Chef/owner Jeff Fournier will close 51 Lincoln this weekend after Saturday’s dinner service, according to BostonChefs. The Newton Highlands restaurant has been open for a decade.
Fournier closed 51 Lincoln’s sister restaurant, Waban Kitchen, in late March. In a note on the Waban Kitchen website, he wrote at the time that the closure would allow the team to devote "more creative energy and focus" to 51 Lincoln.
A few days later, Fournier filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy for 51 Lincoln but described it as a step towards "getting back on track," he told Boston Magazine. "What it means for us is we can restructure financially to be a healthier business," he said at the time, noting that it wouldn’t "change the 51 Lincoln experience."
But sales "continued to drop" after an initial surge after the declaration of bankruptcy, Fournier told Boston Magazine in a new conversation today. "It just was feeling not sustainable." While he didn’t comment on his future plans, he noted that he was ready for a change. "Over 10 years, people perceptions about your dishes can feel a little bit confining," he told the magazine.
51 Lincoln has gone through some evolutions over the last ten years, including the addition of The Tasting Room a couple years ago — an ever-changing tasting menu served in the newly updated private dining room. Earlier that year, Fournier wrote a "manifesto" detailing his efforts to refocus the restaurant’s identity, including only offering fan-favorite dishes like the watermelon steak when actually in season, rather than year-round. The new menu placed "quality over quantity," offering fewer choices but only "ingredients at their peak."
"My ultimate goal is to not feel that I have compromised my principles in exchange for profit," Fournier wrote in that 2014 manifesto. "Restaurants like [Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA] inspire me to make mine better and to continue to create the purest form of art I know: food. Every member of my team wants to create something bigger than themselves and we hope our community will support us in this endeavor."
In its final days, 51 Lincoln is serving up a few classics, including the rigatoni bolognese and, yes, the watermelon steak. The current menu also includes dishes like a coriander marinated flat iron steak, miso marinated Faroe Island salmon, and ancho chile braised pork carnitas.
51 Lincoln is open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; call (617) 965-3100 for reservations for one last meal.