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Audrey Claire, a pioneering BYOB, is renamed Charley Dove, capping a 25-year run

The landmark corner restaurant also has a new chef but retains a familiar Mediterranean-inspired menu.

Audrey Claire BYOB, at 20th and Spruce Streets, in October 2020. When it opened in June 1996, it was among the early wave of Philadelphia BYOBs.
Audrey Claire BYOB, at 20th and Spruce Streets, in October 2020. When it opened in June 1996, it was among the early wave of Philadelphia BYOBs.Read moreMAGGIE HUTH

A quarter-century after helping to usher in a new era in Center City Philadelphia dining, Audrey Claire BYOB is reopening with a new name, Charley Dove.

Owner Rob Wasserman, who bought the restaurant at 20th and Spruce Streets from founder Audrey Taichman in 2018, has named it in honor of his daughter, who is 5.

Charley Dove will open Tuesday, May 4, for limited indoor seating for the first time in more than a year. Its outdoor sidewalk tables and streetery, which closed in October 2020, will restart May 11.

The menu theme will remain Mediterranean under new executive chef John Taus and director of operations Nancy Benussi, whom Wasserman described as partners.

Taus — whose resume includes Zahav, Wm. Mulherin’s Sons, and the closed James, Tangerine, and Bliss — won three bells from The Inquirer’s Craig LaBan at the old Snackbar. At Charley Dove, Taus’ menu includes such dishes as whole roasted black bass with zhoug, harissa, cucumber, and yogurt; grilled swordfish with favetta, salmoriglio, and herbs; and braised veal short rib with couscous and pomegranate seeds. Entrees $25-$32. Benussi is an alumna of Vetri. It’s open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday for now.

The name change will publicly dissociate Taichman from the BYOB, which she opened in June 1996 as a 27-year-old former bartender who sank her savings to convert a former five-and-dime into a snug, understated restaurant with an open kitchen and fling-out windows. Audrey Claire’s 20 sidewalk seats helped set the table for outdoor dining on Rittenhouse Square, about two blocks away.

In 1999, Taichman took over Beaujolais, a bistro up the block, and converted it into Twenty Manning. She later remodeled as Twenty Manning Grill.

Taichman has plans for her name, which she sees as a lifestyle brand. She operates the demonstration kitchen Audrey Claire Cook up the block at 20th Street and Rittenhouse Square, which in November 2020 was converted into Cork, a wine shop, because of the pandemic.

Cork is expected to remain open for the near future while it expands its ready-to-drink cocktail business and its retail inventory. Taichman also said she was considering opening a new BYOB with her name.

“It’s hard to see my name out of the corner,” Taichman said. “It’s the end of an era, but Rob’s got a beautiful daughter. Imagine that little girl’s friends saying, ‘You have a restaurant named after you?’” (On the flip side, a few girls in the Philadelphia area were named Audrey Claire over the years.)

Wasserman, who also bought Twenty Manning Grill from Taichman as part of the 2018 sale, plans to reopen that restaurant in about a month as Twenty Manning, with a Middle Eastern street-food menu and more bar seating.

Wasserman also owns Rouge, on Rittenhouse Square, founded in 1998 by his father-in-law (and Charley’s late grandfather), Neil Stein — who, in a small-world twist, had been inspired by Audrey Claire’s vibe when he started an outdoor-dining trend there. Wasserman also is a partner in Snap Custom Pizza and its Big Dean’s Hot Chicken spin-off.