The surest, most efficient way to blow the minds of out-of-town visitors: The condensed romance of a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island, followed by a dinner of oysters and salmon tartare, and superlative roast chicken at Brendan McGill’s original restaurant. This winter the chef gave his flagship, put together “with bubble gum and duct tape” in 2010, an upgrade befitting its food—nice bathrooms, custom ceramic dishware, user-friendly menu categories. McGill pared down clusters of framed wall decor to items with personal meaning, and did the same with his menu: He serves pork only from his own Shady Acres farm; the charcuterie plate might come layered with lonza, coppa or a dollop of rillettes, but always made from the rich flesh of McGill’s Mangalitsa hogs (and always with a beautiful assortment of pickles).
Stepping onto a ferry feels like the start of something magical, even if it’s just a 30-minute ride filled with people taking Seattle skyline selfies. The chef’s menu carries this sense of adventure through dinner, and thanks to a new extruder acquired during the remodel, pasta dishes like the twisty gemelli in a sauce of stinging nettles and cream are more consistent, and spectacular, than ever.
The food remains ever a poem to the flavors of Bainbridge Island, but McGill built his restaurant on the attitude of “come on in and cede your whims to the chef,” and eight years in, his approach has evolved, smartly, to “What if you just made it feel comfortable for people in the first place?”
If being comfortable involves something more casual, where kids can run around and food happens all day (Hitchcock is only open for dinner), McGill’s soaring Neapolitan pizzeria, Bruciato, serves classic pies and variations garnished with seasonal offerings like morels and Shady Acres snap peas, just down Winslow Way. Servers at either spot can advise on how much time you need to make your return ferry, whether you drove or walked on.