"Crabmeat Dewey or “crab meat Dewey” ("crabmeat a la Dewey” or “crab meat a la Dewey") was a specialty of two gone-but-not forgotten New York City restaurants—Gage & Tollner (in Brooklyn) and Longchamps (several Manhattan restaurants that were located near Park Avenue).
Gage & Tollner was owned by the Dewey family and it was sometimes thought that this was the origin of the name. However, the Deweys bought Gage & Tollner in 1919 and “crab meat a la Dewey” is cited in print from at least 1903, so the name did not originate with the Gage & Tollner owners—although the “Dewey” name on the dish could be one reason why the item remained on the menu long after it had gone out of style.
The dish almost certainly was named after Admiral George Dewey (1837=1917), a hero of the Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American War of 1898. Dewey became instantly popular and had many things named after him, including a short-lived lobster dish. It is not known who invented “crab meat a la Dewey,” but the dish had been popular in east coast cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.
“Crab meat a la Dewey” features crab meat in a cream sauce, with green peppers and often mushrooms.
Wikipedia: George Dewey
George Dewey (December 26, 1837 – January 16, 1917) was an admiral of the United States Navy, best known for his victory (without the loss of a single life of his own forces due to combat; one man died of heat stroke) at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. He was also the only person in the history of the United States to have attained the rank of Admiral of the Navy, the most senior rank in the United States Navy.
Wikipedia: Gage and Tollner
Gage and Tollner was a restaurant on Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn. It had been in business since 1879 and in the same location since 1892 until it closed on February 14, 2004. The Brownstone where it was housed has been in existence since 1875.
Gage and Tollner’s began when Charles Gage opened an “eating house” at 303 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, in 1879. In 1880, Eugene Tollner joined him and the restaurant became known as Gage and Tollner’s in 1882. The restaurant moved to 372-374 Fulton Street in 1892.
It attracted customers like Diamond Jim Brady, Jimmy Durante and Mae West. In the 1980s it was bought by Peter Aschkenasy who brought in famed chef Edna Lewis. She helped “transform” the restaurant by adding her famed Southern cuisine, such as cornbread, catfish and a “legendary she-crab soup.” Joseph Chirico, who owned the restaurant since 1995, made the hard decision to close the restaurant since “the business was dragging every day.”
The Recipe Link
recipelink.com Chat Room Recipe Swap - 2001-03-05
Crab Meat Dewey
Recipe By : Gage And Tollner’s
Makes 4 to 6 entrees or 8 appetizer servings.
3 Tbsp butter or margarine
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups hot milk
salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
1 small green pepper, parboiled and cut in 1/4—inch dice
1 pimiento, canned, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 1/4 pounds crab meat, canned or fresh, well drained—and picked over
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Gradually stir in the hot milk. Cook and stir until the mixture is thickened, or to the consistency of a medium cream sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently fold in the green pepper, pimiento and crab meat. Spoon into individual ramekins.
Mix cheddar cheese with the bread crumbs and sprinkle over the ramekins.
To cook, bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese melts.
Or In The Philippines With Dewey
By Henry L. Williams
New York, NY: Hurst & Company
There is a Dewey button,
That’s blossomed with the year,
While “lobster a la Dewey”
Is popular, I hear.
25 January 1903, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “How to Order an Up-to-Date Dinner,” Woman’s Magazine, pg. 3:
A great afternoon theatre dish is crab meat a la Dewey. It consists of crab meat in a miniature chafing dish, sizzling in a riot of rich sauce, oyster crabs and mushrooms.
By Adolphe Meyer
New York, NY: The Caterer Publishing Co.
CHAIR DE CRABES A LA DEWEY—CRAB MEAT, DEWEY STYLE.
Prepare as for Maryland Style. Add some coarsely shredded green peppers and mushrooms sauted in butter.
NOTE.—The skin of the green peppers should be removed before shredding.
22 December 1907, Oregonian (Portland, OR), magazine section, pg. 7:
Another delicious combination is crab meat with green peppers, known as crab meat Dewey. For this buy a pint of crab meat ready cooked and picked, but I would advise you to pick it over once more before setting it forth with your chafing dish. Prepare the peppers as described above. Make the cream sauce in the same way, stir in crab meat and serve on toast.
Explanations of all terms used in Coockery-Cellaring (sic) and the preparation of drinks
By Kurt Heppe
New York, NY: Published by Author
Crab meat a la Dewey—cream sauce, cepes, oyster-crabs, truffles.
