The landmarked Downtown Brooklyn Gage and Tollner space may finally be a functioning restaurant again — a project that three respected Red Hook restaurateurs are pursuing with a crowdfunding campaign.
The former steakhouse at 372 Fulton St., between Red Hook Lane and Smith Street, opened in 1879 and is one of New York’s only restaurants to be landmarked on the inside and outside. But unlike other famed landmarked restaurants in town, Gage and Tollner hasn’t been a functioning restaurant for years.
Now, St. John Frizell (Fort Defiance), Ben Schneider (the Good Fork/Insa), and chef Sohui Kim (the Good Fork/Insa), want to return it to a living restaurant space — a classic oyster and chop house like Gage and Tollner once was, but with the sustainable, local ethos that now embodies modern Brooklyn dining. Dishes would include classics like steaks and oysters rockefeller, as well as options like fried frog legs and shrimp toast. Plans also include a tropical cocktail bar upstairs, to-be-called Sunken Harbor Club, and private dining rooms.
But to raise the money to restore the space, the pedigreed team is launching a crowdfunding campaign on Monday. The goal is to raise $600,000 via Wefunder, and then find other investors to finish out the cost. Currently, the Gage and Tollner website includes tons of information to convince people to invest smaller amounts of money to make the restaurant happen. According to the Times, people will be paid back with interest from the restaurant’s revenue once open.
It’s been a long road for the historic space. Gage and Tollner was once a grandiose destination that had regulars like Mae West, and for many ears, famed Southern chef Edna Lewis led the menu. In 1975, it became the first restaurant interior to be landmarked.
Shortly after, the city turned Fulton Street into a pedestrian mall, and the restaurant struggled, losing customers who preferred to be dropped off in a cab. The corridor is now filled with chain retail stores. After Gage and Tollner closed in 2004, the space turned into a T.G.I. Friday’s, Arby’s, and then a discount clothing and jewelry store that covered up the engravings.
But the landlord has been trying to bring it back into the restaurant fold, saying that growing business in the neighborhood, and this Red Hook team agrees that Downtown Brooklyn is prime to support the restaurant again.