It was a quiet afternoon at Square 1682. I arrived smack between meals but was delighted to find, despite the odd hour, the eclectic restaurant still offered a limited yet well-rounded menu (used 2:30-5:30 and 10pm-midnight). One table was occupied by some professional men, chewing the fat as they finished their late lunch; and a couple of women walked in not long after me and ordered an afternoon cocktail at the bar.
I took my choice of seat in the modern, clean space next to a window with a nice view of the kitchen. The sun streamed through the window while upbeat classic Motown piped through the speakers at a proper mid-afternoon volume. A single TV above the bar played sports highlights with no volume. All in all, it was an ideal setting for a quiet afternoon snack, though I imagine the place is bustling in the early evening hours and on into the night until the full kitchen closes at 10pm (11pm Friday and Saturday). Since it’s attached to the Hotel Palomar – part of the Kimpton Hotel chain where the restaurant also serves the in-room dining using a separate menu – the breakfast and brunch crowds must be mostly hotel guests, but the open-concept restaurant seats about 50, so it wouldn’t be too competitive a wait.
On to the food:
The Crispy Calamari was served with fried cherry peppers, parsley and a side of lemon tarragon aioli. Fried in a buttery, tempura-like batter, the squid was well seasoned and had a slight crisp without being too crunchy or greasy. The sweetness and heat of the peppers complimented it very well, and the tang of the tarragon and zip of the lemon were a tasteful accompaniment. Tip: Take a bite of 2 rings with one pepper together with a smidge of the aioli.
The winner of the visit was the Rittenhouse Burger which I cannot recommend highly enough. Its meaty goodness in a well-sized beef patty was perfectly suited with a generous yet appropriate amount of soft, tangy goat cheese, fresh-sliced avocado, and bright tomato jam. The bun, reminiscent of King’s Hawaiian buttery goodness, came stacked with arugula that added a nice peppery bite. The burger was ordered medium and came out perfectly cooked. The texture and flavors of everything included atop this upscale burger made the dish sublime.
The Beet Salad, in fair warning, was not just a dish of beets as typically seen but – rather – vibrant greens tossed with pickled, diced golden beets and shaved asparagus spears tossed in a light and refreshing dressing of sherry vinaigrette.
Now fries. I’m a fry person. I’m particular. Square 1682’s Garlic Parmesan Fries were generously portioned and nicely size, the thinner shoestring variety which held the topped garlic and parmesan well. The garlic was roasted which gave a more subtle and warm flavor rather than the sharp garlic zing other garlic fries tend to have. Overall, it’s a solid side that would hold up well to a cold draft and a sports game.
The other, hands-down winner of the visit: the Magic Gardens Cocktail. Daniel Kulisek, the lead bartender, served me this herbal rockstar drink that is ideal for those days that are in between the cold and hot. A concoction of sage, thyme simple syrup, and celery; it was light and refreshing with no one flavor overwhelming the rest. The melding of the thyme, fresh squeezed celery juice, Art in the Age sage liqueur and hint of dandelion bitters lent to the green flavors of the drink. It’s a perfectly refreshing choice for those spring days when fresh-cut grass and the first warmth of the sun encourages an iced herby adult beverage. Fresh-cracked pepper gives the nice zip on top. I recommend you enthusiastically say “oui!” when offered it tableside as this delicious drink is served to you.
Although Executive Chef Caitlin Mateo was out of town the day I was there, I learned about her rooftop garden above the restaurant where she and her three sous chefs harvest many of the accompaniments for the food and drink. Additionally, Kulisek makes sure to always include seasonal cocktails in addition to the classics, but has also recently added a local selection to the drink menu to include such names as Federal-Kensington and Washington Crossing, all of which incorporate local craft spirits and interesting mixers. This, along with the restaurant’s commitment to other sustainability measures – such as the locally-sourced produce (when it’s not picked from the roof) and energy-conscious building design – makes it easy to feel good about supporting the business.
Overall, Square 1682 is a solid stop along the Sansom route of good fare. Get the Rittenhouse burger, the beet salad, the Magic Gardens drink; and bask in the unique delicious flavors that didn’t travel far to get to your palate.
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