When Wes Yoo, took over Ballard cocktail bar The Gerald in 2018, his changes were mainly cosmetic: a refreshed paint job, some new furniture, a couple of menu tweaks. Mainly, the drinks den continued to serve fancy cocktails and a few snacks for those who wanted to take in the old school vibes of the historic Junction building — but the offerings didn’t have any strong connection to one type of cuisine.
Now, two years into his ownership tenure, Yoo — who used to work in the corporate offices for Subway — has transformed the bar into a full-fledged Korean restaurant.
The change has been coming for some time. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, The Gerald’s food menu featured some general gastropub fare — cheese curds, truffle fries, and Brussels sprouts — while introducing the occasional Korean snack, such as bulgogi sandwiches. After the restrictions closed down bars and restaurants in the spring, The Gerald needed to adjust, rolling out a short menu of takeout-friendly items, which included an umami burger, pork belly ssam, and a Korean fried chicken sandwich.
But now the overhaul is complete. Though the name will not change, the food menu is much more robust, with tteokkalbi, rice cake skewers, kimchi fried rice, and Korean fried chicken wings. Meanwhile, the cocktail list will rotate seasonally, featuring Korean alcohols, such as soju and makgeoli, prominently.
Yoo — who was born and raised in Seoul before moving to the U.S. as a teen — says he’ll also feature some of his childhood favorites on the menu, including dishes like tteokbokki (a rice cake stew), which he used to get after school from street vendors, and butter roasted potatoes, influenced by his favorite snack at Korean highway rest stops. The Gerald still has takeout, but there is also limited indoor and outdoor seating (though the patio setup is currently in flux due to a recent burglary that damaged one of the canopies).
“Come winter time, some traditional soups, integral in Korean cuisine, will become available,” he says.
With its official restaurant shift complete, The Gerald joins some exciting new additions to Seattle’s Korean restaurant scene over the past couple of years, with the critically-acclaimed Paju opening in Queen Anne, Ballard brunch favorite Watson’s Counter generating buzz, and Meet Korean BBQ opening up on Capitol Hill, not to mention the recent return of BB.Q Chicken to the U District. The more, the merrier.