Cheat Sheet: Audubon, a Revamp of a Fenway-area Favorite
The Gist: The team behind Trina's Starlite Lounge and Parlor Sports has taken over the former home of Audubon Circle. Now simply Audubon, its name and space have changed only slightly - but the menu for the Fenway-area restaurant is a whole new ball game.
The Vibe: File under: hipster-chic. The minimalist space is shaped like an airy shoebox (that once contained chukka boots, probably) lined with sleek, glossy wood; there's also a big patio, when the weather finally resembles Spring. But the crowd here isn't quite as "fresh-from-Portlandia" as on the other side of the Charles. We spot mainly twenty- and thirty-something couples who just want cool cocktails and fun comfort food set to a soundtrack of indie-pop and '80s new wave throwbacks.
Eat This: The menu is comprised menu of "bites," and "light fare" (with a few larger entrees after 4 PM). We adored the avocado ($6) a full fruit sliced, grilled, drizzled in a sweet chili sauce and stuffed with a little queso fresco. Glorious. We recall that Audubon Circle made a tasty grilled cheese, but Audubon ups the ante with its BBT Grilled Cheese ($11), which stuffs focaccia with muenster and fontina cheese, bacon, basil and tomato. But our top pick would have to be one of the best veggie burgers ($9) we've ever devoured. The patty is made with (inhale) brown rice, farro, black bean, corn, celery, carrot, shallot, ginger, scallion, parsley, cilantro and gluten-free oats. (Phew.) This burger is flavorful enough on its own to lure the typically carnivorous. But if you really want a winner, spend an extra buck to top it with (bear with us) bacon jam. Vegetarian? No more. This is all for the flavor combination, which is pretty amazing.
Drink This: The cocktail lists selections "From the Library," reviving recipes from tomes that date back to 1806. But we're also intoxicated by Audubon's own "Damn Good G&T" ($11), St. George Botanivore's gin paired with Fever Tree Bitter Lemon Tonic and grapefruit bitters. Damn good, indeed.
Skip This: Two dense yuca cakes ($8) need more spicy mojo sauce, and seem like an aside to a heaping plateful of lightly dressed mixed greens.
The Damage: Prices are low and even the "bites" are big. The burgers and starter plates are almost all under ten bucks; even among larger dishes, nothing exceeds $15.
The Verdict: Audubon Circle regulars will appreciate that these new owners are retaining the spirit of the space. A cooler menu concept (and an association with Trina's) ought to lure plenty of newcomers. They'll stay for the exceptional service - these folks are really friendly. And no matter what its name, that's what a neighborhood spot needs.
Audubon, 838 Beacon St.; 617-421-1910