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What do you think about 51 Lincoln's new manifesto?


<<51 Lincoln House Rules will apply: no hormones or antibiotics; no GMO products; no artificial colors, preservatives or sweeteners (see you later, Splenda); no processed ingredients; grow everything we can; source ingredients in the most sustainable way possible; respect plants and animals by using all of their parts. We will strive to present dishes that give sustenance to the mind and body, awaken our guests’ food memories and generate new ones.>>

<<Mostly noticeably, we will offer fewer reservations each evening, enabling us to focus on the quality of each guest’s experience. We will treat guests as we would like to be treated: we’ll encourage guests to enjoy a dish as it is designed unless they have an allergy, we’ll honor reservation times and expect guest to do the same; if a guest is insulting to staff, they will no longer be welcome.>>

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  1. Not really my thing but whatever until the second paragraph. I've said before the one and only time I ate there I was told I couldn't order and enjoy a cocktail before placing my food order. They were downright rude about it. To feel the need to include in your policy "if a guest is insulting to staff, they will no longer be welcome" just shows that this is a restaurant that generates hostility.

    The whole second paragraph reads as their expectations for diners. Honoring reservation times is clearly something new for them, just read other CH comments on the place. And they won't make a dish how you like it unless you have an allergy. The part about treating guests how they would want to be treated? Go at your own risk!

    Still on my never again list.


    6 Replies
      1. re: StriperGuy

        I'm wondering about what kind of rude attitudes they've had from guests to need to make this statement. I have a lot of eating out experience in Cambridge, and there are certainly a lot of demanding folks there at markets and restaurants. Is Newton in the same category as Cambridge (maybe, since so many move from Cambridge to Newton).

        Maybe they should rebrand as The Golden Rule.

        What keeps a guest from lying about an allergy if they don't like an ingredient as opposed to being truly allergic to it?

        for example,
        potato & parsnip soup | pancetta dust, fennel fronds $11

        The soup sounds great to me (if a bit overpriced), but what if I truly hate fennel and the fennel is just a garnish and could easily be left off? I'd completely understand if it's already incorporated into the soup, of course, that it could not be left out. If that's the case, I'd move on and choose something else. I wouldn't expect a restaurant at this level to personally cook something for me (like at a diner, short order, leaving off the canadian bacon), or ask for a gumbo long simmered with okra to leave out the okra because I don't like it.

        Given our archaic and byzantine alcohol laws, I know some licenses require guests to order food with alcohol and could lose the license if guest orders alcohol and then leaves without food. Could that be the case at 51 Lincoln (although they appear from the web to have a full bar).

        The wine/beer/cordial license can be a bit deceiving. I was told at the Bertucci's in Longwood a few years ago that I could have a vodka drink but not a gin drink as they only had a cordial license. Don't understand that, but I did order food at the same time as the drink. If that was they case, it should have been explained in a courteous manner.

        1. re: Madrid

          Just to follow up - No alcohol concerns here. They made it clear they wanted us to hurry up. They were unapologetic about it as well. Pretty much eat and get out.


        2. re: StriperGuy

          Well since we have found our common ground I am going to stop following this thread while I'm ahead.

          until next time


        3. re: hungrytommy

          Also treated very rudely. Waited an hour past my reservation then another hour for the food.

        4. I went to look at the beginning of his manifesto, which says, "I strive to make a guest in my restaurant feel like they are in the comfort of my own home" and am now deeply curious as to what kind of guests he gets at his house that makes him inform us that insulting ones are no longer welcome.

          1. Never been there. Now I never will.

            1. I appreciate that they set in writing that they would rather not serve jerks. Having had many nights of dining ruined by nearby people being insulting to staff, I think that a Jerks Not Allowed policy is refreshing.

              I do think that an unbending rule of "no changes except for allergy issues" is ridiculous.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Boston_Otter

                Don't know what kinds of restaurants you frequent, but the only time I recall where nearby people being insulting to staff was at places like the Picadilly Filly, where there was a quarter inch of beer on the floor.

                1. re: Uncle Yabai

                  Consider yourself very lucky that you've never been to a very nice restaurant seated nearby a table of drunken businessmen harassing a waitress or a drunken lady yelling loudly that she doesn't like her chicken and WANTS A MANAGERRRR or some such thing. There's lots of jerks out there, trust me, and they can ruin a whole roomful of people's evening if they set their mind to it.

                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                    VERY lucky. On any given night, in any steakhouse in Boston (or any city , for that matter) is a table full of asses whose misguided sense of privilege is making the staff reconsider their work choice, and the patrons reconsider Concealed Carry laws.

