Traveling down Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, you might notice a variety of storefronts that include restaurants, bakeries, jewelry shops, 99 cents stores and much more. Some are longtime staples of the eight-mile Brooklyn thoroughfare and others have recently debuted, like Gee’s Caribbean Restaurant in Crown Heights (@geescaribbean on Instagram).

Located between Sterling and St. John’s Places on Nostrand Avenue, Gee’s Caribbean opened for business in late December and is run by the manager and former staff members of Gloria’s Caribbean Cuisine, which shuttered in 2020 as a result of a long and complicated legal battle. What some would call a “resurrection” of the community staple known as Gloria’s, is a “blessing” to Gee’s manager, Wayne Smith.

“We’re not allowed to speak about what happened at Gloria’s—it is beyond our control,” said Smith, who is a father, former manager of Gloria’s and Crown Heights resident for over 40 years. “Gee’s Caribbean is our new venture, so we’re back on the block, and we’re fortunate to be back at a new spot again, and only God is in control of that.”

Gee’s is located at 770 Nostrand Ave., just three storefronts down from where Gloria’s stood for almost 20 years.

“People would see me every day after what took place and would say, ‘Hey, what’s going on, are you guys coming back?’ And I would just tell them I don’t know but God is good and maybe one day,” said Smith.

According to Smith, that day came when a local investor spoke to him about giving the old Gloria’s team a chance to bring back an “icon” of Nostrand Ave. that was lost.

“When you become an icon, that’s a pillar that you can’t remove,” said Smith. “The embracement in the neighborhood is like we never left.”

According to Smith, all but one of the current employees at Gee’s were members of Gloria’s staff. He is currently looking to fill positions such as servers and roti makers—the latter of which is vital, as roti is a staple dish of the Caribbean.

“We’re known for the rotis, our stew chicken and rice and peas,” said Smith, who mentions that while it is difficult to say what his favorite dish is off the menu, his go-to Sunday meal would be oxtail, rice and peas, callaloo, macaroni pie and potato salad. Smith said this is the dish he prepared for the late Anthony Bourdain on a visit to Gloria’s for a food tour in 2012 with Michael Kenneth Williams.

Many of the same hearty Trinidadian and general Caribbean dishes that were seen at Gloria’s can be found at Gee’s: different curries, soups with pigtail, fish broth or cow heel, and dinners with a choice of meat and sides of veggies such as callaloo, plantains and dhal. Customers such as Rhonda Barclifft and her daughter returned to Gee’s after a hefty and enjoyable meal they had last week.

“When I stepped upon this place I ordered an oxtail roti and oxtail dinner with a passion fruit juice and a sorrel,” said Barclifft, a resident of Crown Heights. “It was really delicious and that’s why I’m back for lunch again today. Everything was really delicious and I thank them for coming into our community.”

Wayne Smith says that he plans for Gee’s to be involved in community outreach.

“We are a community-based restaurant; if it wasn’t for the community we would not be here,” said Smith, who plans to cater for local entities like the Brooklyn Childrens’ Museum and churches in the area, another activity that the team partook in at Gloria’s. “On Thanksgiving, we will give away food to the public for free because we believe in giving back to the community.”

Smith says the importance of Gee’s is in the culture and well-being it provides to the surrounding Caribbean community.

“Culture is based on growth, where you are from and where you are at right now,” said Smith. “Gee’s is a place where the employees have been here selling the same food for over 25 years that we are all known for. It’s a difference in where you can go get a hamburger and french fries versus a proper meal of stew chicken and rice and peas that gives you more nutrients.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *