In January, I was writing the outline for Philly Loves Fun
. I wanted to include food reviews, but not do the same old thing. I toyed with the idea of covering only fun, unique, sweet and/or comfort-based foods only. I was a bit worried I might find this too limiting. That very same day, I read an article about a new restaurant that would serve American diner-inspired foods. Their menu would feature WILDY inventive drinks, alcoholic milkshakes and decadent desserts. I think the headline on that story might have said, “A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN!!
” I took this as a sign of approval, and I immediately jotted down the name, “Square Peg
.” Then I eagerly waited, oh how I waited!
At the end of March, Square Peg
finally opened its doors in the former location of Marathon Grill
, 929 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. I could barely contain myself! I made a reservation for Easter Sunday for my family. While the day was Easter, I felt it was more like Christmas! My family would enjoy a delicious Sunday dinner and I would get to try what could be Philly’s new holy land for the sweeter side of dining. It was a win-win!
The moment we set foot in the doors, the friendly staff immediately greeted us as if they were hosting us in their own home. To half of us, this seemed genuinely nice and warm, but to the other half of our party, they came off as a little overattentive. There are many worst things in the world! As soon as we sat down, our waitress gave us the overview of the menu and I was ready to go to town. My head was spinning from the huge list of inventive flavor combinations. The drink menu had at minimum 10 “must tries.” The milkshake selection already had me shooting out “meeting” requests for July afternoons. My regular summer haunt, PYT, would be getting a run for its money!
We decided to save the milkshakes for another day (and another blog post). Instead, we started the meal with the Raspberry Thai Basil Lemonade. This hot pink lady made us pucker as we fell in love with her tart, refreshing flavor. For starters, we ordered an Easter classic with a twist. The Deviled Eggs came with pickled mustard seeds and a light Wisabi mayo that packed a big punch. We also enjoyed the Tacos in a Bag, which was Fritos, carnitas, queso creme and burnt scallions in an actual Fritos bag. It is now hard to imagine tacos NOT coming in a Fritos bag.
For entrees, I selected the Cheese Steak Pot Pie. Others at the table ordered the Bananas Foster French Toast Pegs and the Fried Chicken. We spread out our napkins, lined up our forks and we waited for the main event!
My Cheese Steak Pot Pie arrived with a giant puff of pastry shell on top. After digging (and digging and digging) my way to the bottom, I found the holy grail of pot pie fillings. Cheese, steak and veggies mixed to perfection! The pot pie has the POTENTIAL to be one of my favorite dishes in Philly. The only thing holding it back is the puff pasty. It was so high, and so much, that it made a big mess everywhere. It also wasn’t hot, and it was disconnected from the filling. In reality, these are small details that are the difference between really good and great. If they can tweak it a bit, its a definite grand slam! The pot pie also came with hot sauce, which was finger licking good, but just not on my pot pie. The boring side of my tongue wished it came with a spicy ketchup instead. I did really enjoy amusing myself by playing with the squirt bottle, however!
The Bananas Foster French Toast Pegs was predictably a safe hit with everyone at the table. The pegs were exceptionally sweet, as could be expected. They had just the right balance of coffee caramel syrup and bananas.
The Fried Chicken ended up being the big winner of the day. This was especially surprising as the presentation let something to be desired, and I simply don’t eat fried chicken, ever. The plate arrived with Kool Aid dipped watermelon, greens and a pool of more hot sauce. The watermelon sounds intriguing, but it fell flat with everyone at the table. The pool of hot sauce also didn’t do much for the dish. However, the chicken itself made up for these small items, as it was big, tender, juicy and OH SO tasty! We had a debate about the exact spice combination. I think it had hints of mustard and Indian/curry, but everyone else seemed to develop their own theories. One thing we did agree on was that no one could put it down. (Note: The take home bag in the car mysteriously disappeared before I could grab it for myself..darn!)
For the most important, and final, course, we ordered two desserts to share. The first dessert was a cream-corn based creme caramel. It was a light and fluffy way to end a big meal. However, my attention was focused on the epic deliciousness in a jar, the Chocolate Pudding Pie. The thick layers of chocolate pudding were broken up by a perfect pretzel crust. The dish was topped with burnt bananas that added just a hint of flavor to the dish. This is the sort of dish Philly dessert legends are made of — and the sort of dish that I think about when I wake up in the middle of the night.
Overall, Square Peg was everything I hoped for and more. It is unusual for me to get excited about entrees, as I have such a weakness for drinks, starters and desserts. Yet, their tempting offerings made me save some space for the main course. With some small tweaks as they grow Square Peg will be a fixture in the Philly dining scene — and at the very least a place you will find me hanging out this summer. I already am dreaming about more Chocolate Pudding Pie, and I eagerly await my next visit for a spiked milkshake.If you visit Square Peg, let me know what you had and what you thought. I’d love to hear!