Go pretty much anywhere outside of New York City, and a stranger might say hi to you on the street or try to talk to you in the elevator. It’s an odd feeling, but it’s also sort of charming in a PBS-on-Sunday-morning kind of way. And you’ll experience a similar sensation when you walk into Gertie.
Gertie is an all-day restaurant in Williamsburg that reminds us of a California-themed diorama or a less-dark version of The Stepford Wives. It has high ceilings, big windows, and the soothing pastel color scheme of an upscale daycare center. It’s almost weirdly pleasant, and you can have a very nice time here, as long as you know when to come.
Morning is the ideal time to be at Gertie, and there are a few reasons for this. First off, this counter-service place looks best when the sun’s out. That’s when you can fully appreciate the custom coasters, the charmingly mismatched vintage-looking furniture, and the giant mural of abstract shapes that looks like something you’d paint as part of a self-care regimen while drinking rosé in a bathrobe.
Daytime is also when the food is best. Stop by for breakfast or brunch for a dense and cheesy BEC on a bialy or an English muffin, both of which are housemade. The crispy bialy with gravlax is another great option, and you’ll always see a bunch of baked goods - like focaccia, buns, and muffins - on display behind the counter. They’re consistently some of the best things here, and they should be a part of any morning or afternoon meal at Gertie. Stick around until 11am (when lunch starts), and you can also get a good patty melt/reuben mashup and a plate of vegetable sides like charred broccoli and lentils tossed with walnuts.
But at 5pm things change. The counter-service setup makes a little less sense at dinner, and the nighttime menu just isn’t that long or exciting. We like the whole fish and the patty melt (that you can get during the day) - but there are only a few other options, like an intensely fatty pork chop and a tray of roast chicken with less personality than someone who lists “traveling” as an interest on a dating profile. The space also tends to clear out at night, and it can get eerily quiet, like a super-attractive ghost town.
Dinner feels like an afterthought at Gertie, and that’s the main drawback of this utopian exercise in all-day counter-service dining. But there’s an easy solution for this: just don’t come at night. Instead, stop by the next time you wake up on a Saturday morning and need a place that functions like a big restaurant-shaped Xanax. Sit by the big windows, eat an egg sandwich, and enjoy the natural light. You’ll feel like you’re on a sunnier coast or in some alternate reality where Big Bird might walk in and ask how you’re enjoying your meal.
Think of the BEC as the headliner at Gertie. It comes on either a bialy or English muffin (both very good choices), and we highly suggest you add the hot sauce.
Is this the best bialy in New York City? No. But it is a very good bialy with some excellent gravlax - and while we could do without the other toppings, it’s still a very good way to start your day.
There’s no scenario in which you won’t enjoy these, heavily-fried triangles of shredded potatoes. Get a side with your bialy or BEC.
Instead of corned beef, this reuben has a big beef patty. It doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of a patty melt/reuben mashup (which sounds like it should be groundbreaking and worth several days of celebration), but it’s still a solid sandwich. Eat it late at night at the bar when you don’t mind getting special sauce and sauerkraut all over your fingers.
This rotisserie chicken isn’t bad, but it’s about as forgettable as the kid who sat behind you in first grade (the one you’re struggling to remember right now). The rice and beans are similarly unexciting - and you should know that we’re fully capable of getting excited over rice and beans.
Imagine prime rib, but as a pork chop. That’s what this tastes like - and the first few bites are pretty rewarding. After that, all the fat becomes a little too much, and the relatively flavorless potatoes on the side don’t help.
Speaking of potatoes, these are the “thrice baked” ones you’ll get on the side of your pork chop. The outsides are tough and chewy, and the fluffy insides don’t really taste like much. Maybe they just need a fourth round of baking. The world will, most likely, never know.
If we’re getting something for dinner at Gertie, it’s this. This fish comes out crispy and perfectly cooked, and it’ll make you feel like you just went camping and managed to catch something. It also stares you in the eyes while you eat it, which is a nice, intimate gesture.
We could write an ode to these baked goods, and actually we’re going to do that right now. Oh baked goods, thou art, um, very good. Sorry, we’re bad at poetry. But you get the idea. Don’t leave without eating one of these things, and if you’re having a tough time choosing, go for the focaccia.