Clinton Hill’s boundary-pushing bistro the Finch is permanently closing, owner and chef Gabe McMackin has announced on the restaurant’s website.
McMackin didn’t specifically cite economic pressures from COVID-19 as the reason for the shutdown, but rather said in general that it was “time to close the Finch and find a new path.” In a phone call with Eater, McMackin confirmed that a number of factors went into the closure, including a strained landlord relationship.
“For some time now, we have spent much of our energy fighting against the end of this restaurant rather than enjoying its life,” McMackin said in the announcement. “And we can no longer sustain that effort. It’s time for us to be still, and to let this restaurant go.”
McMackin opened the Finch in late 2014 as a cozy neighborhood spot that aimed to go beyond the usual menu trappings of burgers and fries. The restaurant — located on the ground floor of a quiet Clinton Hill brownstone — nabbed a Michelin star within its first year and maintained it throughout its five-year tenure.
Amid the acclaim, McMackin pushed against diners’ expectations of a formal Michelin-starred experience and worked to keep the restaurant firmly planted in familiar neighborhood roots. “We never wanted to transport somebody to a mountaintop in Switzerland or a beach somewhere,” he says. “We wanted to be exactly where you were.”
The team approached the menu the same way, offering inventive, seasonal dishes that pushed back on expectations. Eater critic Robert Sietsema found plenty to enjoy on an early iteration of the unexpected menu, including a warm shaved lamb tongue salad and a smoked bread pudding.
“We had a great time selling things that I didn’t expect people to be excited about, but they were,” McMackin says. “They would give us their confidence.”
Last year, McMackin took on a second role as the executive chef overseeing the kitchens at Troutbeck, a 250-acre estate hotel located upstate in Amenia, New York. Going forward, McMackin will continue to hold that role.
“All the work [with the Finch] has been so worth it,” McMackin says. “But the balance point of COVID-19 and restructuring our capacity to seat and serve diners — it would not be the same restaurant. I haven’t been able to make a magical model for our success in this new space.”