Something new is going on inside the building that most recently housed the New Haven Meatball House. Don't worry; the same people are behind new restaurant Avro Kitchen and Bar, which serves specialty cocktails, innovative burgers and interesting small plates. A couple of friends and I checked the place out recently and walked away full and happy.
We started with a few small plates: a margherita pizza ($11), onion rings ($7) and an order of hog pops ($9.50). The pizza was heavy on the cheese but was quite delicious and the perfect size for sharing. The onion rings were thick and well-balanced between crispy and chewy. But the hog pops, two pork shanks slathered in buffalo sauce, were the the stand-out in our round of appetizers.
We also tried some of the fancy cocktails: an Aviation ($9) and a Delicious Sour ($10). The Aviation is made with Aviation gin, maraschino, lemon juice and creme de violette and tasted like a very chilled, refreshing purple lemonade. The aptly named Delicious Sour is made with Laird's Bonded, creme de peche, fresh pressed lemon juice, house simple and egg whites. It tasted like my favorite imported hard candies, and it was hard to not order two or three more.
We ordered burgers for dinner: the Green Mountain Burger ($12), the Gaucho Burger ($16), and a custom burger of my own creation ($13.20). The Green Mountain Burger is a turkey burger with whole grain mustard, cinnamon sauteed apples and onion frizzle. My friend was wowed by the flavor combination, and her side of greens was a nice balance. The Gaucho Burger is a lot of meat: bison, pulled pork and bacon with a mint and basil chimichurri, smoked gouda and a fried mint garnish, and the mix was a bit overwhelming but enjoyable. A side of sweet potato fries were amazing.
I built my own burger, with a beef burger, candied bacon, and tomato-bacon jam, with a side of mac and cheese and cheesy bacon fries. Yes, heavy on the bacon, but I couldn't resist. Our waitress was correct when she explained the tomato-bacon jam was "exactly what it sounds like," and it felt like my burger was topped with fancy ketchup.
We were too stuffed to consider dessert. While I'll miss the Meatball House, Avro does a good job of letting us experience meat in new ways, while filling out the menu with interpretations of traditional favorites and filling our need for inventive ways to drink booze.
Avro Kitchen and Bar is at 1180 Chapel St., New Haven. Hours are Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Information: 203-776-0123, www.avrobar.com.