                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                      I can see how that happens, and have witnessed it also. But at least the places I go to (with the exception of the Picadilly Filly et al) it happens very rarely.

                  2. re: Boston_Otter

                    what are they going to do about jerks? call the police to take them away? Take iphone photos and post them by the host station? Say, I can't seat you until I check the "most wanted" poster?

                    Jerks by definition usually have no clue that they are jerks and are highly unlikely to self-identify, self-monitor, and self-regulate.

                    1. re: Madrid

                      No, but they can politely ask them to leave, like any professional restaurant does with belligerent, loud, obnoxious patrons who are making a scene.

                  3. I think people should read the entire statement in the link above - the rude guest portion reads a little different in the context of the whole statement.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                      Seems like the rude response is a visceral reaction to this restaurant's self-righteous pomposity. As economists would say, the rudeness is endogenous.

                      1. re: Uncle Yabai

                        The last line of the excerpt in the original post is quoted out of context - there is more that follows after it - that's all I mean.

                        1. re: Bob Dobalina

                          "The changes will continue in the dining experience itself. Mostly noticeably, we will offer fewer reservations each evening, enabling us to focus on the quality of each guest’s experience. We will treat guests as we would like to be treated: we’ll encourage guests to enjoy a dish as it is designed unless they have an allergy, we’ll honor reservation times and expect guest to do the same; if a guest is insulting to staff, they will no longer be welcome.
                          As I implement these changes, I have ensured that every member of our team is as devoted as I am to this philosophy. My team and I pledge to be present here at 51 Lincoln, and to enjoy every moment."

                          I don't see the "out of context" part. Sounds even more like a self-righteous pompous ass after reading the whole letter.

                          1. re: Uncle Yabai

                            I am of the belief that manifestos are usually reserved for the insane. See the Unabomber. So I agree with you in this case too - the whole thing is ridiculous.

                            But there were five paragraphs to the whole thing, and this paragraph was number four. So the impact of the insulting guest statement feels possibly different upon reading the entire statement. Not saying you're wrong, but the OP's excerpts were misleading.

                            Before we hang the guy, I think people should read the whole thing. That is all.

                            1. re: Bob Dobalina

                              "Manifestos are usually reserved for the insane," awesome.

                              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                "Manifestos are usually reserved for the insane", I like that. Having read the whole letter, I just thought it was way too precious, trying to bask in the reflected light of Alice Waters or whatever. For the record, I think Alice Waters is also a self-regarding, narcissistic, pompous ass, but then again she was a groundbreaker and has been around with her single-minded shtick for over 40 years. And she's good at it, I do like Chez Panisse quite a bit.

                                This guy should focus on his restaurant instead of looking at himself in the mirror so much. Just last Friday I was chatting with Eric Ripert at his restaurant in NY. Matter of fact, no attitude, no flatulence. Guy runs a restaurant, makes sure everything is running well and customers are happy. No emo.

                                1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                  Agree with you - the food should do the talking. Nice to hear about Ripert. Have enjoyed his PBS show and based on his relatively few media appearances, he comes off as a really decent guy - glad to hear your experience was a good one.

                                  1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                    It's about the food and, sometimes, about the vibe. Chez Panisse remains wonderful (I go only once a year but it hasn't disappointed me ever). Le Bernardin
                                    is also a once a year treat that never fails to please us. And I've said on this board that Danny Meyers' restaurants reflect his genuine commitment to providing a service experience that matches the food and he almost always hits the mark in spite of having a restaurant kingdom now and not just the still wonderful Union Square Café. Talking doesn't create the experience: putting it on the plate and making you feel a part of a lovely experience is what brings you in and brings you back. If the food and service at 51 Lincoln are good, the verbiage isn't needed and if they aren't good the verbiage won't give them flavor.

                                    1. re: teezeetoo

                                      Agree fully with this. Have always been impressed by those restaurants none of them seem to need to tell diners how to behave. Has Waters championed local food/farmers/simple preps for years? Of course, but she's never voiced hostility towards her patrons through manifestos. I think local, organic food is a wonderful thing, but before we get too inflated about it, it's important to keep in mind that up until roughly 100 years ago, for all of humanity we were eating "local, organic." When Alice Waters did it forty years ago, yeah it was ground-breaking. Writing this piece as if cooking with local, seasonal, organic ingredients is a brand new concept just sounds silly.

                                      I'm not sure if all of these "statements" and "manifestos" and "rules" are a result of the growing pains of social medium for the restaurant world, but I don't see these kind of statements helping anyone.

