Gertrude’s opened in 1998 positioned between the Baltimore Museum of Art and its outdoor sculpture garden and is co-owned by John Shields, noted chef and writer, and his long time life partner, John Gilligan. Their restaurant is named after John Shield’s grandmother who early on got him interested in cooking.
During the day, Gertrude’s walls of windows provide lots of light and views of the adjacent fountains and plantings (FYI – you can dine outside on the patio when it’s warm!) At night, votive candles add a flattering glow to the room while containers of crayons whimsically invite you to draw on the white paper that tops the tablecloths.
The menu’s focus is on regional Chesapeake cuisine and includes soups (cups $6), a dozen small plates (most $8 – $12), six salads ($8 – $12 with “proteins” extra), 20 entrees (most $16 – $22 including surprising number of Vegan options) and burgers ($9 – $11 with beef, turkey and black bean patty options). A mix of breads and butter proved so good while we browsed the menu that we asked for more!
What is Chesapeake cuisine? A good answer is found on Gertrude’s website:
“Crab Imperial, Single-Fry Oysters, Rockfish, PanFried Chicken, Corn Fritters and Crab Soup are just some examples. And while summer produce from the Eastern Shore (tomatoes, Silver Queen corn, cantaloupe, peaches) is popular when served here at Gertrude’s, nothing can compete with the restaurant’s #1 seller: Crab Cakes. We offer our crab cakes in three variations on any given day, but our Gertie’s Crab Cake, the most traditional, is always the most popular. Farm to Table concept is one that Gertrude’s excels at defining through its five restaurant-maintained gardens and numerous local suppliers. And of course, John Shields believes in using local, organic ingredients whenever possible.”
Marty started with “Red Crab” soup which was spicy, full of veggies and visible crab and earned his “Thumbs Up!”; John was happy with his Caesar Salad topped with an anchovy or two and lots of grated parmesan. Our friend JT was pleased as could be with a half dozen Malpeque oysters on the half shell ($13); “Cream of Crab” soup earned praise from other friend.
For our main course, Marty enjoyed fried oysters with a cornmeal crust (which were not at all greasy…) and were served with grilled red potatoes and apple-fennel coleslaw.
John relished the “Old Bay” spiciness of his vegan faux crab cakes made with grated zucchini and topped by an orange chipotle sauce and nicely accompanied by garlic spinach and chilled udon noodles.
Our friends enjoyed deliciously dark crusted “Maryland Panfried Chicken” served with mashed potatoes and broccoli. Kevin, our server, was excellent checking in on our progress and impressively keeping drinks refilled.
Despite initial protests that we were too full to think about dessert, we were too tempted to just say “No”. The deep blue/purple lusciousness of Marty’s Blueberry-Pomegranate Sorbet ($5) earned another “Thumbs Up!” (John got some to taste and agreed totally!). Our friend JT indulged in an “Ice Cream Sundae” ($7) which was so big and overflowing with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and pecans that we all got to taste and enjoy it. Our other friend relished an unadorned bowl of housemade pistachio and vanilla ice cream ($5) which produced satisfied smiles.
It’s a good (and too rare!) thing when everyone at your table enjoys their meals without any quibbles, praises the server and there’s a flurry of “Thumbs Up!” praises like we experienced at Gertrude’s.
And if that wasn’t enough, Gertrude’s offers its long standing “Tuesday with Gertie” special when there’s a special menu with 10 regular entrees offered for just $12.
When you combine the pleasure of a “Thumbs Up!” Chesapeake inspired meal followed by a stroll enjoying the adjacent Baltimore Museum of Art‘s outdoor sculpture garden or the impressionist masters from the Cone sisters’ collection, you’ve got the makings of a memorable time.
FACTS: Gertrude’s (Charles Village); 10 Art Museum Drive; 410-889-3399; gertrudesbaltimore.com; Closed Mondays; Mon-Fri 11:30 am – 9 pm; Sat 10:30 am – 9pm; Sun 10:30 am – 8 pm; Full Bar; Vegan/Veggie options; Brunch Sat/Sun; on street parking