Enjoy A Taste Of Paris At Verjus In Jackson Square


Regulars of Michael and Lindsay Tusk’s Quince and Cotogna will be surprised to learn that the couple’s latest project is a complete departure from everything loyal fans have come to know and love. First, Verjus, the Tusk’s new concept, is French and not Italian. Second, Verjus is not a restaurant, but a wine bar and wine shop. Third, Verjus does not take reservations; to get a table on a busy Saturday night, you may have to wait. Despite all these changes, Verjus delivers precisely what is found at Quince and Cotogna: delicious food, wonderful wine, dedicated waitstaff, and an inviting atmosphere.

Michael and Lindsay Tusk

“Verjus is something we’ve been working on for many years. It was slow to take form and shape, but it was based on experiences that we had in Italy, France, and Spain,” Lindsay Tusk tells Haute Living. In particular, the Tusks were inspired by Paris’ cave à mangers—a hybrid wine shop and tapas bar. “The cave à manger concept came around in the 80s in Paris,” Tusk explains. “Zoning requirements didn’t allow a wine shop to open wine and let their client taste it—unless they started to serve food.” Et voila! A new type of retail experience was born.

The wine shop

The Tusks expertly bring this fusion of restaurant and shop to life at Verjus. Diners enter through la cave (wine shop) where the walls are lined with a dizzying array of labels. The store also sells a variety of wine-related items (corkscrews, decanters, glasses), condiments (salt, spices, oils, vinegar), canned foods like Portuguese sardines, cookbooks, tableware, and linens. Tusk oversees the buying. “We’re selling specialty products that we’ve come across while traveling,” she says. “They’re quite eclectic. They have a culinary focus, but they’re a range of things—whether it be pasta tools or fish plates or textiles or specialty glassware. It’s anything that I would have wanted to buy for myself.”

Housemade charcuterie

Once you walk through the shop, which has a handful of dining tables, you round the corner into the wine bar and are transported instantly to Europe. There is a bustling open kitchen, circular wooden tables with low woven stools, and a long marble-topped bar with standing room only.

The shiny red ceiling is a design highlight

Besides curating the boutique, Tusk designed Verjus’ interiors using a mixture of contemporary, custom, and vintage elements. While she swears she wasn’t trying to make the space Instagrammable, it most certainly is. “The flooring is caustic cement tiles from Spain which are laid out in this very unusual custom-pattern that I created,” Tusk explains. “The ceilings are capturing a lot of attention. They’re extremely high lacquer gloss, almost like a car finish, and highly reflective.” Juxtapositions of rustic and refined decor are featured throughout Verjus.

Wine and cheese, yes please!

The food is a similar contrast between high and low. It’s small, sharable plates of simple cuisine, but as imagined by Michael Tusk, a James Beard award-winning, Michelin three-star chef. From the crusty-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside baguettes to the snappy and flavorful pork sausage dotted with manchego cheese, everything is made in house, and all items must be ordered at the bar.

Oysters on the half shell

The menu, which changes daily, is displayed above the kitchen on a marquee-style lightbox. Written in French, the food appears wildly sophisticated, but in reality, it’s perfectly executed and amazingly good bistro fare and bar snacks. For example, the pithivier is a meat pie encased in flaky puff pastry; the gratin coquilettes truffle is macaroni and cheese, albeit one of the best variations you’ll ever taste. Plump, buttery escargots arrive on a thick slice of brioche. A melt-in-your-mouth omelette is filled with creamy Boursin cheese. The meal lingers like it would if you were in France, yet you leave feeling the same way you would when you walk out of Quince or Cotogna—maybe a little wine-buzzed, well fed, and completely satisfied.

Photos Courtesy of Kyle Johnson, Christopher Stark, and Tolleson.