It is a common story in the restaurant business: A chef spends several years getting established at a respected eatery and along the way garners kudos for his or her work. With that acclaim and experience, they take the next step and start their own place.
And so it has happened again, and Groton’s loss is Lincoln’s gain. Tom Fosnot spent eight years in the kitchen at Groton’s estimable Gibbet Hill Grill, with previous credits that included Hub-area favorites Clio and Rialto.
This spring, Fosnot opened Real in the quiet town of Lincoln. Not only that, he has partnered with his wife, Ruth-Anne Adams, who also has an impressive resume that runs the gamut from Michela’s and Rialto to the much-loved Casablanca in Cambridge.
Real seats around 60 in single room with a bar. It’s the kind of place where flannel shirts and sport coats both pass for appropriate attire. Wear a tie, though, and someone may well ask you to take their order.
Call the ambience and decor gentleman farmer or country casual. Colors are mostly light and neutral, and seating is at long benches and simple kitchen dining chairs. It’s neat and minimal and inviting.
First impressions, they say, are generally made in six seconds. When informed that one of the house cocktails was a raspberry cosmo, I knew I had a new friend, and six seconds sounds about right.
The menu is focused: a half-dozen entrees, four sandwiches, a handful of side dishes, and a batch of starters. Oh, and milkshakes!
Ten beers are on tap, and the wine list is just as straightforward: five reds and four whites by the glass, with more selections available by the bottle.
The general impression seemed to be: We did the advance work for you so you don’t have to deal with a cluttered menu.
The bread basket with maple butter and red pea hummus ($5) was an encouraging starter, displaying the kind of subtle thought and touch that goes into most dishes at Real: A small heated tile at the placed underneath helped keep the breads warm.
The maple butter should be mandatory eating for all patrons.
A selection of a half-dozen mini smorrebrod sandwiches included a beef tartare option ($8). Just looking at the open-faced item brought me back to time well spent in Copenhagen. The beef was a delight, although the sourdough seeded rye tended to dominate.
The marinated Fat Moon mushrooms ($9) were another fine beginning. Don’t fret if you aren’t familiar with Fat Moon mushrooms; Fat Moon is the name of the Westford farm that produced them. Buttermilk ricotta, a dash of shishito peppers, what’s not to like?
The einkorn cavatelli ($18) featured a smart tomato/red pea/basil sauce that delivered a nice melding of flavors and texture. The pasta, though, was a tad too al dente even for my wife, who loves al dente.
The sauteed cod ($20) is prime example of all the things Real does right. The fish, presented atop a bed of smooth and enticing Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, had a buttery consistency. Add preserved lemon and parsley butter, and you have something special at a reasonable price.
The honey and graham bread pudding ($8) with vanilla ice cream and fresh blackberries made me so giddy I thought for a brief moment about smearing it on myself. But I quickly realized that might create a scene … after all, we were in Lincoln.
Real is the real thing. If only more chefs did as well after heading out on their own.
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.