“What does New York need?” is the question Nate Alder asked himself. The answer, for the Upper West Side native and restaurateur behind Huertas, turned out to be a new Williamsburg eatery named Gertie.
Following a handful of trips to SoCal and time spent at sunny, all-day spots like Gjusta, Adler was itching to create a place where a diverse menu of “fresh, clean, wholesome food” was executed at a high level—and served over a counter. This concept would tie together the nostalgia and practicality of 90s-era luncheonettes and family-style institutions and the “incredible quality of prime ingredients” seen in fast-casual hits, like Shake Shack and Sweetgreen. But, unlike these quick-serve spots, Gertie would deliver a range of complementary menu offerings served from breakfast through dinner. Creating Gertie became about making a mark on the restaurant scene based on what Adler felt a New York restaurant should be. He named it after his grandmother, Gertrude, a woman who was known to serve a spread of deli meats with challah rolls when her grandkids were over. At Gertie, the challah rolls are baked in-house.
Parked on the corner of Marcy Ave and Grand St, just under the BQE, Gertie is bright and airy. The team focused on openness as the central theme (citing nearby Lilia as a design inspiration)—a contrast to the dark aesthetic and cavernous atmosphere commonly found in Brooklyn restaurants. Floor-to-ceiling windows set the scene and white walls covered in pastel illustrations lend a sense of playfulness to the welcoming space.
Much of the menu is inspired by what Adler and his partners, chef Will Edwards and general manager Flip Biddelman, ate growing up in New York—from griddled muffins to a hybrid patty melt-Reuben. On mornings that bleed into afternoons, diners clamor to create their own “anything egg + cheese” and linger over Edwards’ satisfying rendition of a chicken salad sandwich. On weekends, they arrive early in hopes of scoring one of head baker Savannah Turley’s sourdough cinnamon buns.
In spite of the morning buzz, Gertie shines on through the night, serving an eclectic roster of drinks and craveable shared dishes. You can pop in for a low-brow cocktail—served on tap and mixed with small-batch spirits (like Neversink gin or FEW whiskey)— while chatting with the bartender, or scooping up smoked fish on crispy potato chips with your date. Better yet, come with a group: During dinner service, you can feast on the Poppy’s Duck (reserved in advance via Resy)– a whole roasted bird inspired by Chinatown’s Peking Ducks and served family-style with scallion pancakes and lettuce cups. The counter service creates a laid-back vibe perfect for unwinding over bites of whole local trout, cheesy baked greens, and salt-and-vinegar mushrooms, and, of course, rotisserie chicken.
“We think chicken should be eaten with rice and beans. . .” Adler says. Gertie puts its stamp on the staple, which came to New York by way of Central American immigrants, with rice laced in everything-bagel spices and white beans that are smoked and brothy.
The experience comes down to Adler’s vision for hospitality. He hopes to challenge the notion that you’re in someone else’s domain when you’re at a restaurant. “We want people to come in here and feel like it’s their home,” he states, “and when you’re at home, you get up and have a beer if you want to have a beer. You don’t have to wait on other people to get you what you need.” That’s not to say it’s a free-for-all. Unlike at other counter service spots, where diners queue up, order food, and hope to find a table when all is said and done, a friendly face will greet you at Gertie, then set you up with a place to sit by the time you’re you’ve ordered.
Gertie also bills itself as a watering hole, with a beverage menu that’s consistently unpretentious and whimsical. A ten-tap fountain pours four beers and ciders, two wines, and four cocktails informed by classic dive-bar highballs, like a vodka cranberry and a mezcal mule. Adler partnered with Newburgh Brewing Company to make the Kolsch-style Gertie Good Beer, and with two California natural wine producers for the white and red house blends. Indeed, Gertie moonlights as a natural wine bar—with an underground wine room built by the restaurateur himself. “If I can tell that people are into wine or want a bit of an adventure, I’ll take them down,” he says. Every off-menu bottle has a price written in wax pencil. Guests can make a selection, then have it opened upstairs at their table.
There’s more: the wine room borders a 45-seat private dining room that’s mostly utilized as a party space. Adler paired up with friends in the nightlife community to install a stellar sound system and DJ booth, and they’ve been quietly hosting epic dance parties every Thursday night. The restaurant closes at 10 PM, but if you head downstairs before 2 AM, you’ll find the crowd.
Providing a place for locals to hang out and have a good time is what Adler and his team are most excited about. “There will be more and more interesting stuff going on here, as time goes on,” he grins. With an added 450 square feet of backyard space, expect Gertie to throw down throughout the summer. Case in point: the team now hosts weekly Sunday barbecues that start at 4 pm, and promise clambakes, burgers, buckets of beer, and good tunes—all night long. “There are going to be playful moments throughout the year,” Adler says. “It’s about keeping things fun and interesting, but making sure that the staples are always there.”