Downscale the upscale

(Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Sheryl Julian
Globe Staff / January 21, 2009
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Daniel Morrison, co-owner of Square Corner Cafe, found a location for his Roslindale Village restaurant, rebuilt it, hung artwork, and opened in June. "There's a sub shop up the street and a sub shop down the street," says Morrison. So subs were out and panini and grilled sandwiches were in. He added quality green salads and dressings like balsamic and Vidalia onion. "There was no place to get grilled salmon," says Morrison. That and grilled chicken and homemade soups went on the menu; you place and pick up your own order. "My idea was to downscale the upscale bistros price-wise," says the restaurateur.

Morrison has been in the business for 15 years. He owned Fish 'n Chicken restaurant in Quincy, and one of his suppliers was Paul Serino, an owner of Serino's Italian Food Manufacturing in Hyde Park. Serino is an owner of the cafe, and his pasta specialties are on the menu.

Square Corner is set up to serve individuals and families. You can order Mediterranean salad ($5 individual or $15 for four to six; both are generous). Caprese salad ($6 individual, $18 family) of mozzarella and prosciutto is layered on sliced tomatoes. And a delicious "blue green" salad ($7.50 and $22.50) consists of candied walnuts, caramelized onions, cranberries, blue cheese, and bacon (pictured above). Chicken soup ($2.50 and $5) is filled with plump wide noodles; chicken stew ($2.50 and $5) is a lightly thickened bowl with morsels of the bird.

Pizzas ($8.50 to $14) come on a thick, chewy, well-cooked crust. You can get eggplant Parm on your pie, but a Margherita is a fine choice. The breaded and fried eggplant in a panini ($7) - breaded rounds of the vegetable with mozzarella pressed between focaccia - is an exemplary version of this classic.

Entrees like chicken come four ways - grilled, BBQ, Bourbon, or Cajun style ($6.50) - with two sides that range from rice pilaf to macaroni and cheese. Even with the possibilities, order grilled or plain. Grilled shrimp ($9.50) are firm and pink, grilled steak tips ($12) pleasantly chewy, potatoes decent mashed, squash smooth, but Cajun scallops ($13.50) would have been better off without a spicy sauce to drown them. Scrod with cracker crumbs ($8.50 and $34.50) is a beautiful piece of fish, perfectly cooked.

Pomodoro pasta ($7.50 and $22.50) has a nice light tomato sauce and plump meatballs (add $4 or $13.50).

Morrison starts early to catch T commuters ("I'm here prepping anyway," he says). He makes most everything to order and he's willing to work long hours. A recession-proof formula.

SQUARE CORNER CAFE 4197 Washington St., Roslindale Village, Roslindale,

617-323-1405; all major credit cards; fully accessible.

Prices Pasta $3.50 individual to $31.50 family. Entrees $6.50 individual to $40.50 family.

Hours Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat-Sun 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Liquor None.

May we suggest Blue green salad, chicken noodle soup, Margherita pizza, scrod with crumbs, eggplant Parm panini.

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