Hitchcock, the supremely charming restaurant that became a flagship for chef Brendan McGill, is making the quintessential pandemic shift. On November 10, the space on Bainbridge Island’s Winslow Way will reopen as a burger restaurant.
Burgerhaus will weave the smash burgers from McGill’s summer of prodigious popups into a more developed menu that has, as the name implies, a slight German bent. In May, the chef debuted a popup called Sacka-Burgers in his Hitchcock Deli space a few doors down. It sold upgraded smash burgers—available, literally, by the sack—in a moment when portability was everything.
While Burgerhaus won’t do burgers by the bag, those smashes (in single, double, and triple patty versions) will be on the menu, along with thoroughly upgraded versions like a Wagyu patty topped with alpine cheese and shio koji poached chanterelle mushrooms, or a burger swathed in beer cheese sauce and cabbage, inside a pretzel bun. This is more than a fly-by concept: McGill revamped Hitchcock’s kitchen with two new Frymasters and a big steel griddle, turned the bar into an order counter, and replaced the espresso machine with a milkshake station. Vintage concert photos (Nirvana, Snoop Dogg at the Showbox) now hang in place of the black and white photos of early Bainbridge.
Hitchcock isn’t gone, necessarily, he says. Like most of us, he’s done trying to predict what future months will hold. And for now, it’s hard to find a business model that makes more sense than burgers, the official eat-your-feelings comfort food of 2020. “This will be the kind of restaurant Winslow Way probably really needs," says McGill. Hitchcock as we know it might resurface here one day; or maybe, he says, “When everything is said and done, Hitchcock could use some fresh new digs.” After eight months spent developing CSAs and popups, launching his own line of grills, and throttling forward and back at his restaurants on either side of Elliott Bay, McGill's as qualified as any chef to determine what formula will be workable this tough winter. "Anything where we can do half our sales takeout and half our sales dine-in, that’s the path to surviving right now."
While McGill used to own Pioneer Square beer hall Altstadt, he says Burgerhaus’s culinary overtones come from a few chefs on his team who cooked in Germany “and have that point of reference.” There is a German potato salad on the sides menu and alpine notes aplenty on the cocktail list. But it’s just as easy to see Hitchcock’s locavore DNA in the ling cod sandwich, the house plant-based patty, and the “squonion rings,” aka beer-battered squash rounds.
Not to mention some acidic hits of Japan. During lockdown, McGill built a koji muro (aka a controlled room where Japan’s signature fermenting mold can flourish). Back then, he envisioned new types of fermentation as central to the next iteration of Hitchcock. “Doing all that stuff, even if it ends up on a burger, keeps everyone really engaged,” he says. Whenever finer dining does become part of his plan again, “we won’t lose our momentum.” Same goes for the house brioche and pretzel buns his team will make for what he terms the "bougie burgers" on the menu (the smashes get classic Martin's potato rolls).
Burgerhaus will sling patties and fries for lunch and dinner; online ordering is in the works. For diners wary of the indoors, McGill's also prepping the front patio to exude more wintry "party in a puffy jacket" vibes.