Thursday, June 9, 2011

Square Cafe

This past Monday was a 'Monday Date Day' for us. I had a doctor appointment at 8:40 am and usually I am sent for blood work after my appointment. The lab always is crowded and takes a while, so we figured we wouldn't be done with everything until lunch time. So SP took a vacation day and we figured we'd go out to eat after and then maybe do something else to enjoy the day.

Of course we were done with everything before 10 am, much earlier than expected! It was time for our date day on what was a gorgeous, gorgeous day. We wanted to get some breakfast food, so we decided to head over to Square Cafe, a place that has been on our 'To Try' list for quite some time. Square Cafe is on S. Braddock Avenue in what is either Regent Square or Swissvale - I'm not exactly sure, but in that general area.

There is no parking lot, just street parking. Street parking is always tough for us. Not for the usual reason people dislike street parking (having to parallel park) but because we either have to get me out and into the wheelchair on the curb side (and curbs can be quite high, and if we're not close enough, the wheelchair's front wheels can tip down off the curb and between the car & curb) or because we have to get me out on a busy traffic side. SP parked on a residential side street, so there wasn't much traffic, so getting out wasn't too difficult or dangerous. The street was brick, and I started having flashbacks to the cobblestone streets in Savannah & Charleston, but fortunately the bricks were not as bumpy as they looked. We had a nice stroll over to the restaurant and encountered an obstacle: A big step to enter. It doesn't look so high in the photo, but trust me, it was higher than we like to try to lift me in the wheelchair. I was sad, and kind of mad, but then again, it was my fault because I either didn't bother checking on accessibility or I somehow mixed things up in my mind and thought this place was accessible when it isn't. Oops.

Fortunately, it was a lovely day and Square Cafe has outdoor seating. SP went inside and returned with a server who seated us at one of the 2-3 empty tables outside on the sidewalk. It was a bit of a tight squeeze for me to get seated at the table, even in my smaller than normal wheelchair - it was custom made and designed to be as compact & light-weight as possible so when I have a tough time squeezing in somewhere, there is no hope for someone in a larger wheelchair or power chair.

Also, the tables make it really tough for a wheelchair to get close enough. They were similar to this and the wheels hit the legs of the table, keeping me far away, I tried to angle the wheels around the legs, but it didn't work, and when SP finally had me wedged in, my feet had ended up trapped under that bar thing between the legs and when I tried to back up to free my feet and put them in the center under the table, I couldn't go backwards because it had been such a tight squeeze to get in that I was now wedged in and unable to move at all. This was the second place in three days with a table at which I could not really get close enough to feel comfortable. Sigh. I don't enjoy having to lean forward and over to eat my meal. When we were ready to leave, SP moved the table in order to get me out.

SP ordered iced tea and I got water. Both arrived in these colorful glasses:There are lots of yummy sounding breakfast & non-breakfast options on the menu. I knew SP wouldn't be able to resist the Tomato Bisque, and sure enough he ordered it, which made me happy because I wanted to try it: A very thick and chunky tomato bisque with ricotta and croutons. It was very tasty.

For his meal, SP ordered the Square Breakfast - 2 eggs (any style), choice of meat (bacon, sausage, ham, chicken apple sausage, or soy sausage), and a pancake or toast & home fries:The pancake was quite tasty, but it wasn't anything super special or unusual (I'm thinking of Pamela's distinct super thin pancakes). I tried a bite of his chicken apple sausage because I'd never before tried that kind of sausage. He liked it; I decided I don't like chicken apple sausage. And he said his eggs were good.

I ordered the Spinach, Pancetta, and Goat Cheese Omelet with home fries and ciabatta toast:I loved the toast. I found the home fries bland, as did SP. There just wasn't any seasoning, it was just fried potato. Kind of dry. I didn't even see black pepper on the potatoes. The omelet was OK. After all the rave reviews about this place and the omelets, I expected more. Perhaps it's simply personal preference. I thought the omelet was too heavy on the egg and too light on the filling - not a good ratio of egg to filling goodies. It didn't seem to have very much pancetta. The pancetta was almost not even noticeable. The cheese was a nice soft goat cheese, and there was lots of it, but I think the omelet could have benefited from the saltier & brinier taste of feta. It was just kind of a bland, under seasoned omelet. I ended up picking out the filling with the amount of egg I like and leaving behind lots of extra egg. I will say this, though - the egg was nicely cooked and very fluffy.

