Gates opened its doors thirty-five years ago and continued to offer an array of dishes that kept this “elder statesman” on New Canaan’s Restaurant Row bustling seven days a week...until Sunday April 26th when it served its last meals.
The entrance was guarded by ornate gates and once you entered you were immersed into a large, open dining area with walls adorned by murals by Janet Picard, paintings and large terra cotta planters. Wander to the left and you enter the bar with a long oak bar with 12 seats and several booths. Both areas were normally filled with locals partaking of a drink after work, families enjoying dinner and regulars having a good time with friends.
The menu included many local favorites, but I normally focused on the sandwiches (the Bellagio was my favorite) and the burgers. Choose from the Gates Burger with avocado, bacon and Jalapeño jack cheese, a Bacon Cheeseburger, or the recently added Gruyere Burger, which included bacon, Gruyere cheese and onion rings. Fries were standard or substitute for onion rings or sweet potato fries for a nominal $1.50 (I always ordered the sweet potato fries).
I normally ordered a Bacon Cheeseburger with American cheese. The meat was delicious and the combination of Gate’s bacon, cheese and bun was almost a friendly reminder that a good bar burger is, well, a good bar burger. On my last visit I went a little off-script and chose the Gruyere Burger, medium-rare. When the burger arrived I was a little surprised. I thought the “onion rings” from the menu were a substitute for the fries, but these were “frizzled” onions sitting atop the patty. Sitting on the other half of the bun was a slice of tomato and lettuce. The regular fries completed the dish. After assembling the burger I cut in in half…it was perfectly cooked to medium rare. The beef was flavorful and the grind of the meat was still present. The melted Gruyere was good and the bacon was mild and crispy, both adding a bit of saltiness. The grilled bun added a little sweetness. I removed the onions for the second half. The combination without the onions was much better…this was now a really good bar burger...and that was Gates.
I will miss Gates, not for its over the top edge-cutting cuisine, but for that normalcy that one expects from an old friend when you need a good old-fashioned burger.