When Thomas McCauley and Justine Lynch first arrived at the space that would become Mountain, they were greeted by the stench of rotting food in the powerless refrigerators of the former Chinese restaurant, and they spent the next several months transforming the Crown Heights storefront into what now functions as a café, acupuncture clinic and yoga studio.
Mountain began seven years ago when McCauley and Lynch imagined opening a business that combined their passions for food and holistic health. Formerly a dancer, Lynch had been waitressing when she met McCauley, co-owner of Miracle Grill, the now-closed Southwestern establishment that gave Bobby Flay his first job out of culinary school. McCauley entered the restaurant world to pay bills as a PhD candidate in Columbia’s literature department. The duo spent the next few years attending acupuncture school, and McCauley studied as an herbalist.
The space itself, sandwiched between a driving school and another Chinese restaurant on Franklin Avenue, feels like an oasis. Spacious and amazingly quiet, the café occupies the front, and customers pass through a beaded curtain to access acupuncture rooms, general consultations, and yoga practice. The building also comes with roof rights, and McCauley and Lynch plan to grow some of the restaurant’s herbs and produce there.
When I think of cafés situated in yoga studios, I imagine hokey juice bars or places that refuse to serve dishes seasoned with garlic, onions and salt. But the Apothecary Café is refreshingly free of dogma. In addition to vegan-friendly dishes and a wide selection of in-house pressed juices, their menu offers mouthwatering juniper chicken and frittatas made with local eggs. Considering their sourcing practices (bread from Our Daily Bread, oats from Maine Grains, hormone-free local meat) and the quality of their food, they may be offering the best bang for your buck in the neighborhood. Entrées range from $8 to $14, and the café also offers a full coffee and tea bar. I had the curry and woke up thinking about it the next day.
The menu incorporates dishes that echo the alternative medicine ethic promoted in the back rooms. Bone broth provides a mineral-rich alternative to vitamin supplements, and vegetarian soups are fortified with potassium. McCauley and Lynch believe in eating nutritiously and sourcing responsibly without sacrificing taste and accessibility.
Although it seems like an acupuncture-clinic-slash-café opening in Crown Heights is just another marker of gentrification in the neighborhood, McCauley and Lynch are interested in making it accessible for the entire community. They’re offering group acupuncture sessions on Sundays for $30 (compared with upward of $100 for solo sessions), and their entrée prices are roughly equal to neighboring institution (and crowd favorite) Gloria’s. Here’s hoping the rest of the neighborhood discovers Mountain soon.