It’s always cool when a piece of the past pokes through to the present.
I noticed the half-sign a few weeks ago when walking past with my wife, but didn’t know what I was looking at, at the time. Thanks to Brooklyn Paper, I now know that it’s the site of a former Waldorf Cafeteria that operated at the corner of Fulton and Jay street.
With the removal of an old Metropolitan Dental Associates banner, the vintage “TERIA” (part of “CAFETERIA”) as well as most of an apple logo is now showing.
A jump into the NYC tax photo archives gives us a few of what this block looked like back in 1940, when the Waldorf Cafeteria lived next to a very prominent Bond Clothes suit store (now Ann Taylor).
That cross street intersection is full of history that pokes through to the present, as diagonally across the street is the historic Gage & Tollner restaurant, although that’s a much sadder story. First opened at that location in 1892, Gage & Tollner was the restaurant in Brooklyn for decades. It started struggling in the 1970s, battling against a changing city, and eventually closed in 1994. A few unsuccessful tenants moved in (T.G.I. Friday’s, Arby’s, and a costume jewelry store to name a few) before it was finally purchased by three restauranteurs with a plan to restore it to its former glory. There was a wildly successful marketing campaign (starting with a crowdfunding campaign and resulting in tons of press coverage).
Gage & Tollner was poised to re-open as a restaurant about a week after the pandemic lockdown started, and as a result never got to open their doors. I even had reservations for my birthday at the end of March that never ended up materializing.
There’s still hope of Gage & Tollner re-opening after the pandemic, and I certainly hope it does. As for the re-opening of the Waldorf Cafeteria, I’m much less optimistic.