Gage & Tollner Through the Years, Via Its Menus

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Photo Essays

Gage & Tollner Through the Years, Via Its Menus

There’s a particular art to reading a restaurant through its menus. And if some change constantly, the one thing you notice in Gage & Tollner’s, through its many iterations, is how little the choices shift.  More steaks and chops prior to the 20th century, but then largely the same local seafood from 1919 through the 1970s.

This makes it, in its way, one of the quintessential pillars of New York cuisine, however that might have been defined — and well before such terms as “Continental cuisine” ever appeared.

The consistency, as much as anything, speaks to its role as an icon of Brooklyn community life.

Related story: The Long Road to Gage & Tollner’s Once-and-Again Return

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An early menu from 1895. Turtle soup is among the dishes on from nearly the very beginning. Spanish mackerel was out but you could have striped bass for 40 cents. "Patrons will confer a favor by paying at desk."

Courtesy Gage & Tollner

A menu from 1919. The roster of seafood has expanded dramatically. You can choose from among Cotuit, Saddle Rock, and Small Blue Point oysters, and have them served myriad ways, from a cream stew to a pan roast. Lots of last-minute pricing changes.

Courtesy Gage & Tollner

More from the 1919 menu. Chicken à la Maryland is expensive, but not as much as a porterhouse.

Courtesy of Gage & Tollner

The cover of the 1919 menu. Umbrellas at the desk — $1.50 deposit.

Moving forward to 1944. Wartime or no, the shellfish choices have barely changed — but you can now get clams Casino (paid homage on the current menu with clams Kimsino).

The wine list from 1944. Still plenty of European wine from prewar days — solid St. Julien from 1929, and the Pontet-Canet is a steal at $3.00. But ample choices from America, too. And note the presence of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Bronx cocktails. Plus a "Zazerac."

The 1956 menu. Score one for consistency: Oyster and clam choices still largely the same, although now you can get oysters Casino.

The drinks list from 1956. More liquor, less wine, as was the fashion. The restaurant's separate Dolphin Bar is now open.

A more condensed menu from 1970.

A page from a 1970s wine list — reflecting the boom in American wine, specifically Californian (although with New York's Bully Red at bottom).

A menu from May 5, 1989. The legendary chef Edna Lewis was in the Gage & Tollner kitchen by this point, and the classic roster of seafood has been amended with her own specialties, including Smithfield ham with corn pudding, and a shrimp-crab gumbo

Photo Essays

Gage & Tollner Through the Years, Via Its Menus

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