A new out-of-this-world food spot is popping up at Carrollton Station. Bertie’s Intergalactic Diner serves an array of comfort-food favorites and new inventions by owner and chef Trey Rintala.
Rintala is from Slidell and was previously the sous chef at the now-shuttered French bistro Meauxbar. While he enjoyed his six years there, he admits that fine dining isn’t quite his style.
“I appreciate my time there and utilize the techniques I learned working in a French kitchen,” Rintala said. “I see food as a communication tool and prefer a more casual approach to things.”
During the Covid shutdown, Rintala and attorney Jessica Orgeron started the nonprofit, Tres Bon Food Fund. Orgeron crowd-sourced funding and Rintala prepared and cooked food in his home kitchen for restaurant workers and musicians left jobless.
Serving the community this way laid the groundwork for Bertie’s Intergalactic Diner. Having worked in the food industry since he was a teenager and studied food and restaurant culture’s relationship with the community, Rintala wanted to start a business that allowed him to directly serve people.
Rintala sees Bertie’s Intergalactic Diner as a living art project where he can experiment and have fun with food while giving his customers something they may have never had before. He enjoys customer interaction and incorporated “diner” into the name of his pop-up because he considers his menu to be all-encompassing and not focused on just one type of food.
“I like to try new things, and what burnt me out on traditional restaurant work was the repetition of making the same dish over and over,” he said. “The higher the ladder you climb, the further you get from touching the food that brought you into the industry in the first place.”
In the year that Bertie’s Intergalactic Diner has been at Carrollton Station, customers have come to trust Rintala and know that they will experience something different when they dig into the menu here. He enjoys combining high-brow and low-brow food concepts and fusing those two worlds on his menu.
“I’ve curated an audience that isn’t looking for what they’re used to — they want to see what I’m going to do next,” he said. “It’s a punk rock vision of a restaurant with rough edges. I’m always experimenting and that’s what keeps me on my toes. I want to create indulgent food with fine-dining flourishes.”
A good example of this colliding of worlds is Bertie’s Croque Ma’Dang. This “knife and fork sandwich” is Rintala’s take on the Croque Madame. It’s made with brisket and topped with Havarti, bourbon caramelized onions, Mornay sauce, made with gruyere and parmesan, and a fried egg served on griddled brioche.
The sandwich’s onions are cooked for six hours, and the brisket is smoked and braised. When it’s finished braising, the meat is pressed flat, chilled, sliced and seared. The outcome is brisket that is crispy on the outside and so tender that it can be cut with a fork.
“It’s a fun interplay of two styles that are very different and combining them into something approachable,” he explained. “I put a lot of technique into it and I don’t take shortcuts.”
Another dish Rintala considers a cornerstone of Bertie’s Intergalactic Diner is the Mac and Cheese Pancakes, made silver dollar style and served with hot honey. For some extra flair, Rintala sometimes adds pepperoni to the concoction. The dish is a product of Rintala’s quest for what he calls “the perfect bite,” with a combination of texture and flavor contrasts that engage all the senses.
“When I’m creating the menu, I want to incorporate salty, sour, sweet, crunchy, and a little spicy,” he said. “It’s those various things that keep you wanting to eat more, trying to figure out everything that’s in the dish.”
Other menu selections include Biscuits and Jam, two toasty buttermilk cathead biscuits with strawberry pepper jelly; Pork Belly and Apple Grilled Cheese, crispy pork belly, cheddar, Havarti, Granny Smith apples and tomato jam; and Strawberry and Snap Pea Salad, ricotta, pickled onion, cornbread crouton, cane vinaigrette and herbs.
Regarding his future plans for Bertie’s Intergalactic Diner, Rintala said he plans to keep his concept small so that he can continue to interact with customers and build a relationship with his regulars.
“I just want to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “My values mesh with the folks at Carrollton Station and we want to continue working together. I want to keep this small and manageable. It’s not about blowing up; it’s about feeding people. I love that part and it’s why I do this.”
Bertie’s Intergalactic Diner can be found at Carrollton Station, 8140 Willow St., Tuesday through Friday, from 6 p.m. to midnight. Follow Bertie’s on Instagram for current menus and updates.
Reporter Marielle Songy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well – written.