Where to: The Square Kitchen & Bar, in the center of Sharon, across the street from Coriander Bistro.
Why: You’re in the mood to socialize but you’re in yoga pants or a hoodie and you’re willing to spare half an hour, if necessary, to wait for a table and hobnob with your local townspeople — whom you’ll surely run into. The Square wants to be a neighborhood place and has succeeded right out of the gate. A group of investors got together to open it because they wanted a spot where they could hang out with their friends. Most were raised in the town and none are restaurateurs (they include people in finance, high tech, and sports). They brought in chef Rachel Klein (Om, Liquid Art House, RFK Kitchen) to put the menu together. She’d been working for Red Stripe restaurants in Providence.
The Back Story: Housed in a former pizzeria, the 55-seat Square restaurant (12 more at the bar) has been bursting at the seams since it opened in late December. The place shuts off online reservations when it’s 75 percent full to allow for neighborhood walk-ins. On a recent weekend, the walk-in wait was 1½ hours. The place is so friendly that two women at the bar who were leaving, turned around to tell us how much they like the place, and gave us instant, rave, Yelpish reviews of their Verlasso (farmed Chilean) salmon and tuna tartare. A young man near them at the bar with a drink in his hand got up and almost insisted I take his seat. Such manners!
What to Eat: Klein, a mom of two who also lives in the suburbs, is a minority investor in the restaurant; she’s overseeing the kitchen and right now, also working the dining room, even bussing tables. Her menu is full of appealing food that, she says, “is not challenging the diner.” So you might find seafood ceviche, Buffalo cauliflower, street tacos, a Caesar salad (in the not-challenging department, it has no whole anchovy fillets), a bowl of coconut curry ramen, roast chicken, steak frites (a New York strip from Northeast Family Farms with plenty of flavor, juices, and crisp exterior), and a perfect burger garnished many ways on Pain d’Avignon brioche bun, especially nice with blue cheese, bacon, and crispy onions.
What to Drink: Many local brews, rotating all the time. “We’re going through an insane amount of beer,” says Klein. The wine list isn’t ho-hum; it’s no-hum, with a dependence on familiar brands. The bartender is mixing cocktails like “Square Fashion” and “Sharon Mule” as quickly as she’s pulling pints.
The Takeaway: Every town needs a place like The Square, where the burgers are terrific and there are plenty of choices for vegetarians and hearty eaters. No one here is reinventing the wheel or serving you foamy sauces or Spartan plates. “We’re not trying to be something we aren’t,” says the chef, “just trendy enough without being over the top.” Shout that from the mountain tops. The Square, 1 Pond St. Sharon, 781-867-7979, www.thesquaresharon.comSheryl Julian can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.