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Early look at Vernick Food & Drink

"Simple" menu, near Rittenhouse.

Cherry Hill-bred Vernick, 32, is a 2005 Culinary Institute of America grad with a bachelor's in hospitality administration from Boston University, where he met his wife.

After relocating here in 2010, he worked the line at Talula's Garden on Washington Square. Previously, he was executive chef at Restaurant Tocqueville and spent five 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.

He has imported his friends: college buddy Ryan Mulholland, last at Eastern Standard in Boston, is general manager. David Feola, whom Vernick hired at Toqueville, is his sous chef. Vincent Stipo, last at Deauxave in Boston, is running the bar.

They've gone for unfussy comfort, modeling it on the 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 back dining room with partially exposed brick walls and a seven-seat chef's counter. Up a new staircase - where a huge print that once hung in The Garden restaurant hangs - is the main dining room, which has floor-to-ceiling windows and photos from the couple's travels.

Menu is here.