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Classic chophouse Gage & Tollner finally opens in Downtown Brooklyn

(L-R) Owners St. John Frizell, Sohui Kim and Ben Schneider cut the ribbon during the grand reopening of Gage & Tollner on April 15.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

After more than a year of pandemic limbo, Downtown Brooklyn’s storied restaurant Gage & Tollner opened for indoor dining Thursday. 

“The moment we’ve all been waiting for,” the owners wrote on social media as they cut the ceremonial ribbon April 15. “Welcome back to Gage & Tollner, everyone!”

The much-anticipated reopening comes 13 months after the historic Fulton Street eatery had to abandon its planned launch in March 2020 as COVID-19 ravaged the city. Patrons will now be able to enjoy a steak or oyster platter in the nostalgia-inducing and landmarked cherry-wood paneled and brass chandelier-lined dining room.

Some of the first patrons dine at Gage & Tollner April 15.Photo by Caroline Ourso

Owners Ben Schneider, Sohui Kim, and St. John Frizell painstakingly restored the iconic restaurant between Smith Street and Red Hook Lane, which first started serving the borough’s ritziest patrons almost a century-and-a-half ago in 1879, the same year Thomas Edison patented his incandescent light bulb (the restaurant’s lighting apparently wouldn’t convert from gas to electric until the 1890s).

Frizell also owns the boutique grocery and café Fort Defiance General Store on Van Brunt Street in Red Hook.

The original owners, Charles M. Gage and cigar salesman Eugene Tollner, ran the Victorian eating house until 1911, when they retired and the restaurant was passed down to various owners during the 20th century, earning the distinction of being “one of the world’s best seafood restaurants,” according to a 1952 magazine award.

The interior of the original Gage & Tollner in Downtown Brooklyn.Brooklyn Historical Society

The old Gage & Tollner dished up its final meals on Valentine’s Day of 2004, before shuttering and housing several businesses over the following years, including a TGI Fridays, the fast-food joint Arby’s, and a discount jewelry store.

The Gilded Age digs were slated to have a grand opening in March of 2020, but the coronavirus outbreak forced the owners to cancel Gage & Tollner’s return. Thanks to a supportive landlord who charged them reduced or no rent for several months, along with support from fans, the restaurateurs weathered the pandemic and stayed put. 

In February, the owners started offering takeout and delivery, but they chose not to do outdoor dining, since their narrow lot only had space for two tables — not enough to justify restarting operations. 

Rock Lobster: Joe Bliffen mans the chilled seafood bar on April 15.Photo by Caroline Ourso

Now, fine diners can enjoy an array of classic seafood and meat dishes, such as East Coast oysters, Maine lobster, roasted chicken breast, or T-bone sirloin steak. The drinks menu offers cocktails reminiscent of the 1940s, such as an Old Fashioned, a Sloe Gin Fizz, or a Rusty Nail. 

The restaurant will operate at half-capacity for now, in line with the state’s coronavirus restrictions, and will start with dinner service only.

Gage & Tollner [372 Fulton St. between Smith Street and Red Hook Lane Downtown, (347) 689–3677, gageandtollner.com]. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 5-9:30 pm. 

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