When I first saw that the old Chinese restaurant on Franklin Avenue near Carroll Street–the kind that used to have bulletproof glass, styrofoam containers, and cheap plastic booth seating–was slated to become an “apothecary kitchen,” otherwise billed on the website as a “hybrid space featuring healing food, acupuncture, naturopathy, Chinese herbs and classes,” my obvious first thought was: there goes the neighborhood. Mountain, which opened this fall, seemed like a particularly quick change of pace for Crown Heights, even on a stretch of Franklin Ave where a former Crown Fried Chicken outpost is now home to a cocktail and dessert bar. But I finally found my way into Mountain this week and I have to say this is not at all a cookie-cutter “New Brooklyn” spot, but a special place that’s not quite like anywhere else in NYC.
Mountain is the brainchild of two longtime New Yorkers and current Prospect Lefferts Gardens residents: the husband-and-wife team of Justine Lynch and Tom McCauley. Lynch grew up in Manhattan, danced professionally for 15 years and also worked as a waitress, which is where she met her future partner McCauley, a chef. Along the way, both of them developed an interest in holistic healing and started practicing both acupuncture and Qigong (a Chinese art designed to align the body, breath and mind). The duo came up with their master plan for Mountain, a space where tasty, healthful food, acupuncture, and general wellness would all live under one roof, way back in 2006, and have been trying to make it a reality since then. They’d considered spots far and wide, but ultimately decided that “we wanted to bring the mountain to Brooklyn,” as Lynch puts it. ” To bring all the things that we love to the city. For us, we just believe that this is definitely needed here.”
“This” is a place that is a far cry from that Chinese takeout spot, after the pair spent over a year renovating the space. The front room of Mountain is a bright and breezy dining room serving body-pleasing food and drink for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while the back features a classroom area and three treatment rooms offering everything from yoga and massage therapy, foot reflexology and Reiki healing. There’s also an on-site dispensary selling natural and herbal supplements, as well as “community acupuncture,” which means that it’s done in groups and priced on a sliding scale from $35 to $65. I know what you’re thinking: I’m sure my tired body needs all that jazz in this healing New Year season, but what was that you said about body-pleasing food?
“We believe in focusing on the nutrients of food but we also believe in sweetness,” says Lynch. “It’s not about deprivation or restriction. They focus on “nutrient-dense food,” but are very particular to point out that such a designation doesn’t mean everything has to taste like wheatgerm. One delicious example is koshary, a traditional Egyptian street food made here with local ingredients, featuring brown rice layered with chili-spiced tomato, thin strands of spaghetti squash, lentils, and caramelized onion, all topped by a creamy cashew and chili sauce. “You’re getting a really clean meal that’s pretty simple, but you’re also getting all these flavors,” says Lynch. “And the beauty of the colors and layers is really important.” It is indeed a beautiful dish, and one that’s perfectly heartwarming for winter, without being the slightest bit heavy. Other entrees range from juniper and sea salt roast chicken to white winter lasagna with pumpkin goat cheese and mushrooms.
The lunch menu features a lineup of sourdough sandwiches including a very tasty curried chicken salad bursting with flavors of cumin, coriander, fennel and turmeric. There’s also a selection of cold-pressed juices, while the morning menu includes similarly healthy-but-not-ho-hum options like a breakfast cookie sandwich, with almond butter spread between two oatmeal cookies. I will gladly give two thumbs up to anyone who tells me I can eat multiple cookies for breakfast and still consider it a healthy start to the day.
The whole food program at Mountain is focused on the fact that eating consciously doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself of culinary joy. “New York is an incredibly stressful place,” says Lynch. “For years I’ve treated many, many women [in my acupuncture practice] who insist on eating salads in the middle of winter, and they are exhausted. You need to eat warm food that’s seasonal and going to give your digestive chi a break.”
That might sound like hippy-dippy mumbo-jumbo to some of you more jaded New Yorkers, but listen up, she’s saying we don’t have to eat salad for lunch anymore. I think we can all get on board with that!
With free wifi and excellent coffee, Mountain’s also a decidedly stress-free coffice space, and offers delivery throughout the neighborhood.
903 Franklin Avenue (near Carroll); 718.771.2476; ilovemountain.net