One of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the season is happening on Bainbridge Island’s main drag, a ferry ride away from downtown Seattle. On my way to meet Greg Atkinson at his about-to-open Restaurant Marché, I ran into Brendan McGill, chef-owner of Hitchcock, right down the street on Winslow Way. McGill personally showed me the way to Marché, regaling me on our walk with reasons why he’s excited for the arrival of a restaurant that is technically his competitor (one being proximity to good steak frites).
The word “neighborly” is overused to the point of cliche when talking about places like Bainbridge, but really there’s no better way to describe Atkinson’s creation. Restaurant Marché opens its doors tomorrow, March 17, though island dwellers have been stopping in for months to ask when they can make a reservation and finally sample the modern bistro menu, filled with French technique and Northwest ingredients.
Atkinson is perhaps best known for his seven years as executive chef at Canlis, though he has also cemented his reputation as prolific food writer and cookbook author, even winning a James Beard award for food writing in 2000. He and his wife Betsy completely remodeled an old garage (that has also served as a framing store, maritime architect’s office, temporary museum, and antique shop) into a restaurant that is supposed to feel residential, as if diners are spending the evening in the couple’s home—another cliche flung around too often in the restaurant world, but highly appropriate here.
The color scheme in the dining room was inspired by a walk the Atkinsons took on Dungeness Spit last April while celebrating their 25th anniversary. Bainbridge Island craftsman Steve Trick fashioned the cabinetry and all the restaurant’s tables, which are made from a single giant Oregon walnut tree. The Atkinsons painted the chairs in their basement, a process that Betsy says helped her husband relax after a day of restaurant stress.
While the menu has its share of meat and fish, Atkinson is one of the region’s original champions of beautiful produce, and his market vegetable plate (five vegetables, five ways) is front and center on the dinner menu. The island farmers market is right outside the building’s front patio, providing inspiration for the restaurant’s name.
Restaurant Marché will serve lunch and dinner from Tuesday through Saturday. Atkinson is considering adding Sunday night family-style dinners in the far-off future. That sixth day of work will feel more like having friends over for dinner, he says, if he’s serving a single meal to just one seating.
Seattle Met web photographer Lucas Anderson captured details aplenty about the dining room, the cuisine, and the wine. Hit up the slideshow for more on Restaurant Marché.