Second course: Gage & Tollner to open to indoor dining in April

Gage & Tollner’s landmarked interiors.
File photo

The historic Downtown Brooklyn chophouse Gage & Tollner will finally open for inside seating on April 15, marking a return to dining at the 1870s-era eatery that had been delayed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

“It’s thrilling, there’s no other word for it,” the Fulton Street restaurant’s co-owner St. John Frizell told Brooklyn Paper. “I’ve just been walking on a cloud for a week.”

The reopening — which was first reported by Grub Street — comes after 13 months of pandemic limbo for Gage & Tollner, which next month will offer patrons space in the cherry-wood paneled dining room at half capacity and spaced-out tables in accordance with the state’s coronavirus guidelines, starting with dinner service only Wednesday through Sunday evenings.

Brooklynites have eagerly awaited the return of the iconic restaurant, which once served the borough’s ritziest patrons from 1879 to 2004, before shuttering and housing a TGI Fridays, the fast-food joint Arby’s, and a discount jewelry store.

Frizell and his fellow co-owners Ben Schneider and Sohui Kim painstakingly restored the ancient digs to its former glory for three years and planned for a grand opening in March of 2020, but the outbreak of the coronavirus foiled Gage & Tollner’s return.

Restaurateurs (from left) Ben Schneider, Sohui Kim and St. John Frizell have seen an outpouring of support on their online shop.Photo by Julianne Cuba

Buoyed by financial support from fans and a landlord who charged them reduced or no rents for several months, the owners weathered the pandemic closure and started doing takeout and delivery in February, offering meal kits with video tutorials on their Instagram page.

“We’re so grateful for all your support throughout this epic journey — we wouldn’t be here today without you,” read a March 25 Facebook post announcing the reopening.

The restaurateurs decided against outdoor dining, since they would have only had room two tables outside their lot’s narrow footprint between Smith Street and Red Hook Lane.

“It’s a big operation, and serving two tables didn’t make sense,” Frizell said. 

The entrepreneurs waited to set a reopening date until all of their staff could get at least one of two COVID vaccine shots, according to Frizell. 

“The possibility to reopen with a fully vaccinated staff is a complete game changer,” he said. 

He added that they are still hiring staff and look to open with a roughly 40-member strong workforce. 

Next month, guests will be able to enjoy their seafood classics in the elegant landmarked interiors, including their famous brass chandeliers, leather and red velvet booths, and silk wall coverings.

A look back: The original restaurant interior.Brooklyn Historical Society

The menu offers old-school seafood dishes like Oyster Rockefeller and She-Crab Soup alongside rib-eye steak, mutton chops, and fried chicken. Meanwhile, at the marble bar, you can enjoy cocktails reminiscent of the 1940s.

For all who bought gift certificates, the owners asked in the social media post that they hold on to them for a little longer before cashing them in until the business is on more solid ground. To encourage that, gift certificates sold before April 15 will increase in value by 10 percent, according to the post.

Gage & Tollner [372 Fulton St. between Smith Street and Red Hook Lane Downtown, (347) 689–3677, gageandtollner.com]. Opening April 15, Wednesday through Sunday from 5-9:30 pm. 

More from Around New York