I cringed when my editor told me this month’s assignment would be The Square Peg in Warren. My wife and I discovered it last year and has become a favorite go-to in our date night dining rotation. But we noticed it seems to be getting busier... a lot busier. It was bad enough the first time we were told there’d be a 30-minute wait. It was worse when I recognized people from Providence at the bar. Now The Bay asks me to sabotage my already dwindling chances of a table by further publicizing this neighborhood gem? Curses!
Husband and wife team Joel and Amy Cary are the proprietors, and the Providence connection makes sense – Amy has run the popular Amy’s Place on Wickenden Street since 2000. While Amy’s Place focuses on breakfast and lunch, the Carys went for something different with The Square Peg. According to Amy, “the goal was to create an English pub atmosphere. Not in the way that it looks like a pub, but in a way that it feels like a pub. A place where people go to meet up. A place where you can bring the kids for dinner but still get a pint at the bar.”
They’ve succeeded in that respect, and on any given night the crowd will be a diverse mix of young and old seeking no-fuss, reasonably priced, great food in a casual but lively atmosphere. The menu is relatively simple and dominated by burgers and sandwiches, but it would be an injustice to call it “bar food.” As Amy rightfully highlights, “we make straight-forward food from fresh ingredients, and we make almost everything from scratch.”
The must-have appetizer is the Spinach and Artichoke Dip ($9) made with spinach, artichoke hearts, onion, garlic, cheddar and parmesan. The dip is ac.companied by fresh, homemade corn chips that are the sturdiest dip chips you could ever hope for, and you’ll need them for this dip since the artichokes are chopped quite chunky. The corn chips also work great in the Nachos ($9), allowing you to shovel up toppings like chili or shredded chicken to your heart’s content. The Beef and Bean Chili ($4) is also a standout – well seasoned and hearty, with a good meat-to-bean ratio and topped with cheese or sour cream.
The first time I visited, I asked our server for the most popular dish and without hesitation she replied Fish Ta.cos ($9.75). They were excellent, but the menu includes some interesting derivatives as well. On this night, we tried the Riverside Reuben ($10.50) – panko-crusted haddock topped with Swiss cheese, house sauce and cole slaw on grilled rye. The panko crust provides a nice little crunch without all the greasiness, and the French fries on the side reminded me of McDonald’s – in the best way possible – with.out all the salt.
We also tried the Bang Bang Tacos ($11), a new menu item combining panko-crusted shrimp, cabbage, tomato and sweet and spicy sauce. Like the haddock in the Reuben, the shrimp’s panko crust lets you taste the seafood instead of the “fried,” and the shrimp’s healthy size ensure you get a good amount in every bite. The sauce is unique and is what sets this dish apart. The spicy part of the sauce is mild but tingles the back of your tongue and throat to let you know it’s there, while the sweet part ebbs in and out in an un.expected way for a savory dish. I was still thinking about the yin and yang flavors the next day. Finally, we sampled the Falafel ($9.25), homemade with hummus, hot sauce, Greek dressing, lettuce, onions, olives, tomato, cucumber, pickles and peppers. Falafel can sometimes be dry and grainy, but this version was smooth and moist on the inside, and it inexplicably stayed quite warm until the very last bite.
We did not sample dessert, but it’s worth noting that Joel’s mother makes many homemade desserts that rotate regularly. Another important note, The Square Peg now has off-street parking in a lot one block away on Narragansett Way. This is a recent, welcome development since the narrow streets in Warren’s historic Water Street district and the growing density of dining establishments in the area can combine for a parking challenge. If you haven’t been to Water Street lately, the area will surprise you and The Square Peg is certainly one of your best bets to drink and dine. A final tip: Try not to go Fridays around 6:30pm. Yes, that’s my date night, but that has nothing to do with it… promise.
The Square Peg
51 Miller Street, Warren