From Brooklyn to Bovina, Come One, Come All: Brushland Eating House
Brushland Eating House | 1927 County Highway 6 |

For Sohail Zandi and Sara Elbert, waking up to the falling snow, breaking trails in their snowshoes, and simply enjoying a slower pace of life has become a ritual this winter. A year ago, the two of them ditched Brooklyn for Bovina, trading the blazing restaurant scene for a quieter life upstate. In this provincial hamlet located in the western Catskills of Delaware County, they opened Brushland Eating House, a courteous nod to Bovina’s original name and one of its earliest settlers, Alexander Brush.

“We did the whole ‘rent a Zipcar, get an Airbnb somewhere pretty’ thing,” says Sohail, reminiscing about the couple’s first journey upstate. “We ended up staying at this great schoolhouse, and like a lot of people who come to Bovina, we fell in love with the area and tried to figure out the best way to get ourselves back.”

With a decade’s worth of culinary experience and an interim year spent on Martha’s Vineyard farming livestock, working on a flower farm, and learning to make cheese, Sohail and Sara have finally hung their aprons in Bovina. Sharing the road with just one general store (Russell’s General Store), Brushland Eating House is a warm and welcome respite for locals, weekenders, and tourists alike. Just about everything on the menu is made in-house, from the thick slabs of bacon to the American cheese that tops their one flip burger. Patrons are wooed with classic, home-cooked dishes such as pork shnitzel and roasted carrots.

“We have our pork guy over the mountain, and the vegetable guy and beef farmer down the road,” he says with pride, a feeling that runs particularly deep in Bovina’s tight-knit community. “One of the things we learned from working in our Brooklyn restaurants was that it’s good to keep a lot of the same things on the menu, but to also sprinkle in the new stuff. We try to serve dishes that aren’t as simple sometimes, like say a venison bratwurst or some egg noodles with charred mushrooms and broccoli rabe.”

Brushland Eating House in Bovina, NY. andnorth.com

  “A question we get all of the time is ‘how can you guys work together all day, everyday?!’ And for us, as ridiculous as it may sound, it’s one of the nicest parts of running this restaurant. We are each other’s sounding board. There’s always that moment in the day when you feel like you’re going crazy, and that’s when you need your other half. It’s pretty great when they are right there on the other side of the pass.”

Brushland Eating House in Bovina, NY. andnorth.com

  “Bovina is such a gem. It’s hard to imagine Brushland anywhere else now that we’ve set roots and became such great friends with the people we serve food to. There’s this deep agricultural vein, an ingrained pride for this corner of the Catskills, but also a really fresh sense of things – a boom in creativity that makes us feel hopeful about the future.”

Brushland Eating House in Bovina, NY. andnorth.com

  “Whenever ‘Paint it black’ by The Rolling Stones comes on, we have to laugh. The space used to be awash in pastels and here we come with the darkest, shiniest black you can get your hands on. That was the boldest move we made. The floors are so beautifully worn, the copper piping has character, the bar is remembered by three generations. Those things you don’t change.”

Brushland Eating House in Bovina, NY. andnorth.com

  “Our menu is meant to be soulful and not fussy, the kind of food we grew up on and like eating ourselves. There’s nothing as comforting as a perfectly roasted chicken or doughy, ricotta-laden pasta.”

Brushland Eating House in Bovina, NY. andnorth.com

  “Sohail makes all of the bread: burger buns, baguette for toast, even the crumbs that coat the schnitzel. You can taste the difference, even when a slice is smothered with preserves or cheese, which is why it’s a commitment we won’t ever back out of. Salty, dense, with a golden crust – heaven.”

Brushland Eating House in Bovina, NY. andnorth.com

  “We pour over the details, quite literally. Coming from restaurants (Frankie’s and Prime Meats, in Brooklyn) that had a steady stream of loyalists, we realize how important it is to be consistent and to not miss a step, no matter how small.”

Brushland Eating House in Bovina, NY. andnorth.com

  “Our season is short here, but that’s also what makes it so sweet. For three months we over indulge on the ripest, rubied tomatoes, crisp cucumbers and delicate squash. We prepare for the winter by pickling and preserving as much of those things as possible so we can savor summer even while we are blanketed in snow.”

Brushland Eating House in Bovina, NY. andnorth.com

  “Estate sales quickly became our favorite place to score wares for the restaurant. One guy had all of these milk bottles and we bought two dozen as part of a dairy collection. An old hotel was selling off all of their Syracuse China, those off-white pieces with gold edges. Even now, when we find time, we are poking our heads into auctions and scrolling craigslist because you can find the neatest things.”

Brushland Eating House in Bovina, NY. andnorth.com

  “Mornings consist of strong coffee, checking emails and nibbling on the trimmed edges of our brown butter blondie cake. But then it’s to work. We usually make pasta and baguettes first, then prep veggies and sauces and butcher chickens. It’s a saving grace that we live upstairs because we quite literally roll out of bed and into the kitchen.”

Brushland Eating House in Bovina, NY. andnorth.com

  “Pecorino, parsley, pepper and pasta. There’s a reason why the red-sauce staple doesn’t get messed with. Our noodles are hand-rolled, or more accurately, three-finger rolled, which means anyone with working digits in proximity of the prep table, will get put to work.”

Brushland Eating House in Bovina, NY. andnorth.com

  “Our first year has been about being as prepared as possible, but also listening to what people want and what the seasons dictate. We are finding that Bovina, and the Catskills as a region, is pretty seasonless. That’s why we are open year-round, for all the folks pond swimming in July and all of the folks snowshoeing in February.”

9 comments

  1. The fare looks wonderful. I’d book a trip your way but you’ve made me so hungry
    I’ve got to go eat something ! Looks simple and true. Hope to see you down the road…

    1. Thank you so much Jeff! Brandon was so incredibly helpful and hard working throughout the weekend. Thanks for your kind words.

  2. Had an outstanding meal last night. Great food, service and ambience! I’ll be back soon…………

    1. So glad to hear it! It is our ultimate happy place.

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