By Upton Sinclair
New York, NY: Moffat, Yard & Company
There were quail which had come from Egypt, and a wonderful thing called “crab-flake a la Dewey,” cooked in a chafing-dish, and served with mushrooms that had been grown in the tunnels of abandoned mines in Michigan.
Ice Creams, Water Ices, Frozen Puddings
Refreshments for all Social Affairs
By Mrs. S. T. Rorer (Sarah Tyson Rorer—ed.)
Philadelphia, PA: Arnold and Company
CRAB MEAT a la DEWEY
1 pint of crab flake
2 tablespoonfuls of butter
2 tablespoonfuls of flour
1 teaspoonful of salt
1 red and one green pepper
1/2 pint of chicken stock, or milk
2 tablespoonfuls of sherry
Yolks of two eggs
Drop the peppers into hot fat just a moment and rub off the skin, remove the seeds and chop the flesh fine. Put this, with the butter, in a saucepan, and shake over the fire until the peppers are soft. Add the flour, mix, and add the stock or milk; stir until boiling, add the salt and pepper and the crab flakes. Do not stir, but heat slowly over hot water. When hot, add the yolks (Pg. 111—ed.) of the eggs, beaten with two tablespoonfuls of cream. Heat again, just a moment, being careful not to curdle the eggs, and serve on toast.
This dish is very nice when made in a chafing dish, and will serve six people.
16 July 1915, Massillon (OH) Evening Independent, “Cheap Stuff From Japan,” pg. 4, col. 3:
If you go into a restaurant of the variety patronized by most Americans and reglae yourself with crab-meat salad, or crab meat a la Dewey, or a crab cocktail—especially if you do this in a restaurant away from the Atlantic or Pacific coast—it is almost a certainty that the crab meat in your salad or your chafing dish or your cocktail, came from Japan in tins, writes Samuel G. Blythe in the Saturday Evening Post.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry in Maryland
By Frederick Philip Stieff
New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
CRAB MEAT DEWEY
Take one pound of crab meat, melt two ounces of butter and blend with two ounces of sifted flour, gradually add 2/3 cup of chicken stock and a pint of thin cream.
Bring to boil for about five minutes, season with salt and cayenne pepper. Stir in the yolks of three well-beaten eggs.
Pay attention that sauce is perfectly smooth, add one cup full of thin sliced cooked mushrooms and crab meat. Serve on toast in shallow casserole. Sprinkle very fine chopped parsley as garniture.—Maryland Yacht Club, Baltimore.
Monday, Oct. 28, 1946
On Broad Street, the bronze statue of a Union soldier (First Infantry Regiment, Pennsylvania National Guard) backed against the red-brick headquarters of the Union League of Philadelphia. Old, dignified Republicans, walking up the curving steps to lunch on stewed snapper or crabmeat Dewey while discussing politics and finance, sometimes gave the bronze hero a glance.
8 June 1979, New York (NY) Times, “Restaurants” (Gage & Tollner) by Mimi Sheraton, pg. C18:
Crab meat a la Dewey, prepared with the only decent cream sauce we tried, and bits of pimiento and green pepper, was very good, as was the cheese-topped lobster thermidor baked in a large scallop shell.
28 September 1981, New York magazine, “The Great Fish Houses” by Seymour Britchky, pg. 45, col. 2:
OF NEW YORK’S MORE VENERABLE eating place, Gage & Tollner is the one that, more than any other, reveals its antiquity not only in well-preserved appointments but also in food that is prepared, at least in large measure, according to old, mostly forgotten recipes: crabmeat Virginia and cabmeat Dewey, lobster thermidor and lobster Maryland, scallops Baltimore, soft clams Chicago, more.
Crabmeat Dewey is a famous dish served almost nowhere in town but here. This is college casserole cookery—crabmeat and red and green pepper in a creamy sauce. It is unfortunate that the crabmeat is imperfectly divorced from its cartilage, for you must therefore eat in a state of alertness, and this pleasantly gooey and highly flavored food is not the kind of thing you want to pick at.
New York (NY) Times
DE GUSTIBUS; MORE ON JOYS OF DINING PAST
By MIMI SHERATON
Published: April 9, 1983
Memories of Longchamps
Arthur Riback, a public relations and marketing consultant to many restaurant owners through the years, sent a reminder of the once elegant, excellent and luxurious Longchamps chain, for which he had worked. Explaining that Henry Lustig, the owner of the chain, was also in the wholesale fruit and produce business, Mr. Riback wrote, ‘’Longchamps in the Forties were probably the only multiunit, white tablecloth restaurants that maintained the quality standards associated with a pure mom-and-pop establishment.’’
