Oysters and chops for 106 years
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Gage & Tollner's is a steakhouse as well as a seafood restaurant; at one time it was called an oyster and chop house. You are shown your steak before it's broiled. French fries come with meats but regulars know better and order another specialty, Hash Brown Potatoes in Hot Cream.Skip to next paragraph
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The long, handsome dining room contains the the restaurant's original mahogany tables, cherry woodwork, and oak and marble bar. Between the tall pier mirrors hung on walls of burgundy velvet tapestry are coat hooks and prongs long enough to hold the top hats of the '90s. Brass chandeliers down the length of the room are equipped for both electricity and soft, flickering gaslights.
A must for the first-time diner at Gage & Tollner's is the Manhattan Style Fish Chowder. It is made from a basic fish stock with finely chopped vegetables and a small amount of tomatoes. The mild blend of spices is distinctive, but difficult to identify. I couldn't get the recipe.
The restaurant has never served the New England version of fish or clam chowder, which is made with milk and cream and flavored slightly with bits of salt pork and onion.
The restaurant serves delicious, old-fashioned desserts like Crumb Apple Pie, Lemon Mousse, Wade's Birthday Cake, and a famous crunchy, chewy pecan pie. Fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and other fruits are served in season.
``It was such a good menu to begin with,'' says Ed Dewey, ``it hasn't been necessary to change it much all these years.''
``But we make a few seasonal additions from time to time,'' Mrs. Dewey adds. ``And we've changed the size of some portions and made the menu a little shorter.
``I added a winter apple soup and a pumpkin soup last year,'' she explains. ``Right now we have a new cream of broccoli soup, and we'll probably have a fresh tomato soup in summer.''
Although the Deweys are hesitant to name any celebrities, Beverly Sills, Woody Allen, Shirley MacLaine, and others have appeared from time to time.
During the day judges, lawyers, and business people from nearby offices frequent the restaurant. At dinner customers range from neighborhood residents and well-established families to young people from the newly renovated brownstones of Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, and Cobble Hill.
The Deweys have added private function rooms upstairs, retaining the original mantels and window shutters. They've also planned special events throughout the year, including piano music on certain days, Saturday afternoon tea dances, summer picnics, and a harvest dinner for junior farmers of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
``When it comes to prices, we consider that Gage & Tollner has always been a moderately priced restaurant, and that's what it is today,'' Mr. Dewey says. ``The average check from the all-day menu is about $18.
``We respect our customers and do whatever we can to make them happy, whether they're new or regulars who have been coming every week for years.''
Gage & Tollner, 372 Fulton Street, Brooklyn. Lunch: Monday-Friday. Dinner: Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday. Reservations (212) 875-5181.
Phyllis Hanes is the Monitor's food editor.