It's currently impossible to separate the experience of sitting in Summerhill, the physical restaurant, from sitting in Summerhill, the symbol of clueless gentrification in Crown Heights. The space itself is inviting enough, with big windows opening out onto the long Nostrand Avenue frontage, and the minimal interior design features lots of raw wood, those ubiquitous "industrial" metal chairs, and a concrete bar over which hangs a liquor cage. It feels like dozens of other spots in Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan.

But knowing even a little bit of the Summerhill story makes it exceedingly difficult to relax and enjoy your time here. The phony "bullet hole wall" remains unrepaired, just as it was when, earlier this summer, owner Becca Brennan first issued her notorious press release, romanticizing (or, as she later maintained, joking about) the neighborhood's struggle with gun violence. This made me feel complicit just by being inside. Worse, from a customer's standpoint, is that almost everyone who walks by the restaurant looks in with a grimace, often pointing at the wall, and glancing at you in the process. Even passing motorists slow down to gawk!

Adding to the overall discomfort, the restaurant, which probably seats about 50 when the sidewalk tables are set out, was almost entirely empty on two visits last week, for an early dinner on Thursday and a peak-hour brunch on Saturday.

Summerhill bills itself a "boozy sandwich bar," and since I don't drink booze I stuck with sandwiches, passing on the #Vanlife cocktail (celery shrub, prosecco, $12). There is a summer salad on the menu, but it had already been 86'ed at 6 p.m. Thursday evening. The house salad that accompanies each sandwich is a pile of bulk arugula with ample balsamic dressing.

There may be a doomed air about the restaurant as a whole, but the kitchen is still trying its best. The El Cubano, for example, was a first-rate concoction, a nicely-balanced layering of oily, slow-cooked pulled pork, some generic sliced ham, mostly-melted Swiss, pickles and spicy mustard, all stuffed inside a terrific chewy ciabatta from Northside Bakery.

The Chicken Fried sandwich suffered from overcooking and under-seasoning (and an unremarkable brioche bun), but as my dinner companion said, the coleslaw was good, and gave the dish just enough oomph to nudge it into "decent" territory. The Scrambled Eggs and Cheddar, one of four brunch sandwiches on offer, was also mildly satisfying, helped considerably by the addition of bacon and a salty pretzel roll, and hindered by the lack of any sort of sauce or condiment. I'm not sure why it took so long to make my Monte Cristo, but although it lacked finesse (and the promised cheese), the sugared-up sandwich hit the right sweet-salty notes, and could probably function as a hangover cure in a pinch.

The sandwiches at Summerhill are fine, but not even a Michelin star could overcome the self-inflicted poisoned atmosphere of this place. If you're looking for something fast and delicious to eat in the parts, get a roti at the great Gloria's three blocks south on Sterling Place. And if it's booze you're after, they sell plenty of that stuff at the very chill King Tai around the corner on Bergen.

Summerhill is located at 637 Nostrand Avenue at the corner on the corner of St. Marks Avenue, and is open weekdays from 3 p.m. to midnight, and on weekends from 11 a.m. to midnight. (347-788-0310)