Surprisingly, there is plenty of history to be found in Brooklyn’s
More than a dozen restaurants in Brooklyn have been open for
more than 50 years. Some of them have nationwide reputations,
while others are simply neighborhood gems.
The oldest restaurant in the borough is Gage & Tollner,
founded in 1879 by Charles M. Gage and Eugene Tollner. It soon
became a meeting place for New York’s leading citizens.
Gage & Tollner moved to its present Downtown Brooklyn
location in 1892, featuring a decor of arched mirrors, red velvet
fabric and gas-lit brass chandeliers. Restaurateur Joseph Chirico
took over in 1995, and completely restored the interior to its
The menu at Gage & Tollner has evolved over the years,
but old-time Southern and seafood favorites such as lobster Newburg
and fried oysters remain under chef Luis Garces. [372 Fulton
St. at Jay Street. (718) 875-5181.]
Peter Luger Steakhouse has been around since 1887. This venerable
Williamsburg restaurant, owned by the Forman family since 1950,
is famous for its porterhouse steaks that are dry-aged on the
premises, and available for two, three or four people.
For chef Amet Bajrami’s porterhouse alone, Peter Luger’s is
considered by many to be the finest steakhouse in New York City;
however, their side dishes are less celebrated, particularly
the often bland sliced tomato salad. [178 Broadway at Driggs
Avenue (718) 387-7400.]
Also in Williamsburg, Bamonte’s has served classic southern
Italian fare since 1900. Owner Anthony Bamonte’s tuxedo-clad
waiters dish out homemade pasta, mussels marinara and other goodies
to their faithful customers, particularly families and parties
celebrating birthdays or anniversaries. Bamonte’s chef is Euro
Callegari. [32 Withers St. at Union Street. (718) 384-8831.]
Open since 1904, the small, casual Ferdinando’s Focacceria
was serving Sicilian fare well before its trendy neighbors arrived
in Carroll Gardens. Sample owner-chef Francesco Buffa’s pasta
puttanesca, or branch out and try the restaurant’s panelle (chickpea
flour fritters). [151 Union St. between Columbia and Hicks streets.
Another Italian tradition in Carroll Gardens is Monte’s Venetian
Room, which has been catering to the neighborhood since 1906.
This destination spot, owned by Toni Monte and located near the
Gowanus Canal, offers such Italian staples as veal marsala, chicken
Parmesan, and of course Italian cheesecake. Monte’s chef is Luis
Chuia. [451 Carroll St., between Third Avenue and Nevins Street.
Over in Coney Island, the 93-year-old Gargiulo’s is known
for its Neapolitan-based seafood dishes. Lobsters pulled from
the tank and served broiled, racanati (baked with breadcrumbs)
or fra diavola (spicy with hot peppers) are highlights. Other
popular dishes at the restaurant, which is owned by Louis Russo,
include chef Luigi Daniello’s grilled veal with sauteed artichokes,
and fettuccine with mushrooms, onions and prosciutto. [2911 W.
15th St., between Surf and Mermaid avenues. (718) 266-4891.]
Sheepshead Bay can be thankful for the return of Lundy Brothers
Restaurant, the famed eatery that reopened in 1995 in its original
location. This 800-seat seafood mecca was originally open from
1916 until 1977. The vast dining room offers additional perks
like an oyster bar and a 1,200-gallon lobster tank. The Tam Corporation
owns Lundy’s; the corporate chef is Tom Tedesco.
Lundy’s is well known for its Shore Dinner, featuring a cup
of chowder or house salad, a 1-pound whole lobster and a grilled
half-chicken, plus sides and dessert for $22.95. [1901 Emmons
Ave. at Ocean Avenue. (718) 743-0022.]
A name synonymous with Brooklyn, Nathan’s Famous Restaurant,
has been a Coney Island fixture since 1916. When Nathan Handwerker
opened a hot dog stand in Coney that fateful year, he could hardly
have imagined it would grow into Nathan’s Famous Inc., a company
with more than 1,000 franchises worldwide. The original location
still sells all-beef frankfurters as well as fresh-squeezed lemonade
and their "famous" french fries. [1310 Surf Ave. at
Stillwell Avenue. (718) 946-2202.]
At the corner of Flatbush and DeKalb avenues in Downtown Brooklyn,
there has been a diner run by the Rosen family since 1929. In
1950, the name was changed to Junior’s, and it has been serving
its famous cheesecake and other goodies ever since.
The interior of Junior’s was modernized in 1983 after a major
fire in the restaurant. The diner was recently featured in the
Brooklyn Public Library’s children’s book of Brooklyn landmarks,
"Brooklyn Pops Up." [386 Flatbush Ave. at DeKalb Avenue.
Times may have changed, but Armando’s in Brooklyn Heights
has remained essentially the same since it opened in 1936. Owner
Peter Byros’ Montague Street location has a lot of competition,
but Armando’s more than holds its own with an efficient waitstaff,
soft lighting and charming banquettes.
Chef Samuel Jachro’s Italian menu includes homemade pasta,
veal saltimbocca and a large selection of seafood, all of it
offered at reasonable prices. [143 Montague St., between Henry
and Clinton streets. (718) 624-7167.]
At Tom’s in Prospect Heights – a friendly neighborhood diner
open since 1937 – owner-chef Gus Vlahavas serves breakfast and
lunch to his regular customers and visitors alike.
The menu at Tom’s has evolved over time and now features five
different kinds of pancakes for breakfast. (Try the lemon-ricotta
version). Fresh roasted turkey, pot roast, brisket and other
diner fare is offered in a clean, comfortable setting. [782 Washington
Ave. at Sterling Place. (718) 636-9738.]
Hot beef is the thing at owner Russ Sullivan’s Brennan &
Carr in Sheepshead Bay. For over 60 years, this casual restaurant
has been known for its thin-sliced roast beef, served on a Kaiser
roll with pan drippings. Hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and drinks
are also available. [3432 Nostrand Ave. at Avenue U (718) 769-1254.]
So whether you are looking for a fancy dinner in a turn-of-the-century
building, or just a casual meal in a tried-and-true neighborhood
haunt, Brooklyn definitely has a variety of historically sound
Josh Greenwald, a graduate of New York
Restaurant School, is a freelance food writer and part-time chef.