Anyone who's eaten the piled-high, grass-fed corned beef sandwich at chef Brendan McGill's Hitchcock Deli in Georgetown can taste the James Beard Award semifinalist's love of meat. In fact, he loves it so much he has his own breed of pigs raised just for his restaurants. So fans might be surprised to learn that McGill just opened a juice bar and vegetarian restaurant.
Verjus, on Bainbridge Island, has been in the soft opening stage for the last week, with a May 20 grand opening and expanded hours on the docket. You can thank McGill's wife, Heidi, for this seemingly stark departure from Brendan's MO.
"It's been her inspiration from the beginning," McGill tells Eater. "We have been eating this way at home for a long time now, especially in the AM, and it's no secret how good clean eating and living feels. We thought the island was ready for it and, when a turnkey space became available, we had to do it."
The chef's wife also inspired the design and the menu, and, Brendan says, "There's no question who the boss is." He describes the space as having a "rad" modern boho vibe, completely different from his other spaces, including Hitchcock restaurant and the forthcoming Bruciato, both on Bainbridge.
The theme of the space is "transparency," with a wide open kitchen, giant windows, glass-doored refrigeration, and a view into the pantry so customers can have a look at the process.
The menu, available online, is split into sections, with a cold-pressed juice and shot segment that one might expect from a modern juice bar. "Right now they're organized by color," McGill explains, "and we have a basic set of five that we'll expand as we get our feet under us. The idea follows the universal nutritional principle that different colored foods contain different nutrients, and that for a complete diet you really do want to eat the rainbow. For an antioxidant pick-me-up, we have ginger and turmeric shots. We've got smoothies with the same ethos, but for something a little more substantial."
"For a complete diet, you really do want to eat the rainbow."
For folks wanting to chew their nutrients, the remainder of the menu is plant-based fare: think salads, legumes, pickles, and sweets. There, the owners showcase their local, organic farm produce, plus their lacto-fermented pickles and koji-based foods. You won't find sugar, or even gluten, on the premises, and a mainly vegan ethos loops through everything. "When you have access to the sort of produce and foraged goods we do, it's refreshing to make them the star of the show," the chef adds.
McGill recommends trying the chickpea, swiss chard, green goddess yogurt dish. "Other than the nut milks, it provides a little more protein and is just damn tasty. Roast carrots with lentils and puntarella, foraged watercress with walnuts and miso, that's the salad trio I go for," he says.
Though the McGills put the menu together, they have a chef and GM at the helm with tons of experience: Michalina Pawluskiewicz, who previously cooked at Bar Sajor, Staple & Fancy, Taylor Shellfish, and Rover's, among others.
The restaurant is currently open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, though McGill says he'll keep an eye on demand and adjust earlier or later, depending on business flow and feedback. Inside, Verjus seats 16, with 10 additional seats outside, and about 30 in the lane all summer.
124 Madrone Lane, Bainbridge Island, (206) 451-4096, website. Open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.