The California-cool café is modeled after "grandma's house, where you can eat and drink whatever you want, whenever you want.”

By Caroline Schnapp
Updated April 29, 2019
Credit: Brothers Buoy

If you walk into Gertie, the all-day luncheonette and bar in Williamsburg, and feel a hint of nostalgia, you’re not imagining things. At first glimpse, the spacious 70-seat eatery is current stylistically—there’s a large, ‘gram-friendly mural near the entrance by local artist Leah Carey, and pops of lilac, teal, coral, and peach throughout the warm, wood-accented space, which draws inspiration from the Los Angeles café scene. There’s a to-go window with a minimalist, Scrabble-like menu board, and floor-to-ceiling windows that will swing open onto Grand Street as the weather starts to get warmer. But as you relax into your seat or your stool at the bar, you’ll start to notice a few eccentric touches—the vintage glassware and brightly colored dishes stacked in the open-kitchen, the record player on a shelf alongside decoy ducks and plants, the “living room” nook over to the side of the bar—and it might even start to feel a little familiar.

That homey, old-but-new feeling is exactly what owner Nate Adler, who is also behind Huertas in the East Village, was going for. Named after his favorite Queens-born-and-raised grandmother, Adler’s goal was to create a space “like grandma’s house, where you can eat and drink whatever you want, whenever you want.”

Credit: Asher Kelly-Nacht

Adler worked closely with design partners Shiber Cohen Studios to create a welcoming and functional space that brings him back to visiting his grandparents. (Those aforementioned decoy ducks belonged to his grandfather, and the duck motif is repeated throughout the space and on their branding.) The restaurant serves the type of food that he and partners Will Edwards and Flip Biddelman—of Reynard, Marlow & Sons, Diner, and Roman’s, and The Modern respectively—grew up eating around the city.

Gertie’s all-day menu starts at 8 a.m. and has plenty of hits—including the the dense bialys, which are filled with gravalox, cream cheese, and the fantastic "egg and cheese" sandwich. The sandwiches shine, in part, because of the bread program run by 24-year-old Savannah Turley; the “Miss Patty Reuben” on marbled rye (again, thank you, Savannah) is definitely worth braving the reliably problematic L train for; and Adler’s cocktail program is enough to turn Gertie’s into your regular drinks spot. But dinner is really where Gertie’s star shines brightest.

Credit: Brothers Buoy

The highlight of dinner service, which began in March, is “Poppy’s Duck dinner,” a whole rotisserie duck served family style, along with Turley’s homemade sourdough-based scallion pancakes (she’s been working on her starter for eight years, and it shows), everything fried rice, lettuce cups, and homemade sauces.

The spread is an homage to memories from a quintessentially New York upbringing: trips to Chinatown for Peking duck as kids, ordering in Chinese food with your family on Sunday nights, and a nod to the duck served at the fictional Poppie’s restaurant on Seinfeld (“They got a duck there, you think you died and went to heaven.”).

Like the episode, you’ve got to order this duck in advance, but unlike Seinfeld and his crowd, you’ll find no qualms with it.