The Gerald Opens Friday on Ballard Ave

Cocktails, casseroles, and a dash of glamour. Just don’t mention that show on AMC.

By Allecia Vermillion March 19, 2012

Ballard Ave’s newest spot is retro…but not too retro.

On Friday The Gerald will open in the former Elephants Gerald T-shirt shop, becoming the latest arrival in the wave of new bars and restaurants up and down Ballard Ave. The space at 5210 Ballard Ave NW is tricked out with sprays of small hexagonal mirrors, dark blue patterned wallpaper, and a retro-inspired menu and name, all of which are a nod to the cocktail-glam 1960s. But owners Kevin Rothrock and Elliot Westwater want to make something clear.

“We don’t want to be associated with Mad Men,” says Rothrock. “This is not a Mad Men set."

“We’ve barely watched the show,” says Westwater. The fact that AMC’s fiercely loved drama debuts that same weekend after a lengthy hiatus? Sheer coincidence. So is the Midcentury Modern furniture shop next door.

The guys just happen to like that era, and the fact that the 1960s were important years for Seattle, when our city hosted a World’s Fair 50 years ago next month and styled itself on the forefront of the Jet Age. Rothrock and Westwater met in sixth grade, attended Garfield High School together and went on to scatter around the country, living in places like Montana, San Francisco, New York, and Jackson Hole, before reuniting in Seattle to open a place together.

The Gerald offers a 16-drink specialty cocktail list, mixing updated takes on highballs, gimlets, sidecars and vespers with newer creations. The bartenders are “an ensemble cast” according to the owners; Corey Davis of Whisky Bar helped design the drink list, and general manager Alice Phipps, a Bay Area transplant, will help oversee some of the house-made ingredients.

In the kitchen is Josh Green, who spent the past four years as executive chef at downtown icon The Virginia Inn, and before that ran the kitchen at Ponti Seafood Grill. His menu is heavy on smaller plates with seasonal nods, and Green pays homage to the 1960s era with dishes like devils on horseback and a casserole of the day. The roster also boasts sections dedicated to grilled cheese sandwiches and sliders. Sunday brunch service is slated to begin April 1.

The space includes a back lounge area with a rear entrance onto 20th Avenue NW, and Rothrock and Westwater received approval to add some sidewalk seating out there whenever the weather cooperates. A large projection screen will usually be out of sight, though it might get unfurled on rare occasions, like World Cup matches. But the guys are quick to state that their establishment won’t be a sports bar.

This cocktails and throwback comfort concept was one of several the duo kicked around, but the prime Ballard Ave real estate helped them clarify what made sense. “We weren’t going to open a Mexican restaurant right next to La Carta de Oaxaca says Westwater. What they are hoping to create is a destination that hits the mark between high-end dining and a destination intended solely for drinking. The Gerald will open at 4pm Tuesday through Saturday, and Sundays for brunch.

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