Wes Yoo never expected to work in a kitchen.
But, on a Thursday night when a group of 12 turns up without a reservation and there’s a private birthday party going on in the back room, owner of The Gerald will be elbow-to-elbow with the bar’s chef, because that’s what you do when your staff is slammed.
Yoo bought The Gerald in 2018, and has since transformed the place. He and contractors worked nonstop for a week sanding off the old decor so they could paint and add new life to the narrow bar that operates right in the middle of Ballard Ave.
It has something of an Alice in Wonderland appeal, with two-toned blue walls lined with mirrors in the main room. Down a hallway, the back of the bar has a more secluded area, often used for private events or for brunch guests with underage patrons. Plants line the prominent glass wall of the back room, which creates a greenhouse appeal when the sun is out, Yoo said.
Yoo chose to keep the name, which the original owners chose as a throwback to a previous occupant, Elephant Gerald t-shirt company. They’ve made over the menu, which still has a strong comfort-food theme: crispy cheese curds, roasted brussels sprouts, mac and cheese, and even a PJ&B sandwich — that’s pancetta-jam and brie on peasant bread, not your classic kid’s meal.
While they now have what Yoo calls a “robust” new food menu, their cocktails are the main attraction. Bar manager Katie Frasier is the mastermind behind the drink list, which she changes seasonally. Their back bar has what Yoo believes is the largest in Ballard — 500 bottles-strong.
Decor and menus aside, the biggest change, Frasier said, is the ownership. “Half the staff were on their way out before he took over,” she says. The previous owners weren’t around much, which is the opposite of Yoo’s philosophy.
“Having an invested owner makes a huge difference,” she said.
The Gerald’s house are Monday to Thursday, 4pm to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 4pm to 2am; and Sundays 10am to 10pm.