The wait for the European-style wine bar from the team behind Quince and Cotogna will end next week when Verjus opens its doors in Jackson Square. It’s the third restaurant for owners Michael and Lindsay Tusk, who’ve joined up with managing partner Matt Cirne (formerly wine director at Quince) for a concept that steps away from fine dining.
To start, there won’t be reservations. Much like the pintxos bars of Northern Spain and wine bars of Paris, diners who desire a glass of wine and a bite can come in anytime to grab a seat or a spot at one of the standing bars. The Tusks, who’ve traveled extensively through Europe, based Verjus on their own favorite places, like the Left Bank wine bar L’Avant Comptoir.
“We’ve always appreciated the casual concept where you could grab a good glass of wine and a small plate of food — that was actually cooked — when you just don’t want to go through the rigamarole of reservations,” says Lindsay Tusk. “Those things are sometimes barriers to food and service.”
Diners can drop by on a whim, order food and wine at the counter, and find a comfortable place to stand or sit; food is delivered by a server, who will continue to take orders, clear plates, and refill water. Tusk says that the team anticipates “a bit of anarchy” at first, as guests learn to trust the process.
“The economics of running a business in San Francisco have really created this fast casual thing but those models have existed in Europe for a really long time,” says Tusk. “Places that are really food and chef driven but also very immediate and very direct.”
Two different areas exist within Verjus, which is in the tradition of a French cave a manger (which translates to “eat in a cellar”): the main wine bar (bar a vin) and an adjoining retail shop and conserva bar (the cave). Both will have dining areas where guests can drink wine and eat snacks cheese, charcuterie, tinned seafood, tortilla española, as well as the larger menu items.
While chef Michael Tusk will serve as executive chef, chef de cuisine David Meyer will lead the kitchen. The menu, which is displayed as a marquee and won’t be printed, will change often, rotating through dishes that are deeply influenced by French and Italian cuisine. A Dungeness crab tartine, mussels with creme fraiche and saffron, duck confit, and other small plates will lead up to larger plats du jour, entrecote with bearnaise, pot au feu and soup de poisson. There will be a rotating pate en croute (pate with pastry) as well, bringing a skillfully rustic, classic French dish to the forefront.
“The bar is the heart of the operation,” says Tusk, “There’s a real generosity of spirit with the wine and the food that’s at the bar.” The wine list, curated by Cirne, will be predominantly French alongside producers from Spain, Italy, and America; many wines will be natural.
Stay tuned for an exact opening day, more details, and photos of the interior, which was designed by Lindsay Tusk and Jensen Architects.
When it opens next week at 550 Washington Street, hours will be Monday-Wednesday from 5 p.m.- 10 p.m., Thursday-Friday from 5 p.m.- 12 a.m., and Saturday from 5 p.m.-12 a.m. (closed on Sunday). Lunch will be added a week or two after opening.