Longchamps dishes that stand out in Mr. Riback’s memory include ‘’crabmeat a la Dewey, creamed finnan haddie, calf’s liver saute, the best hamburger platter I ever had, spectacular whole stewed fruits, rice pudding topped with heavy cream and browned under the salamander and the Longchamps 21 percent butterfat ice cream. As a kid, I once saw Orson Welles devour four portions of that ice cream at the Longchamps at 59th Street and Madison Avenue.’’
New York (NY) Times
January 20, 1989, Friday
Diner’s Journal; Gage & Tollner
By BRYAN MILLER
Gage & Tollner, the 110-year-old landmark Brooklyn restaurant operated by the Dewey family since 1919, was sold late last year to a partnership headed by Peter Aschkenasy, a Manhattan restaurateur who has vowed to keep its 19th-century character, including its faded tin ceiling, burnished wood walls and period chandeliers. In an attempt to revitalize the food, he has hired Edna Lewis, a veteran cook and the author of three books on Southern cuisine. Mrs. Lewis was a co-owner of Cafe Nicholson in the 1940’s.
New York (NY) Times
By DANIEL B. SCHNEIDER
Published: February 8, 1998
Q. Hanging from the face of a small building at 423 Madison Avenue, near 48th Street, above a Japanese noodle shop, is an ancient-looking neon sign that says ‘’Longchamps’’ in sloping, Art Deco letters. Was there once a restaurant here by that name?
A. Yes indeed. Longchamps, like Schrafft’s, Childs and Horn & Hardart, was a chain of local restaurants in the days before fast-food franchises made the city’s commercial corridors into an overlit Formica Disneyland.
Named for the race track in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, the first elegant Longchamps opened in 1919, and by the 1950’s there were 10 in Manhattan, most clustered around midtown. The chain was bankrupt by the mid-1970’s, but former patrons still grow misty-eyed at the mention of Longchamps specialties like oxtail ragout, crabmeat a la Dewey, Nesselrode pie, baked apple and ‘’21 percent butterfat’’ ice cream.
Brooklyn Heights Blog
Friday’s Quits Gage & Tollner Space
Posted : April 12th, 2007 at 10:12 pm by Claude Scales
Brooklyn Heights Press reports that chain restaurant T.G.I. Friday’s has vacated the space, near the western end of Fulton Mall, formerly occupied by Gage & Tollner, which, until it closed in 2004, had for many years been Brooklyn’s longest surviving restaurant.
I first discovered Gage & Tollner when a friend took me there in 1973, ten years before I moved to Brooklyn. When we walked in, I had the sense of having been transported back about eighty years. All was dark carved wood, etched glass and leather upholstery, illuminated by gaslight. Waiters, none of them under forty, wore navy blue jackets with gold braid, white shirts and black ties. The menu stressed seafood, especially shellfish in casserole preparations. My favorite among these was “crabmeat Dewey” (no doubt named in honor of the Admiral’s 1898 victory over the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay), a concoction involving lump backfin blue crab, heavy cream, cheddar cheese and (if I recall correctly) celery. Whenever I ordered it, I could feel my arteries contracting in anticipation.
The interior is landmarked, so, fortunately, it can only be used as a restaurant. I hope there’s a new owner out there who can realize the site’s potential while giving respect to its past. Crabmeat Dewey, anyone?
Comment from nabeguy
Time: April 13, 2007, 12:54 pm
I first went to G&T’s in 1967, back when all the waiters were all black, male, and not one had worked there for less than 5 years (Sully, the unoffical greeter, had been there over 40). They had the freshest lobster around, served any way you wanted. I especially remember the salad dressing, which I’ve been trying to duplicate (with no success) for 40 years. Truly a unique and never-to-be-duplicated dining experience. Oh, and Crabmeat Dewey was actually named after the owners, the Dewey family.
09 December 2008
Last Trace of Longchamps Disappears
The first Longchamps opened in New York in 1919. It took its name from the racetrack in Paris’ Bois de Boulogne. Specialties included oxtail soup, crabmeat a la Dewey, Nesselrode pie and baked apple. (Would love to know if they published a cookbook.)