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Review: The Square Peg

From snacks to burgers, less is more
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  January 8, 2013

SIMPLE PLEASURES The jalapeño cheddar burger.

Have you ever opened an elaborate menu at a nice restaurant and, deciding you're not up for a big meal, just pick a snack? Of course you have. Sometimes less is as good as more, and that's where the Square Peg comes in.

The eatery will satisfy a burger jones as well as a yen for bar food noshing. Good for a cheap date or an impulse drop-in when, passing by, you notice you're a little peckish.

Amy and Joel Cary are the owners; her breakfast and lunch spot, Amy's Place, on Wickenden Street in Providence, is a similar little vest pocket enterprise. The Warren digs are quite the family enterprise, with Joel's mother and grandmother, Barbara Caniglia and Barbra Loomis, sometimes pitching in cooking, and his father and brother, John and Scott Cary, seen behind the bar. Amy's sister Ariana also works there when things get busy.

The restaurant is spacious, well-lit with storefront windows on two sides of the corner location, warm wood inside from tables and chairs to floor, with an occasional fish drifting by — framed on the walls. The wall behind the counter is a little more interesting these days, now that they have a full liquor license and can serve more than wine and beer. And don't be confused by the little uniformed fellow standing at attention outside and think they have valet service. He's one of Warren's cutesy painted fire hydrants.

The menu is interesting, hinted at by four salads that at first look conventional: Caesar, Greek, spinach, and plain ol' garden ($3.50-$8). It's the add-ons that make them different — from fish to falafel, guacamole to chicken salad — as well as the tarragon vinaigrette among the half-dozen dressings.

The burgers and sandwiches section is the biggest, with only three of the former but the Pegs & Eggs Burger getting popular by being served with a fried egg on top ($8.50). The fish tacos ($8) have a good reputation too, coming with a spicy cilantro sauce, the haddock panko-encrusted. The fillet is also available as a sandwich ($7.50), in a roll or wrap. The chicken sandwich ($7.50) can be prepared plain ol' or "Ragin' Cajun" with hot sauce. I ended up ordering the latter to go, and it was quite tasty, not overly hot.

There are only seven "Small Plates" listed next to the salads. One is the pasta of the day, for a little heavier carb-loading, and two are merely chips and chipotle salsa ($5) and nachos ($7.75), for light snacks. Even lighter would be a bowl of hummus ($6; with veggies, $8.50) with grilled flatbread.

The chicken quesadilla ($9.50) was recommended by one of the friends I came with for lunch, who had enjoyed it here recently. He decided to have a special, the chili burger ($8.50). It came with chips and pickle rather than French fries (big commitment, fries, what with needing an exhaust hood for all that grease in the air and probably extra insurance for the threat of fire). The cumin came through boldly in the chili meat sauce, but he wanted it spicier — there was Tabasco on the table, though.

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