Philly is getting yet another pedigreed chef.
Gregory Vernick, who spent most of his career in the Jean-Georges Vongerichten orbit, follows such recent imports as Joshua Lawler of The Farm & Fisherman (ex-Blue Hill at Stone Barns), Walter Abrams of Le Bec-Fin (ex-French Laundry), Andrew Wood of Russet (ex-San Francisco's Quince and Chicago's Tru), Joe Cicala of Le Virtu (ex-Galileo and Cafe Milano in D.C. and Del Posto in New York), and Sylva Senat of Tashan (ex-Jean-Georges, by way of Buddakan)
It's taken nine months or so, but Vernick is getting close to opening Vernick Food & Drink, his bi-level bistro in a brownstone at 2031 Walnut St.
He's saying "spring," which my calendar says ends in mid-June.
The restaurant marks a homecoming for the Cherry Hill-bred Vernick, 31, a 2005 Culinary Institute of America grad with a bachelor's in hospitality administration from Boston University. As he plotted this next course, he worked the line at Talula's Garden on Washington Square. Previously, he was executive chef at Restaurant Tocqueville and spent five and a half years under Vongerichten, last as a corporate chef trainer in his properties around the world and before that as sous chef at Jean Georges, Nogatine, and Spice Market.
Vernick and his wife, Julie, are going for unfussy comfort and have modeled their restaurant - which has modern "bones," rustic touches and an open kitchen - after Euro cafes they frequented. Large windows open out onto Walnut Street. A 10-seat bar made of slate with stained concrete top and high-top cocktail tables give way to an intimate dining room with partially exposed brick walls and a seven-seat chef’s counter. The second-floor dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows and photos from the couple's travels.
The menu will run the table from snacks to sharable family-style entrees, priced $5 to $26. Examples: charred spinach and leek toast; beef tartare with gaufrettes; ocean trout with crispy skin and chili; house-made mozzarella with rhubarb jam and sea salt; hand-cut buckwheat pasta with broccoli rabe, spring garlic and lemon; and a seafood and shellfish roast. Prices will range from $5 to $26. Alcohol prices will be reasonable, and he will make his own soda.