We wanted to order a Lemon Ricotta Pancake as a side, but they didn't have them this past Monday.

Overall, we were disappointed in Square Cafe. Maybe we just expected too much after seeing all the glowing reviews on Urbanspoon and other blogs? We certainly cannot go there when the weather is bad since they are not accessible. We hear that it gets quite crowded on weekends, especially the coveted outdoor tables when the weather is nice. I doubt we'd drive all the way from Robinson to S. Braddock Avenue on a nice day to have a long wait for an outdoor table for what we felt was a mediocre at best breakfast at tables that are not wheelchair friendly. Plus, it's a bit on the pricey side for breakfast -- $9.50 for my omelet, $2.50 for iced tea (although it was fresh brewed and there were free refills), $4 for the bisque, and $9 for the Square Breakfast for a total of $26.75 with tax - and then add on the tip, so $30+ for breakfast foods. We've had better, cheaper breakfasts at places closer to home that are accessible and that have parking lots (Bob's Diner, First Watch, Eggs N'At).

I want to like this place, but... it just didn't live up to my expectations.

Square Cafe on Urbanspoon


  1. I'm so sorry to hear you had a less than stellar experience at Square Cafe! I've been there three times and enjoyed myself (and my food) each time. Two times I ordered the oatmeal pancakes -- absolutely delicious, unique, and truly taste like its cookie inspiration but suitable for breakfast. The other time I had the smoked salmon benedict and it was pretty good.

    I'd say try the oatmeal pancakes if you ever venture back. But, I'll agree with you -- the thin pancakes from Pamela's with strawberries and sour cream is the stuff of legend. My complaints about Square Cafe include a much-too-long wait, super crowded seating area, and rushed mealtime.

    Wow, that was long-winded :) Have you tried DeLuca's? I went a month or so ago and was really disappointed with a place so many locals deemed legendary...

  2. I'm also really sorry to hear that you had a less than great time at Square Cafe. My first time I was there, I had an omelet very similar to yours, just substituting prosciutto with the pancetta, and I thought the ratio was just about perfect. Your picture does look like a whole lotta egg, though.

    I do agree wholeheartedly about the homefries. The couple I went to the restaurant with the first time raved about them, but I found them to be texturally pleasant but lacking completely flavor-wise.

    As for pricey, well, I do agree, but they make an effort to get local, fresh produce and everything is of such high quality and freshness, I don't mind the price tag too much. Still, there are diners with comparable quality that charge less, so maybe that's not much of an argument.

  3. I'm sorry that you accessibility problems; that has to be difficult. Square Cafe isn't very far from me and we would sometimes go there on the weekends and I drive by there often. It IS almost always crowded and you are dead right about the prices for breakfast foods.

    I do want to add that they recently changed up their whole breakfast menu about a month or two ago (I've only ordered breakfast here, so I can't comment on the rest of it) and since they have done so I have been very disappointed. It's quite possible the rave reviews came before the menu change?

  4. Although it sucks you didn't have a stellar experience there, I'm secretly glad you're also not a fan. I've been there 3 times (to give it a really fair shot) for breakfast, and even though nothing was particularly bad about the place, I don't think it deserves the high acclaim it receives. I could possibly understand the prices if they had stand-out signature dishes, but everything I've tried has just been OK - I'm much happier going to Coca Cafe in Lawrenceville or Deluca's in the Strip.

  5. I'm happy to see others (like yourself and commenter Lindsay) who don't just blindly buy into the hype of trendy places. I've been to Square Cafe far more than three times (due to its convenient location), and I have NEVER left feeling like I got an especially tasty dish, and even the things that are merely "fine" are overpriced. It drives me crazy that so many people just rave and rave about these trendy places, and it's clear that they give very little thought to the food.