Photographs by Jane Beiles
When a restaurant has a thirty-six-year run, it becomes something of an old friend. That was the case with Gates. Though the American eatery had been showing signs of age and was often upstaged by trendier spots, people were sad to see its doors close. New Canaan residents Paul Tully and Jay Luther purchased the place and promptly gave the Forest Street landmark a face-lift. They gutted the space, opened up the dining room, modernized the décor and revamped the menu. We were eager to check out Gates 2.0.
Flatbread in the custom brick pizza oven
On a recent Saturday night, we booked a 6:30 table and invited two New Canaanites to join us. Except for the wrought iron gates, the renovated restaurant looks little like its predecessor. Local firm Company K Design brought in reclaimed wood and industrial elements along with a long navy leather banquette along the back wall. The dining room opens to the kitchen, putting the wood-burning oven and Argentinian grill on center stage, with bar seating where you can watch the chefs in action. Gates was always popular for its bar and the new restaurant follows suit with a rotating list of craft beers on tap, as well as a good wine list and fun cocktails like the Pom in the Afternoon, a twist on a pomegranate martini. For starters, our small plates were decent but underwhelming: shishito peppers seemed a bit bland and the calamari tasted chewier than the norm, though we liked the jalapeños mixed in. Things improved with the Chop Chop Verona salad, a holdover from the original menu and a fresh tasting mix of crunchy cucumbers, bacon, grape tomatoes and blue cheese.
Some of the best entrees involved the wood-burning oven and the grill. Our group devoured the pizza with its thin, lightly charred crust and ample mozzarella. Wood-fired baby back ribs are smoked in-house and finished on the grill, leaving them very tasty. The Bolognese on papparelle had a subtle flavor to it, but not as much depth and interest as some versions I’ve tasted. One of our dinner guests who grew up eating at Gates was a fan of the legendary burger. After digging into the “new” Gates burger, he was happy to report that it lived up to his memories.
As with new and improved software, the latest version of anything tends to have a glitch or two. Here, the service was prompt but absentminded. Our salad was dropped off at the table quickly but with no side plates. Our server was polite but not especially knowledgeable about the menu. Prices, however, were reasonable, with several entrees for $15 or $16. Overall, the restaurant’s range of dishes, drinks and price points in a warm, modern setting make it not unlike the old Gates, a crowd pleaser, and one that was worth the upgrade.
10 Forest Street
Mon. –Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. (bar open until midnight)
Fri. and Sat. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. (bar open until 1 a.m.)
Sun., 11:00 a.m.–9 p.m.