When the 26-year-old Herrell's-turned-Allston Café closed its doors this past fall due to an unexpected rent hike, the neighborhood lost a favorite hotspot for meeting friends, passing out show flyers, and eating hangover brunch. But now, the corner of Harvard and Brighton avenues is alive again with Refuge Café's stacked menu of breakfast, sandwiches, ice cream, coffee, and local beers. With fresh coats of light blue paint and wood-paneled walls, the space now holds 40-plus seats at dark wood tables, with a chalkboard menu offering up morning-after meals and comfort-food lunches — and soon, late-night snacks, too.
Allstonians can now piece together blurry Friday-night memories over a "Refuge Breakfast" plate of two pancakes, scrambled eggs, choice of meat, and home fries ($6.99), a breakfast burrito with eggs, sausage, onion, mushrooms, peppers, cheddar, salsa, and sour cream ($4.99), or their build-your-own omelet option ($4.99). Plain, sesame, poppy, and everything bagels can be topped with various cream cheeses, peanut butter, or hummus ($2 for the bagel, $.50 for the spreads).
For lunch or dinner, grab a warm sandwich, Equal Exchange coffee, and a table on the Harvard Avenue side, with its huge open-air windows and scenic views of Blanchard's and Tedeschi. Sandwich options include a caprese ($6.99), grilled cheese ($4.99), hummus wrap ($6.99), BLT ($6.99), and seven more, each served with a bag of kettle-cooked potato chips. On a recent visit, my roasted-vegetable sandwich ($6.99) came on thick, toasted bread with warm mushrooms, eggplant, red pepper, zucchini, and onions, and they even veganized it by swapping the feta and pesto for a generous scoop of creamy hummus. (We're told a full veg menu debuts later this week, with a vegan breakfast burrito, tempeh wrap, and more.)
Refuge's menu also boasts two salads ($6.99), a barbecue meatloaf ($10.99), and three types of mac-and-cheese ($6.99–$7.99), all of which can be washed down with a tall glass of local microbrew beer. Those run $4.50; currently on tap are Wormtown Pumpkin Ale, Wormtown Porter, and Backlash Saison.
Allston Café got its rep as a neighborhood meet-up spot for more than just good food, though, and Refuge continues in that vein of community-oriented vibes. Near the bathrooms, a hallway gallery showcases local work by the café's friends and customers. Local zines, flyers for Allston Open Studios, and the October 2011 Boston DIY Showpage all deck out a large community board. Above the espresso maker, decorative wooden arrows appropriately point to the "Allston Village Farmers Market" and "Ringer Park." And just a month after opening, Refuge Café is already proving to be a true gem of an Allston staple as well.
REFUGE CAFÉ, located at 155 Brighton Ave in Allston, is open Monday–Thursday, 7 am–8 pm, Friday–Saturday, 7 am–11 pm, and Sunday, 7 am–5 pm. Visit therefugecafe.com.