Montana Masback grew up in Manhattan, but bearded, dressed in heavy black overalls, a pouch of tobacco resting in one pocket, a scrawly to-do list in another, he looks more like someone who’d run a rural mechanic’s garage than a trendy cocktail bar and restaurant. But his look is appropriate: His three-week-old Montana’s Trail House (455 Troutman Street, 917-966-1666) occupies a 90-year-old Bushwick space that has been a number of different gas or service stations.
Masback and his partners, all similarly tattooed and bearded, built up the inside of the former station space with repurposed barn wood and crammed it with vintage flourishes (vinyl-covered bar stools, felt pendants hanging above the entrance, an antique American flag) to create an eatery that mimics the look of an Appalachian trail rest stop.
Chef and partner Nate Courtland explains, “We wanted to step away from that sort of hoighty-toity Brooklyn attitude that is on the rise and create a rustic place where people feel really comfortable.” Courtland — formerly of iCi, Al Di La, and Union Square Cafe — took Masback’s rough menu concept of “Appalachian black magic comfort food,” and ran, creating some dishes that are pure country, like deviled ham on toast, fried chicken, and sautéed collards.
A standout, the tongue and cheek reuben with house-cured kraut, beef cheek and tongue, and a hefty portion of melty Swiss, falls into the other category of dishes on the menu: classics with country twists. That reuben, says Masback, is as “if someone who didn’t live in the city had heard what a reuben was, and then just did it their way.” Other reinvented dishes include a stuffed squid and smoked trout with country ham.
Partner Austin Hartman used the same lens when drawing up the menu for the half-dozen specialty drinks served at Montana’s. “I use ingredients that you would find walking down the Appalachian Trail,” he says. Cocktails qualify as craft; look for tipples like granny witch (an apple rum concoction) and common coin (a smokey sweet whiskey sour). He’s also adding simple ingredients like jams, apple butter, and house-made fruit syrups to classic cocktails like Pimm’s cups and dark and stormies, creating a drink list that is familiar enough to vibe with comfort food, and new enough to warrant attention.
Montana’s Trail House is open for dinner Monday through Friday from 3 to 11:30 p.m., with a small late night menu continuing until 4 a.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 a.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to midnight. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday until 3 p.m.
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