Hitchcock expands with popularity, demand

Despite the recession and a tumultuous construction project outside his doors, the farm-to-table restaurant has flourished to the point that it’s taking over the business space next door.

  • Monday, September 12, 2011 11:52am
  • Business

Hitchcock owner/chef Brendan McGill prep's a dish for his patrons.

Tucked behind the lace of the Hitchcock front windows lies the growing success of a chef who wasn’t afraid to roll the dice.

Despite the recession and a tumultuous construction project outside his doors, the farm-to-table restaurant has flourished to the point that it’s taking over the business space next door.

Thirty-one year old chef and owner Brendan McGill saw his summer success and the ongoing construction as an opportunity.

“We wouldn’t have gone after the space next door if it weren’t for the construction,” said McGill. “It actually bloomed the idea and became a catalyst for a plaza-type atmosphere with a double storefront and 32 feet of outdoor dining.”

McGill said the time felt right; Hitchcock has been the subject of critical acclaim with a three-star review from the Seattle Times and attention from magazines like Edible Seattle and Sunset. The new small deli, charcuterie will feature take-away fare such as cured meats and fish from the restaurant, deli cases stocked with local produce and wild fish, clams, oysters and locally sourced eggs, grass-fed beef and simple cuts of meat.

Hitchcock, which just celebrated its first anniversary in May, has become a hit with dishes such as lonza, which is cured pork loin, and spaghetti carbonara with house-cured pancetta.

The art and science of salt curing, air drying and smoking meats are intrinsic to Hitchcock cuisine. Coupled with McGill’s emphasis on local food, it’s a combination that’s garnered an impressive following.

With regular customers beginning to inquire if they could take home specialty meats for their own kitchens, McGill saw an opportunity. Restaurants on Bainbridge must live with the highs and lows of seasonal business. But, a slow season with a focus on wholesale meat production would satisfy the restaurants financial appetite, provide space to expand the kitchen and meet customer demands. Hence the new venture.

Over the first year of business McGill said his producer networks have expanded, and his new mercantile will provide another connection between the grower and shopper.

When Bath Junkie left its space for Poulsbo, and the city made generous expansions to the sidewalk, McGill decided to sign the lease to expand his footprint. Doors will be open by Thanksgiving.

In addition to the deli, the new space will be home to a brand of coffee derived from McGill’s culinary education in Europe. Not to be confused with run-of-the-mill drip, his espresso machine was built and shipped directly from Naples and will give the island the jolt of caffeine made popular in cafes across Europe.

He envisions the kind of place shoppers can walk in make their orders, down a shot of espresso and carry about the day with lunch in hand.

The new space, he hopes, will help solidify Hitchcock as an island institution.

Local flavors

Both the location and name of Hitchcock draw on island roots. Adorning the walls of Hitchcock are the forefathers of Brendan’s wife, Heidi and the restaurant’s namesake. The Hitchcock-Williams family was one of the original Bainbridge homesteaders dating back some 120 years.

Jonathan Evison, Brendan’s brother-in-law, is also putting Bainbridge on the map. The novelist recently toured the country with his new book “West of Here,” which made best-seller list’s shortly after its release.

Now that McGill has the respect of the Seattle foodies, he is enjoying making the locals’ favorite list.

“The local sourcing process gets to the foundation of the cuisine we make, and there is no better place to do that than Bainbridge,” McGill said. “We are good for producers, good for retail and better for residents because we want to provide what shoppers can’t get anywhere else. Our producers are providing exclusively for us.”

The real local producers, he said, demand restaurants that prove their worth before they begin a relationship. Earning the respect of the elite growers is one way McGill wants Hitchcock and the deli to represent the true taste and flavor of the community.

The handmade, local flair is evident down to the restaurant’s benches. McGill has outfitted his ventures with materials salvaged throughout the Pacific Northwest. The bar is made from a bowling lane, the pews are from a church in Burien, the vintage deli cases came from an out-of-business sale in Tacoma and the paint on the walls came from a weekend of work with McGill’s father.

“This is just about the only way a guy of 31 can own his own restaurant,” said McGill. “We rolled the dice and we’ve been fortunate. Hard work paid off against all odds.”

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