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We’re thinkin’ Arby’s! Beef joint to open on Thursday

The Brooklyn Paper
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Brooklyn’s best restaurant is now an Arby’s.

The landmarked site of the former Gage and Tollner restaurant on the Fulton Mall — unoccupied since 2007 — reopened on Thursday serving up generic roast-beef sandwiches.

But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill fast-food joint.

“It’s probably the most beautiful Arby’s ever!” said Raymond Chera, the co-owner of the location between Smith Street and Red Hook Lane.

Indeed, the gorgeous interior conjures memories of the beloved seafood-and-chop house that occupied the space for well over 100 years until closing in 2004.

Because the interior is landmarked, the same stylish gas lamps still hang from the ceiling, and the same smoky mirrors line the sides and rear of the dining area, perfect for eating a Beef ’n’ Cheddar sandwich and curly fries and fantasizing that it’s the 19th century. (That’ll be 1,290 calories and 67 grams of fat, guv’ner!)

Chera was noticeably excited about his first venture into the fast-food industry.

“It’s incredible to see the excitement,” Chera said. “People want to eat a roast-beef sandwich.”

But it took awhile before Chera got the chance to serve them. One of the main sticking points with the Landmarks Preservation Commission — which approved the plans last June — was the menu above the counter, a gaudy staple of most fast-food restaurants.

Eventually, Chera and Landmarks officials settled on suspending the sign from the ceiling and illuminating it with bentwood-style lamps.

After the white-tablecloth Gage and Tollner closed, T.G.I. Friday’s had a three-year run. Then, a Harlem restaurateur planned to open a Brooklyn outpost of Amy Ruth’s, but the place never served a single meal.

Now, Arby’s is in the space that once received the likes of Jimmy Durante and Mae West.

But, Chera said, those kinds of bold-faced names don’t come to the Fulton Mall anymore.

“This is a fast-food street,” Chera said. “It’s a mall. This is the kind of establishment that works here.”

Updated 6:10 pm, January 20, 2010
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Reasonable discourse

Foodie from Flatbush says:
Welcome to Marty Markowitz's Brooklyn: Gage & Tollner out, Arby's in.
Jan. 15, 2010, 5:18 pm
Arthur from Bay Ridge says:
Tragic, sad,, awful. I just feel terrible after reading this article. What a gross turn of events.
Jan. 17, 2010, 4:45 am
Carrie from Windsor Terrace says:
Arby's might seem like an odd choice but at least they didn't have to tear the place down in the name of development. Works for me!
Jan. 17, 2010, 6:27 pm

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