The trio of restaurateurs trying to revive Downtown Brooklyn’s famed historic steakhouse Gage and Tollner have officially been granted a green light — and the reopening is now expected this fall.
Husband and wife duo Ben Schneider and Sohui Kim of the Good Fork in Red Hook have partnered with St. John Frizell of Fort Defiance (also in Red Hook) to restore the restaurant to its original glory: a 21st-century an oyster and chophouse. That means that she-crab soup, a specialty of famed former Southern chef Edna Lewis, will reappear on the menu.
The historic building — a four-story brownstone at 372 Fulton St., between Red Hook Lane and Smith Street — has landmarked exterior and interior, meaning the trio of restaurateurs had to run renovation plans by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission before moving forward. They secured the okay this week and are promising a “magical” revival, which is financially backed by 200 small investors and 35 equity investors.
A quote from chef Kim on the restaurant’s new website gives diners a clue of what to expect for food: “People still love iconic chophouse favorites like Caesar salad, creamed spinach, or a perfectly cooked ribeye,” she says. “My goal is to elevate these classics without reinventing them or making them gimmicky, using meticulously sourced ingredients and diligent technique.”
Frizell will be behind the drink offerings, which will include a “deep” wine list and “fresh local” beer, plus new takes on classic cocktails, he says.
The place will also get a much-needed facelift. The century-old space was once known for its ornate interior featuring 36 gas lamps, burgundy velvet-lined walls, a long mahogany bar, and mirrored panels on either side of the restaurant.
Now, plans include expanding the restaurant’s 40-seat bar, repairing the hardwood floors, and bringing back the iconic Gage and Tollner sign outside. There will be two private dining rooms, an upstairs tiki-themed cocktail lounge called the Sunken Harbor Club, and a 70-seat dining room.
The Brooklyn trio stepped in a few years ago in hopes of bringing the place back to life, launching a crowdfunding effort that raised just under $500,000. According to the Times, the investors will be paid back with interest from the restaurant’s revenue once open.
The original Gage and Tollner opened in 1879 and then moved into the building in 1892. In its heyday, the restaurant grew to legendary status and was a hotspot for weddings and bar mitzvahs, as well as neighborhood-friendly celebrations, like little league championship game wins. It built a fancy roster of regulars like actress Mae West and author Truman Capote before closing in 2004, after being open for 125 years.
But the building then went through a series of sad transformations — a T.G.I. Friday’s, followed by an Arby’s, and then a discount clothing and jewelry store — and the street has changed dramatically, too. Fulton Street is not known for its high-end restaurants, instead hosting a slew of clothing retailers, banks, and fast food. Even with buzz, the new restaurateurs will likely face challenges in convincing people to go there for fine dining.
The new Gage and Tollner is expected to open this fall.