Amy Ruth’s, a Harlem soul food restaurant known for a fried chicken-and-waffles dish named after Al Sharpton, will open a second location at the landmark Gage & Tollner site on the Fulton Mall.
The Harlem restaurant has only been around for nine years, but it will be moving into a space that was occupied by the celebrated Gage & Tollner from the 1890s until it closed in 2004.
The building’s exterior and its magnificent dining room, with its mahogany tables, cherry-framed mirrors and 19th-century gas lamps, are protected city landmarks. Even T.G.I. Friday’s, which briefly occupied the space after Gage & Tollner closed, did not dramatically alter the historic surroundings.
And Michael Vann, chief operating officer and general manager for the Morning Star Restaurant Group, was pleased about that.
“We believe the historical landmark matches what we do in Harlem perfectly,” Vann told The Brooklyn Paper.
Amy Ruth’s has been eyeballing Gage & Tollner since T.G.I. Friday’s closed about a year ago, said Robert F. Hebron IV, who brokered the lease between the restaurant and the owner of the building, which is between Smith and Pearl streets.
“I believed very passionately in the relationship between the restaurant and that site,” Hebron said. “It’s almost a renaissance of what used to be.”
Indeed, when Edna Lewis, a celebrated southern cook, took over the Gage & Tollner kitchen in the late 1980s, she put soul food front and center, introducing customers to nubbly corn pudding, pan-fried catfish and she-crab soup.
The Amy Ruth’s menu — which features dishes named after black political, social and church leaders — is not the only thing that will make it successful where T.G.I. Friday’s was not, said Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
“Success will be a cinch [for] Amy Ruth’s,” said Chan. “The mall attracts 100,000 shoppers a day in an area with 100,000 office workers … and 225,000 residents.”
The plans for the Brooklyn Amy Ruth’s are under wraps, but Hebron did promise that the Rev. Al Sharpton’s favorite dish would be on the menu on Fulton Street.
“You’ll be able to get fried chicken and waffles and all the other things you can get at Amy Ruth’s in Harlem,” the broker said.