouvelle cuisine and include salad and rice, are in the lofty $12 to $15 range--not exactly priced for the family trade.
But fortunately, the menu also features what are called "Little Meals": quiches, salads, crepes and sandwiches. We tried two of the entrees and learned an important lesson for family diners: the high-priced entrees--we tried lemon chicken ($11.50) and roast duck with plum sauce ($12.75)--were delightfully seasoned and well-prepared but quite skimpy. You could never share one of these entrees with a child.
The duck, for instance, was baked to a crisp perfection with not a sign of fat and with a delicate plum flavor, but it was only a quarter (rather than the usual half) of a not-very-large bird.
The Little Meals, however, were generous and just as good. A Chinese stir-fried crepe ($7.75) filled the plate with a hearty crepe stuffed with a myriad of Chinese vegetables that had been delicately stir-fried and flavored with soy and other seasonings.
Accompanying the crepe was a small portion of creamy celery remoulade, a salad Hilda perfected at her former headquarters and which hasn't lost a thing in the move.
The vegetarian Brie sandwich ($4.75) featured large slabs of a good French bread overloaded with slices of cucumber, tomato, mushrooms, bibb lettuce and Brie, all tied together with a refreshing dill dressing.
We also tried, as an appetizer, a cup of turkey soup ($3.25) that was remarkably like a good Jewish chicken soup in that it was filled with carrots, celery and parsnips. It also had a sharpness and elegance to which its more plebeian relative doesn't aspire.
The house salads served with the dinner entrees had crisp bibb lettuce, mushrooms, carrots and alfalfa sprouts topped with either a light, semi-sweet mustard dressing or a creamy dill dressing. Both were excellent.
For dessert, we were anxious to try some of the pastries displayed in a case just inside the front door. A chocolate mousse ($3.25) and baklava ($3.25) were both of high quality, but the tastes were sophisticated for youngsters and the prices a bit steep when they'd probably have liked ice cream just as well.
The blueberry strudel with cream ($3.50) was in a class by itself: absolutely delicious and big enough for two and possibly three to share.
Dinner for four came to a rather hefty $54.81, including tax, but when we go back--and Hilda's is worth a return visit--we'll stick to the Little Meals, share a blueberry strudel and, we hope, eat dinner for under $35.