Coming Full Circle

1226353000When Bob’s Southern Bistro vacated its Columbus Ave. digs in 2007, I’ll admit I mourned the loss. Sure, owner Darryl Settles went on to give us the Beehive, but, having lived around the corner from the former boite, I’d miss Bob’s casual attitude—and its fried chicken.

A year later, the spot’s been resurrected as Circle Plates and Lounge, a spot featuring “fine dining at comfort-food prices,” according to owner Malcolm Aalders. And while it lacks the come-as-you-are vibe of Bob’s, owner Aalders and GM John Williams have ushered in something else: really good food for a pretty low sum.

And with that, I’m coming around.

Thank chef Adam Gendreau for the good-food part. Having cooked at Rialto and Uni, he knows how to work high-end ingredients. But here he manages to take the unglamorous and turn it tasty, with wallet- and palate-friendly results.

Take the carrot agnolotti with mache—little pillows of silky carrot puree topped with bitter greens, available as a “taste” for $3. The filling was so flavorful, I found it hard to believe it was just root veg.

A charcuterie plate ($12) arrived with pickled watermelon rind (again, a dirt-cheap ingredient made luxe) and lavender-dusted Dijon mustard. Roast suckling pig ($24) came with a hunk of inky blood sausage, and a dollop of creamy Anson Mills grits was a comforting foil to the unabashedly porky, intestinal, and intense main dish.

You’ll find all that’s trendy on the cocktail menu—born-again classics like the Sidecar, and of-the-moment liquors like St. Germain and Absinthe. But the value is in the easy-drinking wines: At $8 and up, the glasses are good, but the bottle prices (at least 25 offerings for $40 or less) make splitting a post-work 750ml here an enticing proposition.

While I’ll certainly be back, I can’t wait to have those grits again. Here, chef Gendreau shares his cheap-and-chic recipe:

Adam Gendreau’s Anson Mills Grits

1 cup Anson Mills coarse white grits
2 cups milk
½ white onion, minced
6 tablespoons butter
1/8 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1/8 cup coarsely chopped chervil
1/8 cup coarsely chopped tarragon
1/8 cup coarsely chopped chives

Cover the grits with warm water and allow to soak for 15 minutes. Skim off all the chaff (the dry, loose bits) that float to the top, then pour off the excess water, reserving the grits. Meanwhile, heat milk in a small saucepan (do not boil); keep warm.

In a medium saucepan, sweat onions in 3 tablespoons of butter until translucent and very tender. Add soaked grits to onions, turn heat to very low, and add milk. Allow grits to simmer slowly until desired tenderness is reached, about 2 hours, stirring occasionally

Season with salt and pepper. If grits are too thick, thin out with more warm milk. Add remaining butter and chopped herbs. Serve warm.

Circle Plates and Lounge, 604 Columbus Ave., Boston, 617-247-2537,