Reviewer channels his angst for Brooklyn’s preciousness on ‘morally insidious’ Montana’s Trail House


Sure, Montana’s Trail House feels a bit like a theme restaurant, but is it really “morally insidious?”  Joshua David Stein over at the New York Observer thinks so. He gave the restaurant zero stars and quite the rant [emphasis our own]:

Last month, a young New Yorker named Montana Masback opened a restaurant in Bushwick called Montana’s Trail House. In articles about the restaurant’s opening, Mr. Masback referred to the cuisine as “Appalachian East coast country food.” The chef, Nate Courtland, meanwhile, described it as “Appalachian black magic comfort food.” To transform what was once an auto repair shop into a mountain hut, Mr. Masback purchased a dilapidated barn from Kentucky, deconstructed it and reassembled the pieces in Brooklyn. Among other archly rural accouterments are a taxidermied deer head, a Betsy Ross flag, framed old timey photographs, an axe and, in the bathrooms, decoupage of mid-century nudie magazines. The waitstaff had that new antiquated look adopted by so-many seventh-stoppers—the restaurant is off the Jefferson Street stop on the L train—which combines a youthful complexion with old mountain beards for the gentlemen and Walker Evans frocks with tattooed arms and septum piercings for the waitresses.

Montana’s Trail House is a very bad place. Its rottenness is both inherent and cosmetic; it is culinarily insipid and morally insidious. It’s bad to the last splinter of its Kentucky wood. Parceling off generic objections to the ridiculous fantasia Bushwick has become, there is a deeply toxic relationship with history and with America embodied at Montana’s Trail House. One need not be from Appalachia to object to the fetishization of that impoverished region for the blithe consumption of faux Brooklyn frontiersmen and women. The miserable condition of Appalachia, a region that runs from New York to Mississippi, is as raw a wound and as deep a shame as a decapitated strip-mined peak. Poor, poor and damned poor are the mountain people who still live there, though as Ronald Eller notes in his bleak study Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945, there’s not that many of them. “In one of the nation’s largest internal migrations,” he writes, “over 3 million people left Appalachia between 1940 and 1970.” Today, of the 420 counties that make up the region, 107 are classified as high-poverty…

Appalachia is not a rural Shambhala or evocative coffee table book source material. It’s not just a place to buy old barns. The misery is human and ongoing. I’m not cynical enough to believe Mr. Masback knows the sorrowful history or despairing present of the mountains. I doubt if he is aware or even curious to inquire how that barn he bought became fallow. If he knew and still exploited the story that would be some black magic indeed…

Even when the offerings are tasty—I wouldn’t spit out the root beer braised brisket with Anson Mill grits ($23) or the master fat fried potatoes ($6)—they are morally hazardous.

Um, lighten up JDS. If you want to get pissed about something, we recommend a meal at Guy’s American Kitchen. Check out Montana’s Trail House at 455 Troutman Street in Bushwick if you’re still hankering for some brisket, you morally repugnant piece of shit.


  1. What the hell is this guy blathering about?

    • NY Observes is an oxymoron… talk about tunnel and bridge vision. It it ain’t on the big island, they don’t give a crap.

      As for restaurants falling in line with social trends… DUH. It is the food business after all. If you want to hate fake, try Vegas. Bushwick is just the latest neighborhood where young chefs go to experiment and try and make a name for themselves. The decor? Well, having roamed the ridges of Kentucky and West Virginia, I gotta say this look is, at the very least, some kind of homage to a world far removed from Gotham.

Speak Your Mind


two × 9 =