Irrespective of longtime culinary staple Coriander (once a premiere French-inspired dining destination from the owners of Westwood’s Chiara Bistro and for the past several years a very suitable spot serving refined Indian cuisine but less than refined service), Sharon Center has widely been considered a ghost town for fine dining, an inconceivable notion for such an affluent suburban community. Now that longtime liquor laws have been relaxed, and Sharon’s cultural demographics have expanded over the years, the timing seemed perfect for the owners of gastropub Square Kitchen & Bar to lay down their roots in the space previously occupied by pizza joint, Pizzigando.
What should, however, serve as the eatery’s primary attraction and draw is the arrival of acclaimed local chef Rachel Klein, who oversees a smaller, yet focused and inspired menu that should appeal to the masses. Klein, lest foodies forget, has been a rising superstar over the years, having helmed the kitchens at Cambridge’s late, lamented Om (would that legendary deconstructed Caesar salad be up for revival?), Boston Seaport Hotel’s Aura, the sadly shuttered, yet boundary-pushing Liquid Art House, and her recent venture in her hometown of Needham, RFK Kitchen. She has also brought her creative flair to the menu at Providence’s beloved Red Stripe restaurant. Sharon and local diners everywhere are now fortunate to welcome her into a new location in which she can showcase her dynamic culinary skills.
Square’s ambience is intimate and lively. The owner – a Sharon local - happily greets and converses with customers, several of whom chat away at an L-shaped bar with the restaurant’s logo brightly illuminated on a neon sign. Exposed brick walls provide rustic charm to an otherwise modern space. Large glass windows enable customers to view Sharon Square while allowing people outside to peer in and witness the festivities inside. Several locals - families and singles alike – pleasantly run into one one another, seemingly relieved that their town finally has a dining hotspot they can frequent. My one quibble is that the supply of the venue’s space does not match the demand of customers – translation: seating is a bit cramped. Service, too, falls a bit flat and is somewhat unpolished one evening (waiting forty minutes for our drinks to arrive from the bar), but that is to be expected upon a restaurant’s grand opening and I fully anticipate those types of shortcomings to quickly be ironed out by the management team.
The menu is broken out into creative sections (seafood: Raw & Once Was Raw; tapas-inspired fare: Come Share With Me; salads: All Things Green, more popular bowl portion, a handful of entrees, and burgers). Prices are reasonable for high end pub food while portions are generous. While the accompanying smoked chipotle aioli sauce proved to be merely satisfactory, the zing of cherry peppers and the tartness of pear tomatoes provided a nice contrast in flavors for the crunchy calamari ($13). That same aioli was utilized for street tacos ($14), consisting of three flour tortillas packed with raw tuna cubes. A little more seasoning to the fish would have elevated the dish.
Very popular amongst my dining companions were the Big Bowls ($15-$17), including the zesty Cuban Mama comprised of an innovative confluence of garlic and lime brown rice, crispy tortilla, picadillo, sugar roasted tomato, cabbage slaw, and avocado. Klein and her team are wise to insert these types of healthy options on the menu, which are very popular nowadays with more health-conscious consumers.
But if it’s carbs you’re seeking, look no further than the Red Eye Burger ($15), unquestionably my favorite item currently on Square’s menu. This black angus baby is grilled medium rare to perfection, the juices wonderfully seeping from the meat and into the brioche bun, topped with delectable bacon jam, cheddar cheese, watercress, and a subtle, yet satisfying espresso mayo (trust me, it’s divine). Paired with the kitchen’s handcut truffle fries and you’ll forget all about Five Guys. This patty may very well match up to some of Boston’s best burgers (Craigie on Main and Alden and Harlow come to mind).
If you have room for dessert ($11), Square is nice enough to recognize and honor Sharon’s wildly popular and legendary ice cream establishment, Crescent Ridge, by serving its ice cream and sorbet. Take for instance, a black bean ice cream paired with a brownie sundae, which Klein insists we take home with us to sample.
The bar whips up approximately a handful of creative cocktails ($11), including a vanilla bean bourbon Manhattan, the same amount of red and white wines (primarily from California), while offering an extensive list of intriguing craft beer selections (many of which are sourced from local breweries). My favorites included Hingham’s Tempest IPA (Shakesbeer Brewery) and a bourbon barrel ale from Lexington, KY.
In the words of the immortal pop rock artist, Huey Lewis, it’s hip to be square. In the hands of chef Klein, Square Kitchen & Bar is quickly reshaping Sharon’s dining scene.