With a name like Square Peg, I was expecting something idiosyncratic, but this restaurant fits Warren like an old slipper. We were visiting at an off-hour for an early dinner, but there were enough regulars for our baby to ogle, and the atmosphere was friendly. Some folks were sipping at the bar, a group of younger couples were devouring a huge plate of nachos, and four older women were debating who had put in the best order – so perhaps it fits better than the name suggests.
We managed to get one of two window booths, which jut out on either side of the entranceway. There’s a nice balance between the bar and dining areas, and I liked the old-school chalkboard menu on the back wall. My wife had a Downeast Cider ($5), while I went with Revival’s Mercy Brown ($8). As usual, the American approach to the English style is to ramp up the alcohol, and this brown ale was no different. It’s easy to tack the word “Imperial” on a beer and add a clever name, harder to increase the alcohol from four to eight percent and still retain the balance of a brown. But these brews did the deed, and the rounded, malty profile paired really well with food.
Portions are large and the menu is about satisfaction more than surprise. We drove straight down the middle for our meal. For our appetizer, we had a spinach and artichoke dip ($9). Copious amounts of fresh corn chips accompanied a small skillet of bubbling spinach and artichoke. Dips like this can be a gluttonous mush of greasy cheese and cream, delicious for only a few bites. Not so here, with big chunks of artichoke and plenty of spinach amongst the browned cheese, making for more interesting dipping. We polished off the entire bowl.
For our mains, we had the Steak and Cheese Sandwich ($11.50) and the Meatball Sandwich ($11). Again, the plates are no-nonsense; when we were done, all that remained was the foil the sandwiches had been wrapped in. The meatballs were tender with great seasoning, a nice sauce, and a careful dusting of grated parmesan on top. There wasn’t a hint of grease. The Steak and Cheese followed, doing its best to deliver the real deal. A heavily debated recipe, this cheese steak opted for Cheese Whiz, and this was a rare occasion that processed cheese was something I wanted to eat. In true Philadelphia style, they used shaved and chopped rib eye steak, incorporating sliced mushrooms, onions, and peppers in a rubble pile of juicy, munchable meat. My only quibble was the rolls: I would like a bit more toasting, especially when the foil wrapping tends to steam the bread.
After a prolonged debate about dessert, our waitress broke our deadlock by strongly recommending the carrot cake ($7). This cake continued the theme of sensible cooking – the home-baked quality reminded me of an elder stuffing grandkids with dessert and love, rather than trying to win some largely sculptural competition on Instagram. I’m talking a huge piece of dark and chunky carrot cake, enough for two. It was moist and dense with interior textures. Beside it lay a massive swirl of whipped cream, which mysteriously disappeared. Atop was a nice, airy cream cheese frosting, which was rustically spackled and topped with pecans. It’s much easier to find a prim-looking cake than a cake that tastes as superb as this. Perhaps that explains the name “Square Peg” – when you’re already stuffed but driven to make that last piece of cake fit anyway.
The Square Peg
51 Miller Street, Warren • 401-215-3831