California-style cafe Gertie brings its good vibes, greens and grains to Williamsburg
With a pastel color palette as creamy as rainbow sherbet, Gertie brings easy-breezy California vibes to Williamsburg all the livelong day. Plants perch atop the glass pastry cases and a wall of windows fills the space with sunshine. Stools line the bar in front of the open kitchen, fresh flowers appear on every table, and there are high chairs available for the littlest diners. It’s the kind of place that’s so inviting, you could imagine the neighbors popping in for multiple meals per day.
Owner Nate Adler grew up in Manhattan (and is also a partner at the great East Village Basque spot, Huertas), and his chef and partner, Will Edwards (of Diner, Marlow & Sons, Roman’s and Reynard), is a New Yorker, too, but inspiration for Gertie was drawn from Los Angeles restaurants like Silver Lake’s Sqirl and Gjelina in Venice. New York has plenty of bistros serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, from the biggies like Balthazaar to the little neighborhood standbys like Café Luluc in Carroll Gardens, but Gertie fits into Brooklyn’s new wave of all-day cafes, along with Hunky Dory in Crown Heights and Golda in Bed-Stuy. They all serve simple fare that feels a bit more healthy and veggie forward than your typical omelet and steak frites spots.
Like a savory pastry with your morning coffee? A cappuccino, served in a vintage flamingo mug, pairs well with the potato focaccia. The thick, chewy bread is topped with salty ribbons of roasted potatoes—a deeply satisfying carb-lover’s treat. For a more balanced meal, the Gertie Breakfast promises two perfectly fried sunny-side-up eggs, a generous helping of cooked-just-right white beans, a healthy serving of garlicky chard, and a slice of buttery, crusty toast. It’s like your favorite diner meal, but with leafy greens instead of grease.
For brunch or lunch, the sandwich selection covers all the good stuff: cold cuts on focaccia, chicken salad with pickled celery on challah, a whitefish melt on sesame-crusted sourdough, and a beef patty on marble rye with Swiss, sauerkraut, and special sauce. Vegetarian options include a roasted veggie gyro and a spicy cauliflower melt, with juicy pickled peppers and gooey cheese sauce. For the bread-adverse, there’s a big ol’ salad with tahini ranch dressing, the soup of the day, or a pairing of the daily grains and greens.
In the evening, the restaurant goes as dim as the street outside, with candlelight to illuminate meat-and-potato plates, potpies, rotisserie chickens, and simple, flaky trout, served whole. In addition to all the comforting, wholesome, and almost-homemade fare, there’s a $90 duck dish that needs to be reserved in advance. Serving 4 to 8 diners, the family-style feast comes with scallion pancakes, fried rice, lettuce cups, and duck sauce. You can wash it all down with some well-curated draft beers (maybe a Mikkeller IPA or a Grimm sour ale) or a house cocktail like the Tropical (rum, pineapple, coconut cream, lime) or the Dirty Gertie (Aquavit, white vermouth, pickle brine).
Our only quibbles with the place had to do with the tiny green juice (tasty, but too pricey for its diminutive size) and the worry that things might get weird if we started showing up multiple times per day. Thankfully, a takeout window around the side of the building makes it possible to go Gertie-crazy in the comfort of your own home.