the first time we visited square one, we were hungry for hummus and hoping for a new, interesting interpretation. we were underwhelmed by it, but the rest of square one's food was good enough for us to keep them on our radar. besides, the beer is top notch.
(note: please forgive the photo quality. it was crazy dark, so flash was required, which explains the nuclear edamame spread below.)
when we visited a year ago, smoking was still allowed in the bar area, but that, thankfully, has changed. in any case, square one separates their dining room from the bar area with a hallway flanked by their brewing tanks. really, it's quite cool, and unlike schlafly bottleworks, the smell of brewing beer doesn't smack you in the face. on this night, since it was pretty quiet, we decided to sit in the bar for a change of pace. the bar is nice if a bit too dim, but we figure this choice of lighting is preferable for the single folks looking for a more forgiving/flattering illusion. just beware of the seinfeld two-face phenomenon, single folks. beware.
our hostess was cool and set the mood for us. since we reserved a table via opentable.com, she knew that we were vegetarians, and even though she didn't have to, she talked to us just a bit about the vegetarian burger on the menu this night. after this preliminary lay of the land, our server took over and gave us a very thorough overview of the vegetarian options. she wasn't sure if the veggie burger was made with match meat, but she did her best to convince us that the burger was worth ordering.
we began our meal with the trio of spreads, which consists of spicy black bean dip, curried edamame, and "traditional" hummus. the dips are served with a few toast points and a heap of tri-colored tortilla chips, and we generally favored the tortilla chips over the too-hard toast. really, though, the all three spreads were top notch, delivering a complexity of flavor that were wholly unexpected. with each bite of each spread, the flavor only intensified, as did the volume of our moaning. our faithful readers know by now that we're very emotive eaters, and we usually gauge our experience by how much time is spent making noises. for the first ten minutes of this meal, hardly a word was spoken. nice. our only complaint is that the spreads come out a bit too cold and are difficult to, uh, spread. minor quibble, though, really.
after delighting in the spreads, we moved on to our two entrees: the veggie burger and the grilled polenta. we were fortunate to spend a tuesday night with square one because tuesdays are always "build a burger tuesday." there's a huge list of ingredients to choose from, including gourmet options like smoked tomatoes and wild mushrooms. the veggie burger option is two bucks more than the meatburger, but we were just thankful to be able to partake in the fun. our burger was quite good and had a texture similar to the veggie meatloaf at terrene--dense with grains and tvp, not too dry. the cherry-sage mayo, though, is the key ingredient here. you might not expect it, but somehow the cherry combined beautifully with the savory burger and nutty cheese. the only thing we might do differently next time is go oldschool: burger, cheese, ketchup, mustard. (note: as of now, square one only offers the veggie burger on tuesday nights.)
the grilled polenta was only so-so, unfortunately. it's a good looking dish, no doubt, and the bed of black beans was a nice change from the standard polenta presentation, but the sauce simply wasn't good enough elevate the the too-dry polenta. the smoked tomatoes were virtually nonexistent, and we were displeased, too, with the not-so-generous helping of avocado (though we doubt more avocado could've saved the dish). perhaps if the cheese had given us more flavor... perhaps not. meh. we particularly liked that it was grilled, since we almost always see it pan- or deep-fried, and the herbs in it definitely helped its flavor. to be sure, there's a lot of potential here, and we were grateful for the reimagining of the traditional presentation, but we'll need to see stronger sauce and better cheese before we'll consider ordering the polenta again.
for the most part, square one has done a nice job with its vegetarian options. they haven't played it safe at all, which we love, and they've done some really good things with flavor. they also have a number of interesting salads that we intend to explore in the future. if they keep tweaking things and start to offer a few more veg-friendly entrees, they'll become a mainstay on the vegetarian foodie radar.