clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Inside SF’s Hottest New Wine Bar, Where High-Gloss and Hi-Fi Rule

Natural wines, tinned fish from Portugal, and a deep vinyl collection have landed in San Francisco

Verjus, the European-style wine bar from Quince’s Michael and Lindsay Tusk, opens the floodgates today, despite interference from an atmospheric river.

Along with managing partner Matt Cirne, the Tusks have manifested the casual style of Parisian wine bars and the pintxos bars of San Sebastian, Spain. On the service scale, it’s on the edge of “fast casual,” in that it’s an order-at-the-counter kind of place, where diners can drop in for a glass of wine and a bite, or stay through the evening to drink bottles and order larger plates. Except unlike at other fast casual places, servers will attend to tables and take more orders once diners have grabbed a seat, a detail commensurate with the Tusks’ dedication to good service.

The design reinforces this notion, with standing bars and small tables scattered through the space, which is divided into two sections: the main wine bar (bar a vin) and retail shop and conserva bar (the cave).

Lindsay Tusk led the design, working with Mark Jensen of Jensen Architects to mix vintage pieces with contemporary style. The building itself is historic: It’s the Eclipse Champagne Building, on the corner of Hotaling Place and Washington Street, which was built in the height of the Gold Rush and Barbary Coast periods in the 1850s. Tusk says the two spaces they linked together had various “nefarious pasts” before becoming Verjus, from brothels to gambling dens.

A high-gloss, red-lacquered ceiling is one of the most striking features of the space; beneath it, the floor is seven shades of encaustic tile shipped from Spain. The tables and chairs are vintage pieces from famous French furniture designer Pierre Chapo (the Tusks have collected many of his pieces over the years). The millwork — which includes the asymmetrical shelving behind the bar and in the retail shop — is built from locally sourced elm, and designed by Michael Mellon. One of Lindsay Tusk’s favorite pieces is an 1890s apothecary cabinet she found in Parma, which will display retail items (think antique truffle slicers from French flea markets).

As for music, executive chef Michael Tusk and partner Matt Cirne went all in with an audio system that audiophiles will go gaga for: They’ll play their personal vinyl collections on McIntosh equipment, pouring an eclectic mix of French yé-yé, jazz, reggae, punk, and more into diners’ ears.

Starting at 5 p.m., the public can stop in for food and wine at a communal table or standing bar in the conserva and retail section, where bottles and vintage wares can be purchased. In the cave, there will be standing room plus table seating for dining on pate en croute, jamón, and more. (Read more about the menus from chef de cuisine David Meyer here.) No reservations will be accepted.

For now, 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.

Seating with a view of the entrance on Washington Street

Red lacquer ceilings at Verjus
The open kitchen
The counter in the bar a vin
The cave (retail shop and conserva bar)
McIntosh audio equipment and record player
Patricia Chang
Shelving full of wine
Seating in the cave
Pate en croute in the cave
Oysters at Verjus
Oysters at Verjus
The entrance to 550 Washington Street


528 Washington Street, , CA 94111 (415) 944-4600 Visit Website
Inside the Dishes

Step Inside Burdell, a Cozy Oakland Restaurant Flipping the Script on Soul Food

Taste an Uncommon Pueblan Specialty at This New Polk Street Taqueria

A.M. Intel

SoMa Neighborhood Staple Marlowe Might Be Forced to Relocate