                                      They certainly don't scream hospitality to me, and they make me second guess what kind of experience I'll be getting. Will I show up to a team that is fully "on the defense"? I understand there are rude customers, mean customers, customers who don't show for res. etc. BUT the majority of us understand the deal: I show up for dinner on time, you have a table for me at a time I reserved it, I eat dinner and enjoy my company, you make sure we have what we need to enjoy the food, cook well, and I tip well at the end.

                                      If you are a truly great restaurant offering a wonderful experience you will most likely be recognized for it (whether on a local or larger level), and in that regard talk is cheap. Just do a great job and people will come, we don't need some lecture about how you don't want some people there (as if those types of people know about or care about this type of letter).

                        2. Haven't been back to 51 Lincoln in a while; got to Waban Kitchen more recently and quite enjoyed it. I don't have the same negative experiences at either that some Hounds are citing here, though I wouldn't allow myself to be seated in 51 Lincoln's basement "wine room" again: that was a decidedly second-class experience, like being banished to the kid's table in the garage at an overcrowded Thanksgiving dinner.

                          Most of this manifesto seems laudable or innocuous. Hooray for local/seasonal, no GMOs or hormones, etc. -- though I suspect it's easier to be devoted to local produce when you're Alice Waters. How many ways can you prepare February's Macomber turnips? Still, it's a worthy mantra to reiterate in a town where everyone mouths it but fewer really live up to it.

                          It's not obvious from the manifesto, but he's moving to a shorter menu based on a four-course prix fixe that you can also order a la carte from, presumably in part to be able to be more local and seasonal in focus. That's a pretty significant change about he could have been clearer.

                          The other bits strike me as just fine: honoring reservations and expecting polite behavior are two parts of a contract of civility that more often I see customers failing than restaurants.


                          3 Replies
                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            "everyone mouths it but fewer really live up to it"

                            Yes! Most places that are loudly touting these points are behind the curve on them to begin with.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              I always respect your opinions, Slim.

                              but I still don't get this about rude customers.

                              Doesn't every restaurant have expectations that guests will be polite and civil? Hasn't every restaurant had instances when they had to ask people to leave because they were disruptive all around? How does making a new public policy statement change any of that, or make it more likely that rude, drunk people won't come to your restaurant or get that way while they are there?

                              Rude, drunk people don't understand or respond to policies. If you are in the biz, you are always at risk to get those who are prone to disruptive behavior, and every place has to figure out how to deal with them.

                              If it's a new commitment on their part to honor reservations, that's great, but shouldn't we have expected that from the beginning?

                              For the customer's part, I'd completely understand if they lose tables because people who made those reservations didn't show, didn't call, didn't whatever...violated the contract.

                              If they get lots of those, then I think most of us would understand if they have new regs about needing to confirm reservation, canceling if not confirmed, or charging something for no-shows, etc.

                              A clearer statement would have been more effective:
                              *we are now changing to this kind of prix fixe for these reasons (to enhance your dining experience, etc.) You will still be able to order a la carte if you have a smaller appetite. (Here there needs to be explicit mention if the whole table has to order the tasting/prix fixe menu).
                              *we recognize and understand food allergies and diet limitations. We will work with you to (enhance your dining experiences). We put a lot of effort and time and skill into constructing our menu, and we hope you will enjoy trying something that may be new or unusual to you. Please understand that sometimes it is not possible to substitute or eliminate certain ingredients, depending on the dish.
                              *we are putting even more emphasis on organic, local, non etc. etc. because of our mission to ..............again, enhance your dining experience and affirm our commitment to local, non hormone, etc.
                              *to avoid problems with reservations and no shows, we now are doing......x y z. Please call us if you are delayed or the size of your party changes. This will ensure that if you have a reservation, your table will be ready when you arrive, and allow us to offer tables to others in a prompt manner if you are unable to keep your reservation.
                              *we hope you will enjoy the experience as much as all of our staff does. We dedicate ourselves to that and look forward to the opportunity to host you.

                            2. As long as a few things are incorporated in the change, I don't see a problem.
                              1. Customers are informed when making a reservation.
                              2. The menu is available on-line.
                              3. Encourage does not mean insist.
                              Then you decide to go or not.

                              1. Did they actually use the word "manifesto"?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: LilBrownBat

                                  No, boston.com did. The original letter never used that word. It was just titled "A message from chef/owner Jeff Fournier".

                                2. As once said by Sam Goldwyn, "include me out!".
                                  Wouldn't Enjoy,

                                  1. This reminds me a lot of the B and B owner in Nova Scotia who bragged on her website about her hospitality, then made us take off our shoes outside on the porch and wouldn't let us roll our suitcases on her floors. My take on anyone like this is that control freaks shouldn't be in hte hospitality business.